When we boast our own sufficiency, we close ourselves off from true and limitless sufficiency – from the I AM of God and His limitless grace and power.
Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, (2 Corinthians 3:5)
Sufficiency is a dangerous place for any believer, because it subscribes to the world view that we are all we ever need. It’s a place of smugness and self-satisfaction, and of misplaced confidence. Sadly, it’s a lesson God allowed me to learn the hard way. Life had ‘taught’ me from a very young age that I could only ever rely on myself. It also convinced me that I could prove to myself and the rest of the world that I had what it took. The result was a life lived continually on the edge, always feeling a drive to prove myself to me and to others. I built everything on the foundation myself, and so closed myself off from real sufficiency, which is of God.
What is sufficiency?
In very simple terms, it is ‘having sufficient’ or ‘being without lack.’ In a world focused on financial security, it’s often limited to having sufficient financial means to enjoy a desired lifestyle. But it’s so much more than this. It extends to our relationships, emotional and physical health, and even our mental health. It encompasses our confidence and our achievements and is often ‘measured’ by perceived success.
From a worldly perspective, sufficiency is therefore a very subjective thing. One man’s sufficiency might be another man’s lack. It all depends on expectations and aspirations. This perspective also creates the further difficulty that it continually changes. What we felt was sufficient in the past may not feel sufficient right now. As our needs change, so does our interpretation. And because our perception of sufficiency keeps changing, we simply end up putting greater pressure on ourselves. After all, our sense of ‘having sufficient’ is tied to the belief that we ‘have what it takes’ in and of ourselves.
Sufficiency of self.
This is essentially the belief that I have all that I need in every situation. Of course, God has blessed us with intelligence, abilities, and talents, as well as physical, mental, and emotional health to enable us to do this thing called life. The problem, though, is that we come to believe that it’s ‘ours.’ Like Frank Sinatra, we pride ourselves on the fact that ‘I did it my way.’ What this effectively does is close us off from two critical sources that work together to provide real sufficiency.
The first is other people. When we ‘don’t need other people,’ we close the door to a huge channel for God’s blessings. We compromise relationships and we limit our sufficiency. God uses other people to provide what we lack and visa versa. If we don’t need them, we don’t receive from them, and our provision of what is sufficient will always be compromised – and stressful. The second is God Himself. Today’s verse points out a critical truth. All sufficiency is always directly from God. He alone is the source. What we might claim to have in ourselves is from Him. If others reach out to bless us in need, that’s also from God. Sufficiency and God can never be separated. If we do, we cut off a vital supply line.
Pride and sufficiency.
Looking back on my life, I clearly see that my sufficiency of self was simply pride. It was also judgemental – and very hypocritical. The person who hangs onto the belief of being sufficient in themselves lives a life immersed in dishonest pride. When things worked out, it was ‘all me.’ It was justification of my misplaced belief that I didn’t need anyone. When things didn’t work out, that’s when dishonest pride reared its ugly head. The problem, of course, was never ‘all me.’ It was simply evidence that ‘those others’ couldn’t be trusted. I was able to excuse my failings and justify my pride all at the same time.
I can say with absolute certainty from harsh experience that it’s a stressful and tenuous existence. Perhaps my greatest ‘deliverance’ was this deception. I still give thanks for the moment when I faced the truth and accepted that I did not, and never would, have what it takes. The relief of knowing that all sufficiency is of God is enormous. I was able to see my pride for what it was and finally walk free from what had become an insidious and seductive torment.
The magnitude of sufficiency in God.
Today’s verse opens up the most wonderful truth – truth that has totally transformed my life with its power and simplicity. To grasp the magnitude of sufficiency in God, we must first grasp, accept, acknowledge, and really know that real sufficiency is only of God. He is the source, the beginning and the end. Once we have that established, everything else is just plain breathtaking. This is because His sufficiency is as big, as powerful, and as awesome and immeasurable as He is. The God of our sufficiency is the great I AM. He’s not me or my next door neighbour or my friend. God is the creator and sustainer of the universe. He’s the God who parted the Red Sea, fed a few million people in the wilderness, calmed the storm, walked on water, raised the dead, and defeated a combined army of a few hundred thousand with 300 men.
Wow. This revelation puts our pride in our own sufficiency into sobering perspective. I had to ask myself the harsh question: Why am I so determined to prove and boast of my own sufficiency? Why would anyone in their right mind choose their own sufficiency over the sufficiency of a God whose glory, majesty, and power cannot even be described? I rejoice, now, that I can say with complete honesty ‘I cannot.’ It’s a relief that defies description. There is nothing as exciting as knowing we cannot and relying only on the sufficiency of the great I AM.
Living in the sufficiency of God.
When I look back at my foolishness, it’s humbling to see how much I have been blessed – despite all the time I wasted in my stubborn pride. A year ago, for example, just the thought of heading off alone into the ‘great beyond’ was beyond scary. It was out of my comfort zone. I would be on the road for two weeks at a time, not knowing anyone, in unfamiliar territory. No, I couldn’t do it. But the sufficiency of God is a daily blessing. He has exceeded my expectations and opened doors to ministry and financial blessings I couldn’t even have imagined.
The sufficiency of God at work is truly awesome to behold. But, like everything else, it starts with our choice. We must be willing to come to that place of ‘I am not, have not, cannot.’ It’s a choice for every moment of every day. God’s sufficiency or mine? Why live with the stress of our own sufficiency, when God is sufficient beyond our imagining?
Lord, forgive us our pride and foolishness, and show us the truth each day. Remind us in everything that Your sufficiency is perfect, above and beyond our needs. Grant us the grace to be honest and to recognise when we rely on ourselves and exclude You. Thank You for Your infinite patience, and for being willing, always, to provide what we lack if we only humble ourselves and ask.