A Better Word
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV
We love our superlatives. We love the warm glow of being the best, the most, the highest quality, surpassing all others, superior in all things, unusually good, outstanding, close to perfect. It is like a 13-year-old girl has high-jacked our brains and we have to create new endings to words to describe how amazing something is. (‘Super-superlative = bestest; as in you are my bestest friend.’ Yes, I found that in the dictionary.).
I have worked with a group of people who strive for excellence and the thought of it wears me out. I have seen grown women cry at the thought “You must always strive for excellence in all you do!” Phooey!
Recently I discovered a word I like much better than that terrifying word ‘excellence’. It is a word that is not very popular in our culture. It is the word ‘sufficient’. It doesn’t sound like a very good word, does it? God likes it though, so I have been trying to grow fonder of this word that sounds so… adequate. So average and so normal and so just barely enough.
The dictionary defines sufficient as ‘adequate for the purpose; enough’. Synonyms are ‘competent, acceptable, satisfactory, plentiful, pleasing’. When I think of the word ‘sufficient’ I think of Paul’s pain he calls a ‘thorn in his side’. He asks God to remove it and God tells him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So much for the prosperity gospel.
Paul’s response to God’s sufficiency was to boast about his weakness instead of raising the bar to excellence.
I like this idea a lot. We aren’t good enough. Heck, we aren’t even enough. But God is. His grace, His favor, His gift of forgiveness is enough. Adequate. He can fill your half-empty cup up perfectly. Just to the top. The correct amount with nothing spilling over and making a mess that someone has to clean up. Sufficient. The right amount for the need.
And so this morning as I fretted about things I had not accomplished and berated myself for lagging behind on approaching life with excellence, God shows me this interesting thought – again from Mr. Excellence himself, Paul; Mr. ‘Most Likely to Succeed’ in the High School yearbook;
Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 ESV
God has made us sufficient and that seems to be just right. He didn’t make us excellent or the ‘bestest’. He made us sufficient to carry out His requirements, His plans. How very interesting.
Now I know the point of this passage is comparing the inadequacy or the incompetence of the Law of Moses with the adequacy or competency of the ministry of God's own Spirit. But it speaks to me of freedom from stress-filled striving. I can rest in what God is doing. It is not all on my own little shoulders; it is in God's sufficient hands.
I think about three conversations I have had over the past few weeks with three women. I shared a meal with each woman in three different areas of this beautiful land we live in as they told me stories of losing their sons. All were young men, deeply loved, with their possibilities rich and hope-filled laying out before them.
One son, tormented by sudden intense life-destroying mental illness, killed himself. One son, on a beautiful summer day at the beach with his friends, was struck dead by lightning. One son, peace-loving and kind was perceived as an aggressor and shot dead by a policeman. Three well-loved young men struck down. Shattered and broken beyond repair.
I look into the eyes of these mothers who deeply and dearly loved their sons. Mothers who had cradled these boys in their arms and promised to guide them, provide for them, protect them. But they couldn't stop the fall, the bullets, the lightning from above.
But I see something more; these three women, who understand the words of Paul’s God: “My grace is sufficient for you.” Sufficient. Enough. Enough grace.
I would guess that these three mothers would not see it in themselves, but I see it clearly; their lives are marked by grace… a forgiving spirit… compassion and dare I say, joy, and a very sure hope. They are women who laugh easily. God is in their story.
I want to linger long with these women. I want to soak up their warmth and their wisdom. They are sufficient because their God is sufficient. They are full and filled with the Spirit of God. Excellence pales beside God’s sufficiency. It is enough.
Question: Do you struggle to be the best; to do everything with excellence? Is it hard for you to rest in the power of God?
“I run ahead and I think I am strong enough…When you’re the one who made me from the dust.”
Natalie Grant - King Of The World
English Standard Version (ESV)The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.