Responding to something we had written, a pastor said, “My problem is finding the necessary time to study for sermons. Tell us how to do that.”
I’m tempted to say you have the same 24 hours in your day the rest of us have in ours. But in addition to being obvious, that might also come across as uncaring.
So, herewith a more thoughtful (and I hope, considerate) answer to the question of finding time to study….
Learn to say no to lesser things, unnecessary things, and even good things in order to elevate sermon-study to a higher priority in your life.
Turn loose of some outside activities that are time-killers, energy-drains, and mind-troublers.
Study your schedule to see what is burdening your day and draining the energies you need for effective Bible study.
Find the biggest time-absorbers in your life. One fellow said playing solitaire helped him pass the hours on long airplane flights. Likewise, emailing, Facebooking, twittering, and such can such all the available time from your pursuit of better things.
Once you have settled on your Scripture for the sermon, as much as you can, commit it to memory. Then, in your car (or while walking or doing yard work or resting), go over the text and think about it, talk about it out loud, pray about it, etc. Memorize so you can meditate on it.
First, in your heart of hearts, determine with the Holy Spirit’s guidance that you are going to carve out more time to spend in the Word and in sermon preparation. Do this even if you have no idea how you will achieve it.
Second, share the decision with your spouse and a few intimate friends (the kind who will pray for you without talking to others about it).
Third, keep praying, asking the Lord, and watching for His answer. We can be assured that He is far more interested in our spending time with Him in prayer and study than we have ever been. So, pay attention; this is one prayer He wants to answer!
7) Stay real.
Nothing we say here is meant to indicate you should not attend your child’s ball game or take the family bowling or sit with your mate for an hour’s television-watching. Family activities is as much a part of the Christian life as sermon-building.
Do not overdo this. It’s possible to overstudy for a sermon. I’m remembering when my wife taught a Bible class for adult women, and the way she agonized over every week’s lesson. On Saturdays, she would despair. “I’ll never be able to do this! I can’t get a handle on it. There’s just too much in that passage!”
Invariably, after church on Sundays when I asked how the class had gone, she would say, “It was wonderful.” I didn’t, but what I thought about saying was, “Give me a break. You fret over the lesson all week long, then invariably it turns out well. Does anyone see a trend here?”
There’s much to be said for studying a sermon for a couple of weeks, then, in the final few days before it’s preached, to settle on a plan and finish it by Thursday. When that happens, let it “set.” Then, on Saturday, take it out and preach it again. Several times, in fact. Then, leave it and enjoy preaching it afresh to your people on Sunday.
Of course, Monday morning, you begin again. Welcome to what is called “the relentless return of the Sabbath.”