Thirty-five years ago in September of 1983, I began my second pastorate. I had previously served as a pastor for 2.5 years, and I’d been preaching for several more years. Today, those memories have made me a deeply grateful preacher. I’m thankful to the Lord . . .
- For God’s gracious calling on my life. I know how strongly I sensed that God wanted me to preach when I was 13 years old. I was young, a brand-new believer, and I had no idea what a “calling” was. I just knew what I was supposed to do.
- For people who graciously overlook the preaching mistakes I cannot forget. Maybe I messed up a word, gave a wrong biblical reference, or clearly destroyed an illustration. I’ll lose sleep over it, but church folks are rather forgiving. They forget long before I do.
- For people who pray for me when I preach. I don’t always know they’re praying at the time, but it means the world to me when they say, “I’ve been praying for you as you bring us the Word.” I can’t explain how those simple words empower me for the task.
- For the opportunity I have to proclaim the Word without threat on my life. I realize that many preachers around the world have no such privilege, and I don’t want to take it for granted. None of us knows when that gift will disappear.
- For the fact that the Internet didn’t exist when I first started preaching. I shudder to think about the possibility of my early sermons being accessible to anyone who wants to listen to them. I have my notes from those sermons, and they usually embarrass me. I did record some sermons on cassette tapes, but I’m praying that God has consumed those with fire . . . .
- For a church that didn’t fire me for bad preaching. I knew how to holler and get “amen’s,” but I sure didn’t know how to exegete the Word well. That’s another reason why I’m glad those sermons aren’t readily available (see #5 above).
- For complete access to the Word of God. From Genesis to Revelation, we have the Word in our language. All of it. Readily available in hard copy or electronic form. I get to preach all that God has given us.
- For God’s promise to use His Word even when the messenger isn’t so great. I regret that it took me a long time to realize that God works through His Word in spite of me, and I’m still learning that truth. At age 57, I’m beginning to rest in it.
- For a gracious God who didn’t remove me from the pulpit when He would have been justified in doing so. Sometimes I preached without praying much. Sometimes I carried my unconfessed, unforsaken sin into the pulpit. Sometimes I used somebody else’s outline without giving proper credit. Sometimes I hung around the church auditorium after preaching, hoping to hear somebody say, “Good sermon!” I’m a sinful man who needs God’s grace every step of the way.
- For the privilege to preach today. After all these years of struggle, pride, and failure, God still lets me preach His Word. Today, I fall on my face in gratitude.
Preachers, will you join me there? Church members, will you join us there, too, and pray for us?