“…if you are out of your depth, it does not matter whether the sea is forty feet or a full mile deep.” Charles Spurgeon
Do you ever feel overwhelmed? As a pastor, I certainly do. As a mother, I know many of you do. As a father, I know many of you are overwhelmed by your multiple obligations and responsibilities. As professionals, I know many of you feel the great burden of representing Christ well and faithfully in your respective spheres of influence. As family members, I know many of us feel insufficient for the task of presenting the light and clarity of Jesus in the context of intense and emotional familial bonds.
If we are at all alert, we will feel overwhelmed at times. As a pastor, I feel the weighty impossibility of leading people to union with Christ and deeper trust in Him. To usher sinful men and women, as a sinner, to the divine realms of God in Christ is a task beyond mortals, impossible for any man or woman.
And therein lies the liberation. What I am called to do I cannot do. Only Jesus can do that. No matter how skilled I am, no matter how many degrees I have, no matter how many books I’ve read, no matter how much time and experience I put in, nothing in me will ever be able to lead people to Jesus. Only Jesus can do that. Only Jesus can be Jesus for your family. Only Jesus can be Jesus in your workplace. Only Jesus can be Jesus in your school. Ultimately, my skill or your skill has nothing to do with it. The Spirit of Christ must operate through us, and we must rest in Him, or else we will not be faithful to Him at all.
This is exactly why Paul glories in his weakness. Only when he recognizes his weakness can he rest in what is truly strong: God Himself. 2 Corinthians 12:9-11 states;
9 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. 10 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.
Only when we recognize our weakness and God’s strength can we be truly strong. Furthermore, when recognizing our inability, we come to realize that it does not matter the depth of water in which we find ourselves, or how skilled we are in swimming. If we truly are overwhelmed, then the task is already beyond us, already impossible. And nothing can be more or less impossible. Impossible is an absolute state, and degrees and measures of skill have no importance or meaning.
Listen to how Charles Spurgeon puts it in his sermon, “The Preacher’s Power, and the Conditions of Obtaining It;”
“We are weak, exceedingly weak, every one of us. If there is any brother here who is weaker than the rest, and knows that he is so, let him not be at all cast down about that, for you see, brethren, the best man here, if he knows what he is, knows that he is out of his depth in his sacred calling. Well, if you are out of your depth, it does not matter whether the sea is forty feet or a full mile deep. If the sea is only a fathom deep, you will drown if you be not upborne; and if it be altogether unfathomable, you cannot be more drowned than drowned. The weakest man here is not, in this business, really any weaker than the strongest man, since the whole affair is quite beyond us, and we must work miracles by Divine power, or else be total failures.”
We cannot be more drowned than drowned, no matter the depth! Likewise, if it is impossible to pastor 10 people in my own power (and it is), it is likewise impossible to pastor 10,000 in my own power. The size of the task and my relative ability make no difference. It all must be done by the Spirit of the Lord, or it will not be done at all. And there the country church and the city-megachurch and the educated and the uneducated and the anonymous and the well-known pastor are all on equal footing. All must do their task by the Spirit of Christ, or it will not be done at all.