Principles for Preachers

“It is not necessary for a preacher to express all his thoughts in one sermon.  A preacher should have three principles, first, to make a good beginning and not spend time with many words before coming to the point; secondly, to say that which belongs to the subject in chief, and avoid strange and foreign thoughts; thirdly, to stop at the proper time.”
(Martin Luther)

Have you thought about your soul?

Have you ever stopped to wonder,
What this life is all about?
Why you’re here and where you’re going,
When your lease on time runs out?

Maybe you’ve been far too busy,
Trying hard to reach your goal;
Would you let me ask you kindly,
Have you thought about your soul?

You may reach the highest portals,
And your dreams may all come true;
Wealth and fame may be your portion,
And success may shine on you,

All your friends may sing your praises,
Not a care on you may roll;
What about the great tomorrow—
Have you thought about your soul?

Don’t forget your days are numbered,
Though you may be ridin’ high,
But like all of us mortals,
Some day you’ll just up and die.

Your success and fame and glory
Won’t be worth the Bell they toll;
Let me ask you just one question,
Have you thought about your soul?

If you’ve never thought it over,
Spend a little time today,
There is nothing more important,
That will ever come your way

Than the joy of sins forgiven,
And to know, you’ve been made whole,
In the name of Christ the Savior,
Have you thought about your soul?

(Author Unknown)

The Paralysis of Perfectionism

I tend to be a perfectionist.  However, much of what I do falls far short of perfection.  A desire for perfection can be paralyzing.  After all, why should we do something if it is not perfect?

Now there certainly is a place to strive for perfection.  In fact, that probably should be our goal.  But we should not allow a lack of perfection to paralyze us.  I have been helped by attempting to adopt a statement that one of my teachers repeatedly emphasized: “We do the best we can.”

As I go about my work I want to keep in mind that my responsibility is to do my best.  I want to keep going and growing.  For some reason God has chosen to use people for the accomplishment of his purposes.  I am grateful that we can have confidence that God will bring good out of our feeble efforts.

God’s Will

A major concern of many Christians is how to discover God’s will.  That is something I have struggled with personally.  After I finished college in 2012, I was in contact with a recruiter for a missions agency.  At that point I was working a construction job to pay off my student loans and was hoping to pursue further education.  The recruiter could not understand why I was not moving more quickly to join his agency.

In our email exchanges I sought to emphasize that I was waiting, but I was not sitting around.  It was my goal to be active in my church, which included teaching a Sunday School class.  In my final year of college, as I sought God’s direction for the future, I felt him emphasizing to me the importance of the local church and I realized that it is important to be willing to serve in the local church and that such service could prove to be valuable experience for future ministry opportunities.

In the summer after my college graduation I also had the opportunity to lead a two-week personal development camping trip.  That was a very positive experience for me and a time of significant growth.  I was working construction, which was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, but I did have a sense of peace that that is what God wanted me to do right then.  I was working with non-Christians and was seeking to show Christ to them.  I was learning patience as I waited on what God had for me next.  I was learning about persevering through work that I rarely enjoyed.

I was also seeking to make good use of my time by reading and studying topics of interest to me, including Biblical studies and church history.  Despite the difficulties, I can look back on that time and see ways in which God was working in my life.  I was becoming more of the kind of person he wants me to be.  I still had far to go, but I was moving in the right direction.  God is concerned about character development, and that is what he was working on in me during that time.

During this time of waiting I wrote this to the missions recruiter:

I am convinced that God has something “big” for me to do, but I am also convinced that it is important to do things in God’s timing.  I have thought about Moses.  He was called to lead the children of Israel, but he was not ready to do so when he was 40.  He had to spend 40 years in the desert becoming the kind of person God wanted him to be.  Jesus did not begin his public ministry until he was 30.  Did he waste his twenties?  I think it was a matter of timing. 

Paul spent years in the desert (Galatians 1-2) and did not write any epistles (that we know of) until at least 15 years after his conversion.  For all three of these examples, could they not have done so much more if they would have started sooner?  From a human standpoint, probably yes.  I can think of other examples, but I do believe that God does care about developing his servants, even if it takes years to do so.  And I believe that if a person is willing to go through that development process their life and ministry will ultimately be more successful (successful is a dangerous word, but I hope you get the point).

Take the example of Jesus’ apostles.  In Acts 1, he gave them the Great Commission but also told them to wait for the Holy Spirit.  If they would have rushed into the preaching of the Gospel, they would not have had the power for ministry that they had after Pentecost.  Yet waiting on God’s timing gave them the power they needed for their ministry.

Now please do not think that I am opposed to stepping out in faith.  I have done if before and I want to do it again.  But I want to wait on God’s timing because I want to have confidence that I am following his leading.  Going to college is an example of that.  I waited for God to open the door for me to go to school, and I had the peace that I was in the right place, and that helped me to persevere when the going got tough.

As I look back now, I can see how God was at work to prepare me for the work I am now doing.  I did learn and grow by having to wait for God to do things in his timing.  Waiting on God is never a mistake.  At times waiting is God’s will for us.  God will open doors for us in his time, and when he does we must not hesitate to walk through them.