The Thistle

Covenant Seminary Alumni Devotional: A Crisis of Competence

How do you live when all is new?
The axiom is correct: we live in a world of change. Sometimes you seek change, and sometimes change seeks you. Soon all is new. What do you do? As I reflect upon this year, I realize I have been the sought. I did not seek change, but change found me, and now all is new – especially in the work I do.

The people are new. The organization is new. The computer and its operating system are new. The copier is new. The processes and procedures are new. My new cry is, “I take 10 minutes to complete a 30-second task.” It is humbling and sometimes humiliating. The people who know the system do not always remember your newness, so they wonder, “Does he have any sense?”

I wonder, too. In my former calling as a pastor, I achieved a level of competence. God will judge my effectiveness or excellence, but in the old days, I needed only 10 minutes to complete each 10-minute task.

So how do I survive and serve, when all is new?
I begin by reciting the words of Nebuchadnezzar, after his humbling and humiliation: “He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth” (Daniel 4:35). This newness is His pleasure, even when it is befuddling to me. I must recall this again and again, when this crisis of competence becomes a crisis of confidence.

I continue by rejoicing in the words of Paul to the Romans: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us” (Romans 12:6). For some reason, someone in this new place sees or senses gifts in me. In a broken world, my gifts will never perfectly match my calling. But when He calls, He has equipped, and He will equip.

Finally, I learn to live what I have taught: all I do, I do in the name of Jesus, and for the sake of Jesus (Colossians 3:17). Change mystifies. Change disorients. Change hurts. Even when you seek it, it exacts a steep price upon body and spirit. But I bumble on and fumble ahead, offering myself anew each day, asking the Lord to make me competent in my work, and confident in Him.

Rev. Tom Stein (MDiv ’91)
Director of Alumni, Geneva College
Beaver Falls, PA