Earlier this week I heard another pastor say that without God’s word, he would have nothing to say. This statement struck a chord with me, because I had been thinking the exact same thing on Sunday morning as I sat in my office praying and preparing my heart to preach. I didn’t really want to preach the message that I had prepared all week to preach. Not because I considered it a bad message, or because there was something else that I believed God would have me preach, but because I felt like I was the wrong person to preach a message on finding community, fellowship, and intimacy in the church and in our homes. Being acutely aware of my own failure to adequately demonstrate the things about which I was preaching, I really wanted nothing more than to just take a pass on that particular message. How much easier would it be to simply preach on something I’m good at, or at least something which I was not completely failing at in my own estimation? But I could not choose the easier path.
Now there are two reasons that I had to preach the message I preached on Sunday. The first reason was that I simply had nothing else to preach. That particular message had occupied my mind and heart all week, as I read and meditated on the Scriptures, and I simply had nothing else to proclaim. But more than that, I consider myself a slave to the text of God’s word, to explain it and to proclaim it to the people of God who gather each week to hear it. I could sooner sprout wings and fly than to preach something other than the meaning and message of the text of Scripture. For this reason, I am indebted to the Bible as the source of everything that I preach, for it is not in me to proclaim truth that I have discovered or come to know apart from God’s word. And so, as I sat at my desk on Sunday morning, I prayed that God would somehow give me the grace to preach something that I knew could not come from me, and in so doing magnify himself through me.
The good news is that God is in the grace business, so that I could have complete confidence that he would do exactly as I had asked. And one of the benefits of preaching a message which I feel completely inadequate to proclaim is that the Holy Spirit works in my heart, even as I am preaching it, to bring about repentance and maturity in my own faith. Rather than preaching to others, I am preaching to myself, because it is God’s word which provides both the message and the means to respond to that message. So I will not be shy about saying that I don’t have any word to offer anyone, because I am just like everyone else – a sinner in need of God’s continual grace. But I will also not be shy about proclaiming the word of God, even when it is uncomfortable or inconvenient, because it is by his word that he transforms my heart and the hearts of all those who listen and obey.
I’d like to think that last Sunday was an extraordinary experience, but I’m pretty sure that every message I preach is one which I cannot live out fully and perfectly. So instead of avoiding preaching altogether, I will pray for God’s grace to overshadow my weakness and glorify himself in and through me.