“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 3:5-6 ESV
As we were working on 2 Corinthians 3:4-18 in class, we were struck by Paul’s clear sense that his sufficiency was not self-sufficiency. It was God-sufficiency. According to Paul’s own testimony in 2 Corinthians 3:5-6, God, and God alone, had made him sufficient as a minister of the New Covenant. How easy it is to attempt God’s work in our own strength—and ultimately, how futile.
When I taught at Kamakwie Secondary School in Sierra Leone, West Africa, one of my colleagues, Duane Steele, had a Honda 70 motor bike. As I remember, it was blue and white. Those Honda 70’s were a popular means of transport in the Africa of those days. I enjoyed riding it. One day he loaned it to me to ride over to the secondary school compound after school and visit with some of the students. After completing my business, I mounted the machine and kicked the kick starter. Nothing happened. I kicked it again. Nothing happened. I kicked until I had little kick left. What was the matter with this motor bike? So I enlisted some secondary school students to push me—my leg was tired, so we would push start it. They pushed me all over the school compound—the motor didn’t even sputter. Then I happened to look down. There was the key—in the switch, but not turned on! Somehow I distracted their attention long enough so that I could stealthily reach down and turn the key. Then I said, “Let’s try one more time. Give me a push.” And, of course, it started. Sometimes we try to do God’s work by our own kicking and pushing— we have forgotten to turn on the switch. Even if we appear to have gotten things going, what we achieve will be futile in God’s sight.