“We have not men fit for the times.”
So wrote John Adams, the second president of the United States. He was referring to the demands of the political tensions and military battles ushering in the American Revolution and the birth of our nation. His reasoning was that unique chapters in history require individuals with like experience and character to meet the challenges of the moment.
In one sense, that is true. God has fit specific individuals with gifts and abilities that seemed perfectly suited to their time. As a bit of a minor history buff I think of George Washington (Adams’ remarks were made before he knew Washington well) and Winston Churchill.
But in another sense, we as believers must view his remarks through the lens of the gospel. The gospel teaches us that our sufficiency is always found in Christ and His gifts. In addition, biblically speaking, our times are like all times since the resurrection of our Lord Jesus up to this very moment. Since the resurrection of our Lord Christians have all lived in the “already-not yet” tension of belonging to two ages.
His kingdom has “already” pierced this present age and has broken through into our hearts and yet we still pray “Thy kingdom come.” The political and social landscape may change but spiritually speaking we have been in the same stage of redemptive history since the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This is the age in which God is bringing in His people from every nation, tribe and tongue. This is the age of the church militant. Our enemies remain the godless world system (whatever political shape it takes), the flesh and the devil.
Who Is Sufficient For These Times?
We should be encouraged to know that none other than the apostle Paul saw himself as “inadequate” for the greatest task of all “times” – announcing and ministering the gospel of Jesus Christ, which has profound eternal consequences for human beings. Inadequate, in and of himself that is.
“Who is sufficient for these things?” he asks in 2 Cor. 2:16. If Paul expected a negative answer (“no one”), it was because he was acknowledging his lack of self-sufficiency. That is to say, no one in and of himself is up to this task. Success in the Christian life and gospel ministry are never the result of one’s own capacities and gifts. They are the product of God’s divine grace.
Which is why some scholars believe Paul was anticipating a positive answer because he goes on to say the following:“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit….” 2 Corinthians 3:5–6a.
It’s as if Paul was saying, “Who is adequate for this? Well, in Christ I am. I say this because I don’t peddle the gospel but teach the truth plainly and God makes me sufficient for the task. God brings to bear His divine power and the gifts of His Holy Spirit in my ministry.” Paul believed that his competence, just like his mission, came from God.
Indeed, in many ways these are troubling times. But it’s been this way more or less since Paul’s day. The gospel is always opposed and God’s people are a persecuted minority voice. As Paul notes in Romans,“As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
Truly, God’s people have suffered throughout the ages. And we can’t always make sense of it all. In fact, that’s the point of Psalm 44, which Paul quotes here. But thanks be to God that at any moment you and I can be “fit for the times” by the Holy Spirit. It is His grace and divine power that enables believers to persevere during times of great spiritual opposition and become “more than conquerors through Him.” Our competence, just like our mission, comes from Him.
Beloved, we may appear awkward and out of step with the culture to some degree because we are a counter-cultural people, but we have a word that is fit for all “times”, should God decide to bless it. We also have a Savior who is Lord over all “times” (Mt. 28:19). And we have a God who loves us – in all times (Rom. 8:38).