“Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life” (Acts 5:20).
I feel like I have a delivery to make.
I will drive 130 miles up the interstate and across some state highways, greet the members of Centreville, Mississippi, Baptist Church, and then join their worship service. At the appointed time, I will rise and ask them to turn to Matthew 10.
All week long, I have lived in Matthew 10. I’ve read it, thought about it, written about it, read about it, and talked to the Lord about it. I feel I have a load to delivery.
When I drive South this afternoon, I will feel spent. Empty. Unburdened. And drained.
I hope I will feel pleased, but that’s not always a sure thing. Sometimes I come back from preaching feeling, as the basketball players put it, that I have left it in the locker room (instead of on the floor, in the game). We preachers sometimes come home disgusted that such a glorious message had to be filtered through such an imperfect vessel. As though we had tried to depict a sunset with crayons. Tried to explain calculus with the understanding of a six-year-old.
We wonder that God can use such a pitiful attempt.
And yet, we did not volunteer for this. We did not presumptuously present ourselves to the Lord as capable, eager spokespeople.
We are called. And that makes a world of difference.
“Woe is me if I preach not the gospel,” said the Apostle (I Corinthians 9:16).
“When I said I would speak no more in His Name,” said Jeremiah, “His word was like fire in my bones and I could not contain” (Jeremiah 20:9).
The called of God know the feeling.
There is a difference, as everyone knows, in having to say something and having something to say. The called of God has something to say and feels he will burst if he doesn’t get it out.
That’s why the pastor who reads other people’s sermons in the pulpit as though they were his own is betraying his calling. If he has one.
That’s why the preacher who cobbles together a few things he read that week from the Reader’s Digest and a few personal reminisces into a homily is unworthy of the name.
From the little I know of these things, if God calls you into the ministry as His spokesperson, He will give you a message.
The minister with no message is an oxymoron. A contradiction in terms.
The preacher with no word from the Lord is in the wrong line of work.
God’s Word–and we’re referring to the Holy Scriptures–is an amazing library of stories and teachings, histories and prophecies, instructions and examples. The preacher who spends hours in the Word each week will have a hundred ideas and burdens, solid messages from God competing for space, all clamoring to be preached next Sunday.
The pastor does not preach all these, but seeks the Lord on the subject. These are God’s people sitting before him, this is God’s house, and you are His spokesman, scary though that may be. God knows who sits in those pews, what the needs of each are, and what the preacher is capable of.
He will tell you.
No one said it more forcefully than Jeremiah…
“The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream. And he who has my Word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? Is not My Word like a fire? And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:28-29).