For my latest pass through Be Thou My Vision, I have been reading a chapter of The Preacher’s Catechism by Lewis Allen. Each of the forty-two chapters provides a question and answer, a verse or passage of Scripture, and some explanation, encouragement, and exhortation from Allen. Yesterday morning, I read chapter 7, which gives this question and answer:
Q. How can we rest in God’s power and purposes?
A. We are confident that God is in charge and at work through the joys and sometimes failures of preaching.
Toward the end of the chapter, Allen writes this:
A preacher needs to grow in childlike dependence upon God’s grace for himself and for his listeners, year by year. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7) should be a verse put in every pastor’s study and in every pulpit. The preacher needs plenty of faith, because sight can be so deceptive–and discouraging.
Haven’t you noticed how preaching sometimes goes wrong? Congregations don’t get the point of the sermon, no matter how hard we’ve tried to be simple. People take offense when we’ve had no intention of offending them (the opposite also happens). Those we’ve prayed and prepared for most carefully in the week aren’t there for the sermon. Our best sermons are often our biggest disasters. We go home frustrated, embarrassed, deflated, and wondering what all the effort was for.
Again, faith is needed. Preaching, even preaching that looks like it’s crashing and burning, is never a waste in God’s purposes (Isa. 55:11). We are not God, and we should gladly admit that we have no idea how he works through our often feeble efforts for his glory. We don’t need to know, and we need to stop fretting. God is at work. We believe his promise.
The question we must face, and which our post-sermon activities betray, is this: can we find peace as we trust that God is at work? Whether we’re jogging off our adrenaline or collapsed on the sofa, is there trust in our hearts? Do we really believe that our preaching will achieve God’s work?
Faith is part of our spiritual armor. As we leave our preaching, we must leave both our preaching and our hearers with God. They are all safe with him, and so are we. With the Spirit’s gift of faith, after we’ve done everything, then we can stand (Eph. 6:13).Pp. 53-54
Surely, if you are a preacher, you resonate with those words.
I certainly often find it to be true that the sermons I felt best about end up feeling like the biggest duds after being preached, while the sermons that I was certain were unintelligible messes are often met with the warmest reception.
The practice of observing the Lord’s Supper weekly, which we began at the start of this year, has provided a wonderful opportunity for dealing with post-sermon emotions. In the brief moments that I have sitting alone before my wife and daughters come to pray with me, I look at the table in front of me and the bread and cup in my hands, and I confess that all I have is Christ. Whether I feel I just preached my best or worst sermon is unimportant, Jesus is all that matters. I ask Him to use my feeble words for His glory, and I give Him thanks for His grace upon grace to me.
So, do not lose heart, brother pastor, and keep preaching the Word. The fruit of the seed is in God’s hand; let us devote ourselves to faithfully sowing the Word.