Back in 2 Corinthians 2:14, Paul taught us that we always triumph in Christ (see my blog posting for Nov 15). As a result, we are manifesting the sweet aroma of the knowledge of God in every place. He then goes in in verses 15 and 16 to say that this aroma is the sweet smelling aroma of life to those who will receive its message and find spiritual life in Christ. But to the one who will reject our message of Christ, it is the stench of spiritual death. With this in mind, Paul asks a stunning question at the end of verse 16:
"And who is adequate for these things?"
Who is adequate to be the aroma of life and death in Christ? Who is adequate to give their life to ministry? What makes you adequate as a pastor or a ministry leader? Is it the size of your ministry? Is it the financial stability of your ministry? Is it the awards and verbal recognitions that you might receive from others?
For many in ministry, we find our adequacy and our significance in our results and in the acknowledgments of others. As a result, when we go through a season when we aren't growing in numbers, when our ministry is struggling financially, or when others are criticizing us, we feel like failures. And the feeling of failure will quickly rob you of your joy and passion in doing what God has called you to do.
And this will always be the case until we learn that our adequacy in ministry does not come from anything within ourselves, but rather, our adequacy comes only from God. If anything good comes from your ministry - it is because of God, not you. If your ministry grows - it is because of God, not you. If your ministry is financially stable - it is because of God, not you. If you receive high achievement awards and amazing words of commendation - it is because of God, not you.
In the end, it is not the size of your ministry, the financial stability of your ministry, or the commendations you receive because of your ministry that count. It is the changed lives that have resulted - that's what counts. That is the goal. And you cannot change a life. Only God can!