I solemnly charge you: preach the gospel; persist in it whether convenient or not…. (2 Timothy 4:1-2).
I’m worn out this Monday morning. In the last seven days, I have preached in Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama. (That would be New Orleans, Charlotte, Charleston and Albertville.)
In the process, I logged almost 2,000 miles in my little Honda CR-V.
I met a thousand new friends and was able to visit with and encourage many pastors whom I was meeting for the first time.
They paid me, too, in case anyone wonders. Actual money.
Several questions linger on this (very early) Monday morning…
1. Was it worth all the trouble?
My back is killing me. At my age, I have more and more trouble recovering from such demanding schedules and long drives. But I wouldn’t change a thing. I loved every moment of it.
It was so worth the trouble.
I was blessed from beginning to end. There was not a single discouraging event or word the entire week.
But, ultimately, God is the only One who knows.
2. What was accomplished?
3. You went to all that trouble just to preach?
Yep. That’s mostly what I did.
I also sketched a lot of people and fellowshipped with some wonderful servants of the Lord. On three different occasions, I met ministers in fast food places near the interstate, and we encouraged one another in the Lord.
A lot of trouble just for preaching? It depends on the value you place on a) yourself and b) preaching.
I don’t place a lot of value on myself. It’s tempting to say “I’m all I’ve got,” and in a way that’s true. But it’s not. The Lord has me and He is my all and apart from Him I am nothing and can do nothing.
I do value preaching.
The Apostle Paul must have been answering a similar, although deeper, question on the value of preaching as he went to ten thousand times the trouble I did to share Christ’s word. He said, “For those who are perishing, the preaching of the cross is foolishness, but to us who are being saved, it is God’s power” (I Corinthians 1:18).
People die for the right to preach and for having preached.
“Woe to me if I preach not the gospel,” said Paul (I Corinthians 9:16).
The preacher of the gospel has some decisions to make:
1. Is this Bible the Word of God or not?
2. Is Jesus Christ the Savior of the world and the only way to God or just a good teacher?
3. Must people be saved to get to heaven?
4. Are people without Christ lost and headed for hell?
Drop the ball at any point—i.e., fail to come through with a resounding “Yes, indeed!” on any of those four questions—and my preaching becomes just so much pap.
There is a lot of pap being preached these days.
I was visiting with friends over a weekend while en route to an assignment. Since they had not found a church in the area and this mattered more to me than it did to them, I regret to say, I invited them to accompany me on Sunday morning for services. The First Baptist Church in that city looked inviting, so we would worship there.
The church was pastorless, we learned, and the interim pastor was a professor of something or other, or maybe a local Christian counselor. His message was on friendship, mostly from Proverbs.
He said nothing wrong. But he left out Jesus, and he did not mention the gospel at all. The “preaching of the cross” was a no-show that day.
His message would have been perfect for a Civitan Club luncheon. He could have preached it in any public high school in America.
Would anyone have died for his right to preach that message? Was this what Paul had in mind in urging Timothy to “preach the Word?” Would Paul have pronounced a woe on himself for not preaching that sermon?
People have died for preaching the gospel. Others have given their lives for the right to preach. The question is "Why?” Why did they consider this scriptural message worth their very lives?
How you answer that says volumes about your faith.
Consider this a call for cutting-edge gospel. Let the sermon from God’s servants be filled with the life of God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let it cut and slice and heal and bless (see Hebrews 4:12). Let the preacher find out why God’s Word is called a two-edged sword.
Let it challenge the way people are living and call them to righteousness.
Let the preaching of the Word lift up Jesus and tell why people are lost if they do not believe in Him.
Let it tell the truth about the lostness of the hearers and point to the cross of Jesus Christ. Let the message announce that “the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin” and that there is forgiveness and wholeness to be found nowhere else in the universe.
Let the sermon open the Word and teach it. Let it blister and comfort, challenge and inspire, denounce and announce.
Let the preacher leave nothing in the locker room, as athletes say. Nothing on the cutting room floor, as they say in cinematography. Nothing in the pastor’s study.
Give it your all.
And when you finish, pastor, ask yourself whether that message was worth anyone dying for. And if the answer is "no," re-enroll in the Lord’s school and ask Him to teach you how to preach.
God help us to be faithful and fearless, to be humble on our knees before God in order to be mighty on our feet before men.
Dear Lord, help your preachers to get this right.