I thought I was finished with my sermon preparation.
I had studied the passage during the week, read some commentaries to test my conclusions, honed my main point, developed an outline, and written it out to make sure it was all clear.
Then Saturday morning—as usual—I went over it with my wife.
A long ways to go
But as I read it to her, she looked puzzled. She asked a question—a really good question. Then she asked another question—another really good question. And I could tell I was not really understanding the passage.
My sermon was confusing. Vague. Contradictory. And then it dawned on me—I was nowhere near finished with my sermon preparation.
I had a ways to go. A looooooooong ways to go.
And it was Saturday ... and the clock was ticking.
So I went back to my office, sat down at my desk, and then it struck me. I have no idea what this passage is saying. And I could feel anxiety rising up in me.
So I opened my Bible again, and slowly read over the passage. I thought of another possible way to understand the passage and jotted it down.
But as I thought about it I could see, that’s not right, either. I did that a couple of times. Reading the passage—jotting down ideas. But none of them were right.
An hour went by. Another hour. The clock was ticking.
My anxiety was turning into panic.
Finally I stopped everything and prayed. I folded my hands—bowed my head—and prayed.
Help me, Father.
I have no idea what You are saying in this passage.
I want to feed the flock at Mercy Hill tomorrow morning—but at this point I have nothing.
Forgive me for my concern about my image—my fear of looking bad.
But for the sake of Your glory, for the joy of Mercy Hill Church, for the advance of the Gospel—please—help me understand Your Word.
Calm my heart. Give me peace. Give me energy.
Give me the wisdom You promise in James 1:5.
I entrust myself, this sermon, this study time, and tomorrow’s service to You.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Then I quoted to myself the promise of James 1:5:
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
I rested in the truth that God would give me all the wisdom I needed.
And then I noticed—the panic was gone. I felt strangely at peace. I knew God would help me.
And I got back to work.
And then …
I saw it. Something in the passage I had not noticed—a connection that cleared-up one of the difficult verses.
Wow. Thank You.
And then—when I understood that verse—the rest of the verses became clear.
Much more clear.
What mercy. Thank You.
And then, I saw the point of the whole passage.
I saw a better way to communicate the passage—a way that would help people see the point more clearly.
I rewrote the sermon. Then I went back over it—thinking and praying through it.
And I could tell ... that’s it. I’m ready.
Thank You. You are so good to me.
What this taught me
1. Knowing that God can help is not enough. Stopping and asking Him to help is crucial. “You have not because you ask not” (James 4:2).
2. Asking God for help—and trusting His promises—is more important than working hard (Psa 127:1).
3. But working hard has its place (1Cor 15:10). As we pray, and trust, we can be confident that God will work through our work.
How does this impact you?
Have you had similar experiences? Does my experience raise questions? I’d love to hear. Leave a comment below.
Do you know someone who would be helped by reading this? Email it to them using the “share” button below or use the buttons to share it on other social media.
Related Preaching Articles
By Trevin Wax on Jan 3, 2012
Trevin Wax: I wonder if one of the main reasons for the dwindling number of baptisms is represented by a subtle shift in vocabulary--so subtle that we might overlook it.
By Sermoncentral on Jun 19, 2018
Celebrate Your Graduates: 15 Sermon and Worship Resources for Graduation. Send off your graduates with godly wisdom that will help anyone who is entering a new chapter of their lives, including sermons from Mark Batterson, John Maxwell, and Herbert Cooper.