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“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
—Proverbs 16:18 (ESV)

If you’ve preached more than, say, 25 sermons, you’ve almost certainly had the experience. Saturday evening you sit back in your desk chair, look at the sermon you intend to deliver the next morning, and marvel, “Is it possible? Have I really created the perfect sermon?” You begin to imagine the weeping masses falling down at the altar after your sermon pleading, “What must I do to be saved?” You picture J.I. Packer who, for some unknown reason, just so happens to attend your church that particular Sunday, turning to the man next to him in the pew saying, “I’d gladly exchange all my learning if I could move men’s hearts like that simple preacher.” You honestly start wondering, “Let’s just say I’m invited to speak at the next Together for the Gospel conference…”

Sunday morning comes and you bound into the pulpit with a spring in your step, a smile on your face, and confidence in your voice. You’re prepared and eager to be a guide to the blind, a light to those in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children. But then the sermon begins. Ten minutes in, all your deacons have fallen asleep. Fifteen minutes in you’re thinking, “This is not going well at all. I hardly understand what I’m talking about.” Sweat begins pouring down your brow and you’re sure somebody must have forgotten to turn the AC on that morning. A few minutes later you begin seriously contemplating, “Maybe I should just call it quits right here and send everybody home early.” By the conclusion of your sermon you’re hoping your mother will let you move back into the basement since you’re fairly certain the parsonage will be vacant soon. The sermon you thought would ring forth like thunder from the heavens keeled over like a dead duck. What happened? The Lord has simply been faithful to His promise: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

While the scenario I just described is obviously somewhat exaggerated (emphasis on somewhat), I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve had this sort of experience many, many times in my relatively short career as a preacher. The Lord has taught me firsthand that He will not share His glory with another, including those who preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. And while I’m certainly slow to learn, my hope for this post is to communicate some of the lessons the Lord has taught me from these experiences with the goal of saving you, my brother-pastors, from the same humiliating fate.

In no particular order, here are some reflections for fighting pride as a preacher:

Prayerfully examine your heart daily for pride and repent quickly.

Pride is one of those sins that can infect your soul subtly (Proverbs 12:15). You may not realize it is there until you’re doing and thinking grotesque things. This temptation to pride is all the greater for those of us who regularly stand before crowds and congregations. Therefore, brother-pastors, you’ve got to be proactive in the war on pride. As part of your daily prayer time, include maybe two or three minutes of self-examination, looking for expressions of pride in the last 24 hours. Renounce these, repent, and claim the blood of Jesus for forgiveness and cleansing. If I could suggest a resource here, every pastor should prayerfully work through C.J. Mahaney’s Humility: True Greatness. It will give you much food for thought for fighting pride.

Cultivate distrust for your own evaluations of your sermons.

For whatever reason, preachers can be the worst evaluators of their own messages. As I illustrated above, some sermons I thought would change the world turned out to be absolute duds. Sometimes while I’m preaching I’ll think I’m experiencing the unction of the Spirit but afterward the response is, at best, ho-hum. The opposite has also been true: sermons I thought were terrible or incoherent, God chose to bless in a powerful way to the hearts of my hearers. The overarching lesson is to be suspicious of your appraisals of your sermons. By all means, do your best in the preparation and delivery of your messages, but leave the results entirely up to God.

Grow in your realization that your sermon is entirely dependent upon God’s sovereign grace.

This is perhaps one of the top five lessons I’ve learned since assuming my role as preaching pastor of our church. Everything rides on God’s sovereign grace! I can put in 20 hours of exegesis, synthesis, and homiletics, but if I wake up Sunday morning with a pounding headache, it’ll be worthless. More importantly, if God doesn’t draw near to us by His Spirit through His Word to open hearts, to convict and give repentance, the best sermon will fall on dry bones. Sometimes the Lord gives His blessing on your sermons and sometimes He withholds it, and He has every right to do both. Therefore, be mindful that all our preaching, and indeed everything we do in pastoral ministry, is entirely contingent on a sovereign work of God’s Spirit. If I could suggest some resources here, two books that well understand this essential but neglected truth are Al Martin’s Preaching in the Holy Spirit and Martyn Lloyd Jones’ Preaching and Preachers. It’s appalling that most books on preaching say little to nothing about the work of the Spirit, but these two volumes hit the nail on the head.

Pray desperately for an outpouring of God’s Spirit.

This point is an obvious application of the previous truth. If our sermons are entirely dependent on God’s sovereign grace, it stands to reason that we preachers should be diligently pleading with God throughout the week that He’ll pour out His Spirit come Sunday. Dedicate part of your daily prayer time to specifically praying for your upcoming sermon. Enlist your family members, congregation, and pastor-friends to beg God’s blessing on your preaching. After the sermon is over, pray that God would cause the Word to continue to percolate in the minds of those who heard the message. Something John Bunyan once said may apply most directly to preaching: “You can do more than pray, after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” For more thinking on this point, I recommend E.M. Bounds’ classic Power Through Prayer [originally entitled Preacher and Prayer]. But be forewarned; reading it may make you feel compelled to quit the ministry.

Exercise faith in the truth that God’s normal means of salvation and sanctification is the ordinary sermon.

Twenty-first century America is a culture of mindboggling technological feats, instant access internet, massive political rallies, and huge entertainment productions. Osama bin Laden can be eliminated halfway around the world and it’s on the news minutes later. One unfortunate side effect of this is that we begin to assume that it’s dramatic expressions and experiences that change the world. We have little place in our thinking for the slow, methodical, persevering mentality of the farmer. This kind of thinking can creep into the church with the result that we subtly begin to assume that it’s only the jaw-dropping, goose bump-producing, once-in-a-decade sermon that truly changes God’s people. This, in turn, leads us to think that if we don’t hit a homerun every time we preach, we’ve disappointed our people or failed as preachers. Realize, brother-pastors, in God’s mysterious providence, He more often than not uses the ordinary to do the extraordinary (1 Corinthians 1:26ff.). He more often uses base-hit sermons than homerun sermons to bring in the runs. Most of us will never preach a Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God; most of us will never be a John Piper or a Martyn Lloyd-Jones; but that’s okay. That’s actually God’s plan. If you’re faithfully expositing the Word, week after week, year after year, even if you’re an ordinary preacher, God’s Spirit will do His work. Sinners will be saved and the saints will be built up. And the gates of Hell will not prevail against the church.

I trust these lessons are of some help to you, brother-pastors. Again, my hope is to spare you some of the humiliation the Lord has brought me through. As you preach the Word, in season and out, beware the perils of pride.



Tim Raymond has been the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Muncie, Indiana since April 2006. He received his MDiv from the Baptist Bible Seminary of Pennsylvania in 2004 and has pursued further education through the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Read more from Tim at the Credo blog, www.credomag.com.

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Eileen Marshall

commented on Dec 21, 2011

To examine our heart (if you are born again) we find we have a prefect heart because we have His Spirit within, it's renewing our mind to line-up with what has taken place. Jesus did a finished work on the cross, He has totally died and paid for the sins of the whole world on the cross, His blood is enough, He died once and for all, we just have to believe and receive, we do not have to keep repenting in a pleading way, because he has forgiven us past, present and future, there is nothing we can do to make Him love us more and there is nothing we can do to make Him love us less, knowing this will set us free. Also we do not have to plead with God to keep pouring out His spirit, He poured His spirit out on all flesh two thousand years ago, we just need to hear there is a Holy Spirit, believe it and receive, When we get a revelation of His amazing Love and Grace we will share His message from the overflow of a thankful heart and His spirit will flow like a river to bring life to others, we will not be waking up on a sunday morning with a pounding headache, but with JOY unspeakable,singing "NONE BUT JESUS

David Buffaloe

commented on Dec 21, 2011

Excellent article, my Brother. I've been there :) A passage that I've often used is 1 Corinthians 4:3. "I do not even judge my own self" insofar as sermons are concerned. Do your best, leave the results to God. He is in control. Love you much!

Dr. Luke Kauffman

commented on Dec 21, 2011

Great article and to the issue of reality. I would recommend this article to all of my seminary students. Sorry that #1, eileen, is so dismal in her assesment of who we are in human flesh and in Christ. I have read many doctorate dissertations, her linear thinking leaves me in a quandary.

Albert Hale

commented on Dec 21, 2011

Tim, this is excellent exhortation to us. i can tell you've talked to God about this subject!

Warren Tillman

commented on Dec 21, 2011

I have found that the "Messages" I seem to struggle with the most in the pulpit, the ones I'm not sure if the congregation is following my thoughts, are the ones that the people seem to identify with the most. I feel that somewhere between my speaking and their hearing the Holy Spirit has been at work! I am thankful that God's true message will be heard inspite of human failure.

Edith Gleaves

commented on Dec 21, 2011

"I trust these lessons are of some help to you, brother-pastors." They are helpful to us sister-pastors as well.

R. L. Gideon

commented on Dec 21, 2011

How very true that PRIDE IN WHAT IS "SELF PERCEIVED" AS GRANDIOSE ACCOMPLISHMENT, is like an insidious hewing axe chipping away at a mighty oak, which shall not always continue to stand, but IN TIME shall fall in a mighty crash. The greater a person's self perception of stature, the greater the fall when it inevitably shall come.Thank you for the reminder that we are to boast only in our Lord Jesus Christ, and thereby using the Whole Counsel of God humbly minister to others to His Glory. An old chestnut story something like the following goes: On a Sunday morning following church service as they headed home for dinner, Pastor Pompus hyped over his sermon delivery, asked his spouse, "Honey, how many alsolutely outstanding preachers do you think there are in the world?" Honey paused, pondered a moment, then replied, "Sweetheart, whatever that number, it is probably ONE LESS than you are thinking.

Dr. Luke Kauffman

commented on Dec 21, 2011

Almost every travelling evangelist uses your parable, # 7. Using it too many times and the audience will smile and sit there for the next traveling joke. Sorry, but that is how conditioned our mature audiences are. No offence!

R.l. Wilson

commented on Dec 23, 2011

Thanks Brother Tim for an excellent article! It's easy to get caught up in the hoopla and pats on the back. Praise God!

Joseph Puleo

commented on Dec 28, 2011

The title of your sermon pride goes before the fall rang true to me as i remembereda sermon I gave some many years ago and it hasn't left me yet. I had so much pride going into the pulpit that when I started to preach every thing I had memorized left me and I bombed out horribly. It taught me a hugh lesson and has kept me humble ever since. I thank Gd for that every time I think of that Sunday morning and truley stay humble ever since. I pray I never let pride take over again and so far it hasn't. One lesson was sufficient. Has all my sermons been right on sinc, don't I wish.

David Dwyer

commented on Dec 28, 2012

Thank you Pastor Tim! I remember one Sunday when a friend whom I had been working with for a long time came to church. I was thrilled and as I walked up to the pulpit area I though that our musicians should probably be play the theme from the Rocky movie. The message was, at least to my knowledge, the very worst one I ever preached, a total disaster. I read later the words of another preacher who said what I realized had happened to me; "If you had gone into the pulpit the way you went out you may have been able to go out the way you came in." It's been over 30 years since that Sunday, but I still am reminded of the time every week in my preparation. IT IS ALL ABOUT HIM!

Joshua Boateng

commented on Dec 28, 2012

That is just brilliant admonition which we all need to pay heed to. God bless you my brother for sharing

Jeff Glenn

commented on Dec 28, 2012

Wow, I thought I was the only one who wanted to walk out of church during a sermon...while I was preaching it!

Charles Wallis

commented on Dec 28, 2012

Very good article. I have rarely heard a bad sermon (except my own) - most preachers do a good job. But I was reminded this week of Bible prophets who spoke of the Messiah and many did not believe them. It is prideful to think my words are going to change anyone's life - only God can do that by the work of the Holy Spirit.

Keith B

commented on Dec 28, 2012

Outstanding article. I can so relate.

Dav Ross

commented on Dec 28, 2012

Great article. Thanks brother!

Dan Thornton

commented on Dec 29, 2012

Excellent article. Thank you. Conversely, some of my best sermons started with very little confidence. When a message is either unfinished, or unremarkable, and time is up, I sometimes lay out my notes and offer them, imperfect as they are, to our gracious Lord. I ask him to use them, somehow, for is glory. He often does.

Rocky Racoma

commented on Dec 31, 2012

Thanks brother this article is just what I need. My wife and I will be first tme senior pastor in Japan. I know wholeheartly that I must depend on the move of the spirit in my life as I lead the people of God and the unchurched that God will lead to the church. I really will live James 4:6 . Again thak you and please put us on your prayer list. Aloha Ke Akua rocky

Brandon Vernoy

commented on Dec 28, 2015

I have been lead pastor just shy of 2 years now and I feel like walking out before I get started many Sundays. This article was great. The part about the steady farmer really resonated with my spirit. Thank you.

Nathan Nielson

commented on Dec 29, 2015

Great Article - will take to heart!!

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