21-Day Challenge: Day 4

‘Yes, we can!’ – ‘No, we can’t!’

To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? (2 Corinthians 2:16)

th-1This is the central question of the new covenant — the fulcrum on which it engages or disengages. It is, indeed, the basic question of life. Whether we are operating under the new covenant or the old covenant can be found in the answer to this question.

“Who is equal to such a task?” Or as the New American Standard Bible has it: “And who is adequate for these things?”

At this stage in Paul’s rendering of the new covenant, he is not interested in answering the question, only in asking it. It is therefore a rhetorical question — “a question asked in order to produce an effect or to make a statement rather than to elicit information.” The information will come later, but the effect Paul wants to produce by asking this question is to hit us all in the gut. This is the question that at any time can drop us to our knees whether we know the answer to it or not. And yet, it is the question we all face every day. There is nothing more central to life than this.

“Who is adequate for life?” “Who is equal to the task?” “Who can divide a room — attracting some people and repelling others?” This is the question being asked and he leaves us hanging with the answer on purpose. Why? I believe because he wants us to feel the tension over what life asks of us, and what we can and cannot deliver. He wants to cut to the chase. He wants us to live a while with this question. He wants us to feel its vulnerability — the way it can strip us from all pretense, and lay us bare before the Lord and others.

Actually, I believe we live with this question all the time. The new covenant thrives in its wake — in the inadequacy the question forces us all to feel if we truly face it. Do you walk into your job every day feeling like you are the man or woman for it? Do you approach your role as husband/wife, father/mother, with the confidence that you have what it takes to fulfill that role today? Do you ever feel like you talked your way into something and once you got it, you fall back and wonder how you are going to do what you said you could do?

That’s what I want us all to feel today, and I am purposely not going to try and resolve it. Paul doesn’t resolve it until the next chapter. He must want us to get comfortable with being aware of our inadequacy for life. The secret to the power comes from knowing the need for it.

“Who is equal to such a task?”  Good question.

Day 4 Challenge:
“Who is equal for this task? Who is equal to set people free?” In our naiveté we often find ourselves quick to raise our hands for this. After all, aren’t we supposed to be living the victorious, triumphant life? Until, at the first onset of a disturbance of any kind, we find ourselves flying under our desks shivering.  

This is because we can find ourselves caught in our inner doubts over the slightest obstacles.  We know great fear and experience paralyzing pain in our hearts.

Where is this life of triumph? Is there something wrong with those of us who wobble along?

No. The triumphant life includes human anguish, fear, and doubt. Our life is set up to be side-by-side with the fragrance of Jesus. On one side are our fears, frustrations, and failures. On the other side is God who is within us and able to work His work and do His will through us. The result? “Thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.”!

Action item:
Bring a journal with you today and jot down that times when you really believe your life rests upon your feeble efforts to do something for God. Describe the intensity of the experience, when it is all up to you — when you try so hard to be equal to the task — when it is important to do something good for God. Are you in company with many or are you alone? Are you ready to do more or are you pretty tired?

Step out of the story and try reliving the experience with the expectation that God is doing something through you, that you can be led in triumph by Jesus Christ at the very moment of your frustration: “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” Paul could say that in the midst of his admitted anxiety.

What is the difference? Is the outcome any different? Probably not – because God does work through us – with or without us. So what is the difference? Tell us what you jotted down in your journal — your thoughts, insights, experience, and what your heart is saying.

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2 Responses to 21-Day Challenge: Day 4

  1. Carole in Midland says:

    My friend had an exhilarating experience this weekend – while on a tubing-on-the-river trip, he got to save a man’s life in front of the man’s wife and children, who were unable to reach him. Only my friend was in a position to help and at no little danger to himself. My friend was obviously proud of himself for acting quickly and grateful that he and the man were both safe, but afterward, he thanked God for the opportunity and was humbled that he had been there -convinced that this man surely would have perished otherwise. We talked about that some. I pointed out to him that it was no coincidence, that God knew exactly what He was doing and the outcome. I speculated that perhaps my friend was the one who needed to see that he would would listen to the voice of God and follow; God always knew he would or He would have sent someone else to be there at that exact moment. Or perhaps someone who saw my friend act needed to see courage in action so that someday the observer, in a similar situation, would be bold enough to do likewise, At any rate, both my friend and the saved man finished the tubing trip side-by-side, thankful for their lives, God’s grace and mercy. Cool, huh?

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