Enjoying the Journey
A fine young man was driving me to the airport in another state recently. We had a pleasant conversation about many things. He is soon to be married and has much to look forward to in life and ministry.
He reminded me of so many young men that I have the privilege to work with every week. He reminded me of me. Trying to figure it all out. Soaking up what older preachers had to say. Watching. Listening. Appreciative for those men who would invest in a young preacher.
During the course of our talk he asked me several questions. At one point we talked about physical exercise and he told me that he spent some time every morning working out. “I think I’ll stop that soon. Too many other things to do,” he said.
Not a good idea. I laughed and informed him that guys my age wondered why we had stopped when we were his age! Bodily exercise does profit a little and should be continued.
The question that has stayed with me from our time together was related to preaching. What is one distinctive of the way we train young preachers to handle the Word of God? Good question.
Many things came to mind. Truths that others have taken time to share with me. Lessons that failure alone has taught me. I am learning more every day and realizing how much I do not know.
Was there just one thing that I could share with this young man?
In a phrase it is this: learn to preach out of the overflow.
Preaching is not to be “worked up.” It is to be the natural (or perhaps more accurately, supernatural) overflow of God’s work in your own heart. It is not about “getting a sermon” or finding an outline. It is God’s message to others through His work and word in you.
Live close to the Shepherd and you will say with David, “my cup runneth over.” Those around you will be the blessed beneficiaries of that overflow.
Those who make God known are those who know Him best. He must real to us before He can be real through us.
Many a minister is trying to draw Living Water out of an empty well. God never intended it to be that way! In fact, Jesus said that as the Holy Spirit worked in the heart of the believer “out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). Let the river flow! As He overflows your banks, His truth will flood those around you.
- Preach out of the overflow of your own meditation on Scripture.
Read God’s Word devotionally and slowly. Think on these things.
Robert Murray McCheyne said, “Workers cannot begin their work without a passage of Scripture for themselves. William Burns, when asked on one occasion to speak, said, ‘No, I have not yet got a morsel for myself.’ Try to act upon this principle, and remember it must be fresh manna, just gathered. I should feel ashamed to take withered flowers to the sick.”
Men who preach without great dependence on notes are typically men who are preaching out of the overflow of much preparation. The key to saturation is meditation. (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 77:12, Psalm 119:99, John 5:39, Acts 17:11, 1 Timothy 4:13-16).
- Preach out of the overflow of what others can teach you.
The man who only says what comes to his mind will not say much. Read widely. Ask questions. Listen to others. Be a student and you will always have something to teach.
He gathers who listens.
He spends who teaches.
If we spend before we gather,
We will soon be bankrupt.
My dad, my pastor, and a host of other men have been and are my teachers. None of us ever arrives but we must always be pursuing.
- Preach out of the overflow of your own personal experiences with God.
This is the part that no other man can do for you. God teaches us things day by day as we follow Him. These lessons are not for us alone. Paul wrote that we “comfort them which are in any trouble, with the same comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Corinthians 1:4).
Reflect on what God is doing in your life. Record your experiences. Relay them to others as God prompts you.
- Preach out of the overflow of private prayer.
Direct communion with God brings fresh understanding and power like nothing else can. Ask Moses. Let Paul testify. These were men who spoke out of the overflow of much time alone with the Lord.
G. Campbell Morgan used to tell the story of a Welsh preachers who was mightily used of God in preaching. He only had one sermon but under it countless souls had been brought to Christ. A fellow preacher traveled a great distance to visit with him. His question was simple: “Where did you get that sermon?”
Morgan told how the quiet, country preacher took his friend to a room where the carpet was worn near the window. He said, “one night I got down to pray and asked God to give me a message for others. I prayed through the night. The morning came and the sermon came. That is where I got that sermon.”
You don’t get that from the Internet. Walk with God and you will have a Word to share with others.
Preaching out of the overflow is not confined merely to the preacher’s study. It is the product of his whole life and the Lord who is guiding him.
Perhaps the best summary I could share comes from the writings of H. Griffith Thomas regarding preaching:
1. Think yourself empty.
2. Read yourself full.
3. Write yourself clear.
4. Pray yourself clean.
5. Enter your pulpit and let yourself go.
Stop trying to get a sermon. Tap into the Fountain. Remove every obstacle. Let the river flow.