Inadequacy and The Fear of Man

One of the unspoken fears that many pastors face is that of inadequacy. Even the apostle Paul seems to have struggled with this to some degree, we see him crying out “Who is adequate for these things?” in 2 Corinthians 2:16.

It seems that the longer that I am in ministry, the more inadequate I feel. I believe that on one level this is a good thing, because it reminds me of how much I am dependent on the Lord for everything; however this sense of inadequacy can quickly degenerate into what the Bible calls “the fear of man” (Proverbs 29:25). “The fear of man” refers to the desire to be honored or thought of well by people and the paralyzing fear of not having others think well of you.

I was graciously reminded of my own sin in this area this morning as I had some time to think about the ministry and how God has been working in my life lately. One of the necessary attributes of leadership is confidence. Leaders, by virtue of their position, must be confident people. This certainly does not mean that all leaders are arrogant, but they must be confident of what they’re doing, where they’re going and how to get there otherwise no one will follow. The flip side to this confidence is frequently a personal lack of confidence.

As I thought about the ministry that God has called me to, some haunting questions began to come into my mind: Am I a good pastor? Am I really called to pastoral ministry? Is what I’m doing successful? Do I hold doctrinal positions too strongly? As I dwelt on these questions, I was shocked to realize the perspective from which I was asking them. I wasn’t asking myself whether God believes that I’m a good pastor, but rather whether other people believe that I’m a good pastor. I wasn’t asking whether God would consider my ministry successful, but whether other people would? I wasn’t asking what God thinks of my doctrinal beliefs, but what other people think of them? Ultimately, I was craving the approval and affections of men more than that of God and that is the fear of man. Scripture tells us that we are to fear God and not man (Proverbs 29:25). Ultimately, it is his opinion and his opinion alone that matters. Romans 14:4 speaks of the servant of the Lord and says, “…It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”

So, it is right and good to feel inadequate because after all, I am nothing more than a clay pot holding a very precious treasure. But in the end, I am God’s clay pot and it is his assessment of my work that matters most.
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October 13 2008 02:44 am | Devotional

2 Responses to “Inadequacy and The Fear of Man”

  1. MentalVelocity on 13 Oct 2008 at 4:54 am #

    Dude, you are a good pastor. Now, remember that my opinion doesn’t mean squat!

    (I see you’ve started reading Spurgeon’s Letters to My Students. That’s a VERY good antidote to gauging your effectiveness by people’s opinions…even mine.)

    Be encouraged!

  2. Drew on 13 Oct 2008 at 3:27 pm #

    Thanks John, now I’ll do my best to forget everything you just said 🙂