Advent 2 2017 – Fear of Inadequacy

This is the second Sunday of Advent

Last week we started a series looking at the feelings of fear expressed by those in the Christmas Bible story and God’s solution to that fear

The Christmas carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem” has the line “The hopes and fears of all the years” and that is the basis of this series. 

I want to talk about 4 basic fears of the key people in the Christmas story and the solution to those fears that is Christ.  Last week we talked of Joseph and his fear of decision making.[1]

The second fear I want to deal with shows up clearly in the life of Zachariah.

Luke 1:In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years. Once when Zachariah was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. 10 Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16 He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” 19 The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news…

It is the fear of inadequacy.

Let’s face it, we are not all together, are we? We have a veneer of being all together but scratch the surface and we are a mess of fears and hopes and insecurities.

Nathaniel Branden, a Canadian psychotherapist writes: You can be loved by your family, your mate, and your friends yet not love yourself. You can be admired by your associates yet regard yourself as worthless. You can project an image of assurance and poise that fools almost everyone yet secretly tremble with a sense of inadequacy.  [2]


All the inadequacies we have ever known rise to the surface when the Lord us asks for obedience.


Hear Zachariah:

18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.”

He is saying. I am inadequate for the task you put before me. I know my strengths, and fathering children is not one of them. You don’t think we have tried to have a baby? You are asking the impossible.

Think of other great men of the Bible:  Moses, Gideon, Jeremiah among many others. All of them felt their sense of inadequacy before the call from God on their lives.

Moses: Exodus 4:1 Then Moses answered, “But suppose they do not believe me or listen to me, but say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’


God then told Moses to put aside his broken spirit and feelings of inadequacy and return to the people.[3]

Gideon: Judges 6:15 He responded, “But sir, how can I deliver Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” 16 The Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike down the Midianites, every one of them.”


Jeremiah: Jeremiah 1:6     Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But the Lord said to me, do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. 8Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”


Also count the number for times God started a major work in the Old Testament by using a woman counted as barren. We spoke of some of them last week.

In fact, I cannot think of even one biblical character who responded to God by expressing their adequacy for the task assigned. “Yep, got that, God, I’m up to the task, I’m on to it!” I don’t hear that at all.

Zachariah stumbles ‘How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well on in years?’ (1:18). The angel replies simply, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God.’ Zechariah shows his disbelief when he says, ‘I am an old man!’ But the angel reminds Zechariah that he is speaking with the authority of God himself. He has come from God with his authority to make this announcement.[4]


It seems in this story that even though the radiant glory of the messenger – an angel -, as he stood before the curtain of the silent sanctuary in his awful beauty, ought to have convinced the doubting old man of the truth of the strange message. The words of the angel, which follow, seem to imply this. What! do you doubt my message? “I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of the Eternal.”[5]

Inadequacy is a fear that torments all of us. We tend to feel that we’re not good enough, we’re not man enough (or woman enough), or we’re not strong enough, that we are ill equipped.

God always gives us tasks bigger than we are so that we can grow up whilst attempting to accomplish them. He never asks for anything we can do solely by our own abilities.

It seems that our inadequacy is the prerequisite for our use by God. 

Our success in the work of God only happens when we mourn our inadequacy and fear before God.[6]

God invites us to do things far beyond our natural capabilities, so we can grow in our understanding of His character. We find courage to say yes by filling our minds with His truth:


"For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need" (Philippians 4:13).


Occasionally God nudges us to do something far beyond our comfort zone - teach a Bible study, write a book, go on a short-term missions’ trip, or provide foster care, for instance. Our natural tendency might be to think, Who, me? I can't do that!


In The Fellowship of the Ring. In the face of overwhelming hardship and a deep sense of inadequacy, Frodo tells Gandalf, “I wish it need not have happened in my time.” To this Gandalf replies, “So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” I may not like my circumstances, but I have to make the most of them for the Lord’s glory. I am to be fruitful when and where God has placed me.[7]


The apostle Paul’s teaching often addresses his (and our) weakness. God’s glory is accentuated and made effective as God works through the weakness of human beings.


1 Corinthians 1:25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.


1 Corinthians 1:27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God.


In this, there is a tension between an awareness of our inadequacy and the confidence God places in human beings to carry out the divine mission. Repeatedly those called by God insist upon their unsuitability, yet God counter insists that they will be equipped and adequate to the task.[8]


2 Corinthians 12:9 So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.


Overcoming the fear of inadequacy requires changing our thinking patterns.

Admitting our fear of inadequacy is step toward freedom. The Old Testament tells the story of King Jehoshaphat feeling afraid as war approached. He admitted his feelings and dependency upon God: "We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help" (2 Chronicles 20:12). Jehoshaphat humbled himself before God by admitting his dependence upon Him. But he didn't stop there. He took another important step by moving into battle despite those fears. And what happened? God honoured him for trusting Him. He experienced God's strength at work on his behalf.


Changing thinking patterns, admitting fear, and moving forward despite that fear is the key to freedom.


What new opportunities lie before you? What dreams lie hidden in your heart? Don't let the fear of inadequacy hinder you from fulfilling God's purpose for your life. Take courage, move forward, and watch as fear takes flight.[9]



[1] Inspired by Bob Mumford “Hopes and Fears” in Rise Up magazine undated


[3] The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 117).

[4] Sproul, R. C.  A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke (p. 18).

[5] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). St. Luke (Vol. 1, p. 5).

[6] The Lexham Bible Dictionary.

[7] Benfer, M.  A Heart Full of Pride. The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Number 2, Spring 2005, 23, 28.

[8] Miller, D. B. Ecclesiastes (p. 79)..