Enjoying the Journey
Every preacher is different. The same all-wise God who used the unique personalities and gifts of the Bible writers continues to minister through all different types of men. Over time a man learns how God speaks to him and how he best can receive and relay the Lord’s message to others.
Preaching day after day the Lord is teaching me much about myself and about preaching that no homiletics class or book on preaching can convey. You can take a text from anywhere in the Bible with confidence that it is the very Word of God without error. It will work. But do we not think that God would like to be involved in what we preach to His people?
Every time we stand to preach we should be seeking to deliver the truth that God desires for that time and audience. Pastors who are preaching through the Bible to their people can trust that God knows right where they are and will meet the needs through His all-sufficient Word. Yet God’s servants must always be sensitive to know the emphasis that the Lord wants made. It is more than preaching a sermon – it is placing God’s emphasis.
Here are a few things God is teaching me about finding the message He wants preached:
- I must stay close to the Lord. God still speaks in “a still, small voice” to His preachers. He requires that we be near enough to hear. My primary task every day is not to prepare a sermon but to live in communion with God. I am a worshiper first and a messenger second. When I give attention to being in His presence He never fails to give me something to carry to others. Personally, I get greater clarity on what I am to preach the closer I get to a meeting. We live day by day and we preach the same way. “Give us this day our daily bread.” Such daily dependence always brings fresh manna.
- I always begin by examining my own devotional life. What is God speaking to me about? Where is He at work in my life? This must never be disconnected from our preaching. The preacher must speak out of the overflow of God’s own work in his heart. I have found that very often when the Lord is working on me about particular things it corresponds with something He is doing in the lives of others. Without a doubt, I can speak with greater passion on a subject that is burning in my own soul.
- I am learning to ask in faith…and then listen. Why do we try to find a sermon or “get an outline” when the message is God’s? We are simply delivery boys! Perhaps it was the attitude of “speak, LORD, for thy servant heareth” (1 Samuel 3:9) in Samuel the prophet that caused God to “let none of his words fall to the ground” (1 Samuel 3:19). Personally I have stopped asking the Lord what sermon He wants delivered and started asking Him what Scripture He wants us to be in. If you find the portion of Scripture He has for that hour the message will grow and flow naturally out of the text. I have been amazed at how many times while I was praying for a certain meeting the Holy Spirit brought a truth, a text to my mind. At other times, God has given me a thought that I have made note of and then later as I began to think and pray toward a specific service He has brought that back to my heart with great force. “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24).
- When in doubt, I go back to first impressions. Sometimes we can get so many Scriptures or thoughts on our minds that we are confused as to which one should be delivered. I have found that very often the first leading is the safe route to follow. While this is not always true and God may even change your direction later, it helps to commit to a Scripture and concentrate your study there.
- If I don’t know what to preach – preach Jesus! This was advice that my dad gave me as a teenage preacher and it has proven to be a great help to me. For any number of reasons – nerves, unusual circumstances, physical weakness – a preacher may be totally at a loss as to what to preach. Take a simple text concerning Christ and point people to Him. You can never go wrong with Jesus.
In the end, we must pray that God chooses the sermon. The story is told of a simple, village preacher who had but one sermon, and yet his message was mightily used of God to bring revival in many places. A friend asked him one day, “Where did you get that sermon?” The old preacher took him to a little room where the window overlooked the countryside. He said, “On my knees I asked God to tell me what He wanted me to preach. All night I prayed. And then as the sun came over the hills the next morning the answer came. That is where I got that sermon.”
May the Lord help us all to simply be His messengers and to faithfully deliver the message that He wants preached.