Question from a Site Viewer
I’m about to preach my first trial sermon but I’m struggling with drugs at times. But no matter what God is with me but I don’t feel worthy to proclaim his goodness. God knows I hate the sin within me and I know he will forgive me. My heart longs to please Him but I’m struggling. I’m not going to stop seeking him no matter what comes my way. I’ll fight until the end. Do you think I’m qualified to preach?
Thanks for writing. To proclaim the Word of God is a fearful and yet wonderful thing. No man or woman is qualified to preach if they look at their own lives. Even the most talented orator, politician, professor, or lecturer is not worthy in themselves to open up the sacred Scriptures and proclaim God’s word to people. BUT, Jesus is worthy to open the book. And if we seek Him and the guidance of His Holy Spirit, praying that what we speak will be His words communicated through us, then He makes us worthy to proclaim His excellent worth to all who will listen.
There are certain dangers to avoid as you preach your first trial sermon. First, I would urge you to speak, not with the hope that people will think that you gave a good sermon, but rather to speak with the prayer that God will let people see Jesus through you. You are only the clay pot. He is the precious ointment. Thus, the less your listeners see and hear you and the more they see and hear Jesus, the more you will have served your Master well. The role of the messenger is to deliver His message in a simple, articulate, and understandable way.
Second, leave the result of the sermon in the hands of God. If people praise you for the sermon, be gracious but do not let praise go to your head. Christians cannot afford to live for the praise of men. It corrupts the soul. Do not go there. If God used your sermon, which we pray that He will, it is no different than God using us to help some widow across the street. It does not mean that we are special, talented, etc. It means only that God can use the weak and foolish things like preaching to bring His grace to people.
Likewise, if people criticize you or the sermon, do not let that bother you either. Sometimes the worst of sermons are the ones that touch someone’s heart. It is true that after people put so much effort into preparing and then giving a sermon, and then others ignore it or criticize it, the result is often depression. Prepare yourself not to go there either. The sermon is not about you. It is about proclaiming Jesus. One good way to combat such tendency to depression is to get on your knees and thank God for the chance to share His word and commit the entire matter to God. Then, write down everyone who criticized you or the sermon and make them the objects of your prayer the following week. Pray that God will bless them and use them and help them to draw closer to Jesus. And if their hearts are not right before God, through your prayer on their behalf they may even be brought back to God. More is accomplished through prayer to our hearing Father than we will ever know. I believe that anyone who wants to give a sermon must be devoted to prayer. The power of God goes out only with prayer, as Jesus taught us.
This, naturally, brings me to the most important point. To give a sermon does not mean that one must be a star. Do not take clues from Hollywood. The best sermons are spoken by those who are meek and gentle (2 Timothy 2:24-26); those who rely on the Spirit to speak. This does not mean that we avoid the hard work of preparing, but it does mean that we understand that God speaks through individuals and we need to be open to what He will say through us. Thus, the best sermon preparation is bathed in prayer. Pray as you prepare. Pray as you deliver the sermon. And pray afterwards that God will take the words and apply them to the hearts of those who have heard, whether few or many.
And pray also that God will first live out His sermon in you and only second speak out His sermon through you. It is difficult effectively to preach what one has not lived. I think this is what James speaks about when he lets us know that those who teach God’s word are held to a higher standard (James 3:1). Again, it is not that any person standing up to preach ever is worthy in and of themselves, but rather those who preach want to be examples to the flock of God.
So, do not pretend to be an example that you are not. Rather, use where you are in your Christian walk as a platform to proclaim Christ, to come alongside those who struggle, and to encourage everyone to be completely devoted to Christ.
You remind me of Peter on the day of Pentecost. Just fifty days before, Peter had denied that he even knew Christ. He had done the thing he had promised not to do. And it grieved him deeply. Scripture says that he wept bitterly. But Scripture also tells us that after the resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples over a period of 40 days (Acts 1:3), then for the next ten days the disciples devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 1:14), then the Spirit came and Peter gave his sermon in Acts 2. God chose Peter, the one who had denied Jesus only 50 days before, to give that sermon. So do not let your struggle be a hindrance, but rather let it be the reason to understand your own weakness, and His strength, and to pray earnestly for His Holy Spirit to transform and use you.
And may the precious Lord Jesus see your heart, honor your prayer, fill you with His Spirit, and use you in His kingdom.
a fellow servant,