"I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and the kingdom; preach the word., be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry." II Timothy 4:1-5
When Paul said, "Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel" (I Cor. 9:16), he was manifesting the reality of his own call. The God-called preacher must proclaim the God-given message. He must preach the Word of God as it is to men as they are.
Not all preachers are God-called; only those who have been selected and enlightened by the Holy Spirit are those who are genuinely called. Perhaps we have too many "mama-called, daddy-sent" preachers filling the pulpits across our land today. God grant we indeed have preachers that are genuinely called of God to deliver, "Thus saith the Lord!"
Dr. Adam Clarke, in a letter to a preacher, stated:
Everything that emanates from God comes with design. This is especially true when God calls a man to preach the gospel. The design of the preacherís call is for him to reveal the gospel of grace to fallen man (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 10:9-15). Though God could have easily employed another method for spreading the gospel, He chose that men be saved through the "foolishness of preaching" (I Cor. 1:21).
For each generation, God has raised up men to stand boldly, yet compassionately, to preach faithfully the gospel of grace. Whether it be a man such as R. G. Lee with his superb oratorical ability or one like D. L. Moody with his consistent misuse of the "Kingís English," God uses men as instruments for the very same purpose: to "preach the Word of God." Just as God called these men in days past, He continues to call out men to extend the gospel through this ordained method.
Some men look at the future of preaching with a skeptical eye, and many have already signed the death certificate regarding the future of preaching. Despite these, God has decreed that as long as the church dispensation lasts, preaching will survive. This is true because it fits within Godís design. The design or the purpose of the preacherís call is to perpetuate the gospel of grace. To compliment this, let us now focus our attention on the description of the preacherís call.
The God-called preacher can enter the pulpit with the calm assurance that he has a heavenly calló a call from on high. Even as God calls men to salvation, He also calls men to service. Moses is a tremendous example of this as God raised him up to lead the nation of Israel. Moses was useable because he recognized his own heavenly call. As Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, on the backside of the desert, a strange phenomenon took place. The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush, yet the bush was not consumed (Exodus 3:1-3). God said unto him, "Moses, Moses."
Certainly this personal, powerful, heavenly call penetrated the silence of Mosesí heart like a cold steel dagger. Moses was overwhelmed by Godís Holy presence. At first he felt himself too insignificant to go before the Pharaoh (Exodus 3:11). Yet later, after God had assured him of His presence, Moses submitted to the call. The humble spirit that Moses now possessed was acquired only after God had ministered to him in the desert. The lesson that Moses learned from this experience caused him to recognize that his call was heavenly.
Mosesí call was also a high calling. The preacher who is ashamed of his calling or does not recognize it as a high calling is not fit for the office. He should certainly deem his call to be of the paramount importance. With a call of such magnitude, he should forge ahead with no ambition greater than the proclaiming of the Word.
J. H Jowett understood the essence and value of the call when he said:
Another way of describing the call of the preacher is by addressing it as a holy call. The absolute holiness of God assures this aspect of the call to be true. Holy dignity should envelop the preacher in every aspect of his life. The preacher should radiate the joy of a holy life even in his quiet dignity. He should wisely balance his life to communicate to the world that he has a holy call, yet without communicating an attitude that has been coined as "holier than-thou!"
Just as the call of God has a design and can be described, it also has a duty. No true call is without duty. When Uncle Sam sends out the call, "I want you," he has a duty in mind. There is a job to be performed. Likewise, when the Lord commissions the preacher, He has in mind a duty for him to perform. Paul reminded Timothy of his grave duty when he said, "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (II Timothy 4:2).
The duty calls for evangelistic preaching, that men might be saved from the clutches of sin. A preacher who does not covet the salvation of precious souls is negligent in his ministry. The highest imperative of life for the man of God is to preach the unsearchable riches of the Lord Jesus Christ that men might be gloriously converted. While performing his duty of spreading the gospel, the minister should also preach practical truths designed to lead his congregation into the blessed path of service.
The preacher who inspires his congregation to serve is the preacher who recognizes the art of serving. Of all the attributes registered to Mosesí credit, the most outstanding is that he was called a "servant of the Lord." Moses could have been known primarily as a great military genius, a great organizer, a great lawgiver. Yet, he was especially honored in being called a servant of God. It was his "leadership through servitude" that made him successful in training Joshua as his successor. Training workers plays a vital role in the preaching ministry. Only thus can the preacher multiply his efforts and exponentially increase the harvest. D.L. Moody said, "It is better to get ten men to work than to do the work of ten men." Certainly that is true in any effortóespecially the Lordís work.
As the preacher exhorts men to enlist as servants (workers), he should also exhort men to sanctified living: being set apart. The degree to which a congregation is set apart to holy living is in proportion to the example set by the preacher before the people. For this reason the Pastoral Epistles give emphatic attention to the character and the faithfulness of the minister. The preacher must earnestly strive to actively practice the message that he preaches on Sunday. May we never take the call to preach lightly!
The preacher who has been called should realize that his call is a definite and personal one. Charles U. Wagner, in his book THE PASTOR: HIS LIFE AND WORK, quotes Theodore Cuyler:
If God calls a man to the ministry, he will certainly know it! There will be a personal witness in his heart confirming the reality of the call. In my own ministry, the call was so real that even though I have sometimes doubted my salvation, I have never doubted my call. The Lord, by giving personal assurance of the call, has provided a powerful awareness of His presence.
When the Lord calls an individual to preach, He equips that person with those things needful for the task before him. As I look in retrospect at my own call, it is apparent that the Lord was preparing me even as a small child. My father, who was a carpenter, built me a "preaching stand." As a six-year-old boy I would preach my sermon after my brother would lead the singing. Today, as pastor, I still preach after my brother leads the singing. Praise be unto God!
I recently saw my first-grade teacher. Over thirty years ago she asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. My answer was, "I want to be a preacher." As we began to renew acquaintances, she chanced to ask about my present occupation. With great joy I was able to answer, "I am a preacher." Though I had forgotten my remarks as a little first-grader, she remembered and reminded me of them. The little "preaching stand" and the scores of times when I stood behind it playing church had helped to prepare me for the call. Even the courses that I took in school and the experiences of growing up played a vital role in preparing me for the call.
In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you. Titus 2:7-8
Exxon Enterprises made a great contribution to metallurgical science when it was able to combine silicon carbide "whiskers" with aluminum in a metal matrix. With this process the scientists and engineers drastically changed the characteristics of aluminum. The aluminum began to take on steel-like qualities; yet, it retained its lightness of weight. Just as the silicon carbide has a pronounced effect upon aluminum, so does a preacherís character have a profound effect upon his ministry.
The character of the preacher will influence every aspect of his ministry. Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., has said, "Iíd rather a man have bad character than no character at all." The preacherís character will effect the way he walks, talks, eats, sleeps, pays his bills, feeds his dog, cuts his grass, and keeps his appointments.
The preacherís character will effect his aptitude. Perhaps aptitude is thought of as being that fixed quality that describes oneís natural tendency, talent, or ability. Yet, as proper training can enhance a personís skills in athletic contests, so Godly character can have its effect on oneís aptitude. Consider, for example, the preacherís aptitude for receiving truth. It is absolutely imperative that the preacher be constantly expanding both his general and Biblical knowledge. His ministry requires it! His congregation demands it! His character insures it!
A preacher who is lazy, for example, will become negligent in his study and his mind will atrophy. He will rehearse the same ideas, stories, illustrations, and messages that he preached fresh a decade earlier. The staleness of his preaching will stagnate his ministry. Oh, what a pitiful plight! Yet, many preachers have already fallen victim to this awful condition. Their ministry no longer has challenge or purpose. The preacher in this condition, dreads the time he enters the pulpit. He is simply marking time. His lack of character will not let him honestly face the facts ó ó ó for all purposes his ministry is over. A change of pulpits might camouflage the real condition for a short period, but in time the truth will again become evident.
Real study is work! The preacher tells us in Ecciesiastes that "much study is weariness of the flesh" (Eccl. 12:12). Very few endeavors drain the mind and body as does study. The preacher who is void of character will lack the industry to consistently spend hours digging in the Book, searching for its many hidden treasures. Ecclesiastes goes on to say,
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might: for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, not wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest" (Ecci. 9:10).
Many preachers simply do not prepare themselves because of the laborious nature of study.
In preparing for the pulpit, the pulpiteer may be blessed with a formal education which can serve as a foundation upon which to build his continual study. With this advantage he has .courses in systematic theology, word studies, language studies, hermeneutics, homiletics, etc. The courses that I have found to be extremely beneficial were courses in pastoral theology and hermeneutics.
Though advantageous, it is not absolutely necessary for the preacher to have a formal education. The greatest necessity is that he have enough character to be diligent. He should have a time for study. just as he should have a time for his family. During this time he should take advantage of every available tool. There are many good tools available that the preacher may have in his library. With godly character, the preacher will use these tools to increase his aptitude for receiving truth.
As he increases his aptitude to receive truth, he will increase his aptitude to recognize truth. The preacher, as he ministers over his flock, should have the discernment to recognize truth so that he may be able to expose error. Certainly the greatest defense against error is the offensive weapon of truth (Psalm 119:30). Just as David, the man of God should not only choose truth, but pursue it as well. The man who chooses, pursues, and knows truth will be more equipped to reveal truth.
In order that truth might be revealed, it must first be received. To be received it must be recognized. Godís Word, the King James Version of 1611, is the unquestionable truth. Godís Word not only contains the truth; it is the truth! There is nothing superfluous in Godís Word, nor is there anything left out. Paul, for this reason, told Timothy to "preach the Word" (II Tim. 4:2a). The charge was to preach the Word, not just preach about the Word. One of the greatest ways to reveal truth homiletically is through the use of expository sermons. In this way, truth can be contextually delivered with a most excellent effect, and the exhorter can be confident that he is preaching the Word.
I recall in my early ministry how I would attempt to find a brief portion of Scripture to preach from óthe shorter, the better (I thought). I was under the impression that preaching was the application of the smallest portion of Scripture possible; anything else was teaching. The following example illustrates this style of preaching. I began by selecting part of a verse similar to this one, "Satan doth desire to have you.. ." Having chosen a text my title would read, "What does Satan want?" The message would commence like this: "For my first point of consideration, Satan wants preachers that wonít preach!" After dwelling on this point for a time, I went on to subsequent points: "Satan wants teachers that wonít teach;" then, finally, "Satan wants deacons that wonít "deakí." This was the extent of my sermon. It was later that God came to my rescue by leading Dr. Harold Sightler to say in my presence, "Never give the application without first giving the interpretation."
In essence he was saying, make sure that you reveal the truth before you apply it.
Satan consistently mounts his offensive against the truth by attacking Godís Word. The introduction of so many "different translations" has caused further confusion and chaos in the realm of Christianity. This is, indeed, serious. Equally serious, but perhaps less blatant, is the inability of the minister to reveal truth because he lacks the character and discipline to search for Scriptural answers. God grant that we as preachers may have the character to honestly discern and to fervently proclaim the truth.
Just as character affects the preacherís aptitude, it also affects his actions. The actions of the man of God should be consistent with the Scriptures. For the pulpiteer to boldly cry, "Donít do what I do; do what I say," is a tragedy which takes place all too often across our land. The pattern for the preacherís living is the Word of God. The Pastoral Epistles ought to be a regular, steady diet in ministerial character training.
One of the most regretful tragedies imaginable in Christendom is for a man to pretend to be an exhorter of truth and a proponent of righteousness but fail to practice these virtues in his own personal life. The study of Godís Word for reproof, for doctrine, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness is as necessary for the minister to pattern his life as it is for his people to eat. He needs to develop a strategy for maturity from the Bible in a systematic manner. If he aims to "know" the way, he is more apt to strike the target of "doing" the way.
He might prayerfully analyze his own life as a minister, looking for flaws and ways in which he might improve, in a Scripturally disciplined manner. It would do each preacher of the gospel well to follow the admonition of James 1:22-25:
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
For he beholdeth himself and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the word, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
Godís word, like the mirror, reveals the person standing before it. The diligent minister must position himself directly before the power of Godís Word.
Recently, my young son appeared after taking a bath, bearing no real evidence that he had thoroughly washed. Chocolate icing still covered most of his face. I instructed the child to look in the mirror and then go and bathe again (or rather the first time) since he was not clean. Many times the "icing of sin" will be revealed after looking into the Word. Upon recognizing sin, it should be subjected to a thorough washing.
The secular humanism taught today will influence even the preacher, causing him to act contrary to sound Biblical teaching. Society is constantly being bombarded on every hand with these erroneous and dangerous values. Thus, the preacher is also susceptible to humanistic teaching and its diabolical programming effect. To counteract this effect, one must apply self-discipline and gaze into the "perfect law of liberty." There is certainly a degree of character required to discipline oneís life so that his actions will be in agreement with the Scriptures
His actions should complement his preaching, not contradict it. The preacherís dignity ought to be in harmony with that of the Scriptures. His honesty should be in harmony with the truth of the Scriptures; his virtue ought to be in harmony with the purity of the Scriptures.
In considering the importance and role of Godly character in the life and ministry of the preacher, it is necessary to consider how his character also affects his attitudes. The man of God must first have the proper attitude about his call. The minister must always regard his personal call to the gospel ministry as a call which carries great responsibilities. The magnitude of these responsibilities requires that the pastor be available at all times. He should be totally willing to avail himself as a servant of the most high God, ministering to the people. This "availability of service" will come quite naturally when a man has the right attitude about his call. When the minister has the proper attitude about his call, he will have the proper attitude toward his congregation. An important question arises, "How should the minister regard his congregation?" Many church battles have ensued because the pastor had an improper attitude toward his people. To illustrate this point, I remember a pastor who very boldly declared, "Me, a dictator? Why, I am not the dictator, I am only the Ďtatorí!" It was not long before he got his "tator" baked!
I Peter 5:1-4 Scripturally reveals the attitude and relationship the pastor should have with his congregation:
The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over Godís heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
The greatest role that a pastor will perform before his people is that of being a good example. The man of God will accomplish more by showing them than he can just by telling them. It is easy for the preacher to develop a system of standards and convictions for himself and demand the same from his people without patiently leading them to change. The predominate attitude that should permeate the minister in his pastoral and preaching ministry is an attitude of love. If he has the character of love for his congregation, his ministry will prosper. "Love hides a multitude of sins" (James 5:20).
Having a proper attitude toward the community is of utmost importance. The preacher should be respected by the community so that he might be able to minister to it. He must portray the dignity of his office in his manner of dress, in his daily walk, in his manner of speech and in his daily contacts. He must practice proper ethics in all his dealings. By this means he can attain the respect of both the banker and the bum, the ditchdigger and the doctor. His rightful attitude toward the community is that of an ambassador who proudly represents the Lord Jesus Christ.
The preacher should cultivate a friendship with the city fathers, even though he may not support or agree with everything they do. For if he gains their respect, he might also gain their audience.
The preacherís character affects his very being, either projecting his ministry into the realm of success through Godly character or plummeting his work into the pits of failure through the lack of it. May we, as preachers, develop Godly character.
For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self- willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. Titus 1:7-9
The exhorter of truth is endowed with a great responsibility and a great privilege as he preaches. For him to continue to enjoy this privilege and fulfill this great responsibility, he must possess clear, Biblical convictions. He must be Scripturally convinced of a truth himself, if he hopes to convince others. The development of convictions is directly proportional to the manner in which one develops and applies an adequate general knowledge of the Scriptures.
The Lord "gave some apostles; and some prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:" (Eph. 4:11-13).
The Lord gave the church the pastor-teacher for the purpose of developing the characteristics mentioned in Ephesians 4. God uses human vessels to perform the ministry of edification of his saints to develop their maturity, and to do the general work of the ministry. The extent to which the preacher will lead his people is dependent upon his own convictions.
Just as a person is convicted of his sinful state (I Cor. 14:24), the minister must also be convinced or convicted to do good rather than evil. The preacher, with honest, Bible based convictions, will be much more likely to travel the straight-and-narrow path and remain on it throughout his ministry. He will be kept straight in his doctrines; he will also be kept straight in his duty.
The active practice of convictions demands courage. It has been said, "A man will fight for his preferences and die for his convictions." God gives us courage to practice our convictions! To gain the needed strength and the courage, we must be confident in the promises of Godís Word. Many preachers have voiced publicly what they have called their convictions only to discard them later when faced with the many pressures of the ministry. I must not be haughty when I write this, for I know that the pressures to conform are very real. Conformity, the casting aside of convictions, seldom happens in a moment but usually happens slowly over a long period of time. The subtle forces of Satan continuously hammer, driving its nail into the heart of oneís convictions. It is imperative that we seize the strength needed to practice our convictions even though the enemy continues to hammer away.
Not only will Biblical convictions help keep the minister straight, but they will help him to stay strong in the ministry. Joshua was convinced of the truthfulness of Godís Word and with great conviction he continued to lead the nation of Israel. The promises found in Joshua 1:7-8 doubtless bolstered his courage along the way:
Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. This book of the Law shall not depart out of thy mouth but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
As one might observe, the preacherís relationship to the Word of God effects almost every phase of his existence. Certainly, this is true relative to his convictions. The men who are used strongly or powerfully in the Lordís work are those who have Bible convictions.
I have often told the young people in our church and in our Christian school, "Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might." I tell them to be a "live" fish swimming against the current of conformity, modernism, liberalism, and worldliness rather than a dead, stinking, bloating, floating fish drifting without purpose or plan! Be alive in your convictions as a man of God!
If one is kept strong in the ministry as he maintains his convictions, he will be settled or established. I Corinthians 15:58 reminds us to be "stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord." To do this, one must be settled in the Word. A wishy-washy, unsettled person most likely will be very weak in his convictions. Men whom I have admired the most are those who just keep on plowing, regardless of the circumstances. The predominant reason for such persistence is strong, Biblical convictions.
Not only are Bible convictions a must for the preacher, but they are also a measure. Show me a preacher that has convictions, and I will show you a preacher that has convictions. It is that simple. His convictions will be visibly apparent in all that he does. It will show forth his position doctrinally, theologically, ecclesiastically, and personally. Only this week I was reading in our local paper that some of the area church youth directors were planning to take their young people to a "Christian rock conceit" I have strong convictions about what constitutes Christian music. If it is a "rock concert" it is NOT Christian; and, if it is not "rock," it still MAY NOT be Christian. By their action and by my stated position, one is able to measure to some degree each of our convictions.
Convictions serve as a measure of how far one will pursue truth and of how much one will protect truth. If someone is genuinely convinced that something is right, he will actively strive for it and seek to protect it. The degree to which he will do either is proportional to his convictions. My mother often said about me, when I was a little boy, "When Max sets his head to do it, he is going to do it or Ďbustí." All too often she was referring to the things that I should not have done. One may have some good convictions and some bad convictions, but the most important thing is to have Bible convictions that which you are determined to hold to or "bust."
A common syndrome of this generation is for preachers who are void of real, Biblical convictions themselves, to pattern their convictions after someone else. Pitifully, this person is only an imitator simply moving with his peers. True personal convictions are missing, and his ministry will eventually expose him. Such instability in a minister will cause him to be a reluctant leader and a careless follower.
Conviction communicates a genuine message to those under the authority of the pastor. People will quickly recognize that a man is void of convictions, even though the language of his sermon says otherwise. No one can continue to fool people for a long period of time. The truth will eventually find its way to the surface. "You may fool some of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time."
A person who is void of convictions will further expose this condition by maintaining a weak position doctrinally as well as a weak position in relation to Biblical separation.
May we preachers never be weak in our convictions, but rather "be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might."
Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say on the Lord. Psalms 27:14
Courage comes when one is obedient to the Word.
The aging, white haired, stooped preacher struggled to find the strength necessary to transport himself from the aisle to the pulpit area. He very feebly mustered the needed strength to open his mouth and say, "Thus saith the Lord." When he began to speak, he spoke with the power and authority of a prize fighter punching his way to victory. The courage with which he spoke was visibly apparent to the several thousand that sat before him. I was there, too, as Dr. R. G. Lee preached! This old warrior, over ninety years of age, had a bandage on his head where he had been mugged and beaten the night before. Yet, courageously he pushed that horrible night aside and preached with great power.
God has called men over and over again, filling them with the power of the Spirit and then loosening them to shake a city or even a country for the cause of Christ. He uses men that are physically weak to serve his purpose. Old men, young men, educated men, and uneducated men have all been used to preach the Word with courage.
The source of that courage is the Word of God. Throughout this study our minds should consciously reflect on the Word of God. Godís Word influences oneís call, oneís character, oneís convictions, and oneís courage. Perhaps this entire study could be condensed into this single great command; "Take heed to the Word of God." As James states, "Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only."
Having a strong faith in Godís Word has firmed me to stand tall in the midst of many crises. If it were not for the perfect standard which is completely sure, I would have lacked the confidence to stand courageously and contend for the faith. Men not only have stood courageously in the pulpits but also have stood in the work place, the courtroom, the playground, and many other places when called upon to defend truth.
The preacher should have confidence in the Word not only because it is true, but also because it is tried. The Word has stood the test of time. Voltaire, the noted eighteenth century French philosopher, thought that he could destroy Christianity with the stroke of his pen. He said, "Iíll show how just one Frenchman can destroy it within fifty years." Only twenty years after Voltaire died his house was purchased by the Geneva Bible Society for the purpose of printing the Bible. His writings (a six-volume set) has sold for as little as ninety cents, while the Bible still remains a best-seller.
The Scriptures give many examples of people who, after worshipping, went on with great courage to serve the Lord. The book of Nehemiah shows how a people were revived in their service to the Lord through proper worship. It was only after learning the Word right that they worshipped right (Neh. 8:6). God is pleased when his people are right in their worship. Certainly the preacher ought to set the proper example as he worships the Lord. Hebrews 13:15-16 says:
By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
By offering praises in Holy worship, one may please God well. To praise the mighty Christ is certainly well pleasing to Almighty God. As a little boy I was always confident in my fatherís presence when everything was well and he was well pleased with me. But when it was otherwise, the story was quite different. Likewise, the Lord is pleased when His own worship right. Thus if the preacher worships right and the Lord is well pleased, then the preacher should have great courage.
The preacher needs personal devotion and time with God for purposes other than sermon preparation. For, if the preacher cannot worship as he ought to in private, how can he do so in the pulpit? Many precious jewels have been extracted from the soil of private devotion and worship. The Lord so wonderfully rewards the true worshipper. It is through right worship that we are able to have the right walk.
As noted before, courage comes when one is obedient to the Word and obedient in his worship. But it is equally true that courage comes when one is obedient in his walk. For a correct pattern for walking, go to the Proverbs. Proverbs reveals the way of the wise and the way of the wicked (Prov. 4:11-19). The way of the Lord is peace and strength. It is imperative that the man of God walks right. The Old Testament priest had as many as one-hundred-and-forty-seven external requirements placed upon him as he ministered his Holy office. These requirements were for practical reasons as well as spiritual ones. The priest had to be sanctified or set apart to fulfill the Holy requirements that God had placed upon service and worship. Typically, that priest foreshadowed our High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. The priest was also forerunner of the preacher with regard to the great spiritual requirements placed upon Godís servant. The pastoral epistles lay out the Holy requirements of the pastor in detail. I have seen great men lose their ministry because of women, money, pride, laziness, or lack of character.
For a man to be courageously effective, he must be walking in the way of the Lord and in the will of the Lord. As Joshua of old, we must have courage as preachers to preach what we live and live what we preach!
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For 1 know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. Acts 20:28-31
The preacher who pastors cannot bury his head in the sand and continue to perform his duty. He must be sensitive. In the chemistry lab one will find paper that has been chemically treated for the purpose of detecting whether a substance is either basic or acidic. This sensitive paper is called litmus paper. Likewise, the man of God is to be sensitive and discerning toward the flock.
The man of God who is privileged to pastor a group of people should be sensitive enough to his people and their needs that he anticipates their needs. Many times the pastor will be able to comprehend and address certain physical problems by addressing spiritual problems first. The preacher who is sensitive will likely prove himself to be compassionate.
The people in our area of the country suffered from the worst drought in over a century, with intense heat plaguing those who worked in the factories and those who worked in the fields. Anyone constantly exposed to the outside felt its burden. Day after day the heat wave continued, causing the "temperatures" of the people to flare just as the air around them. As my concern grew, I began preaching messages in an effort to minister Scripturally to the people during this time. Finally, after much preaching, I told the people that I had the answer to their heat problem. I suppose their first thought was, "Here comes another sermon." But instead I explained to them that God permitted this heat for the purpose of alerting us to spiritual needs in our lives and that I had already addressed those needs through preaching. I suggested that tonight after the evening services that we would deal with the heat on a practical basis. I designated some of our young men to start squeezing lemons so that we could make lemonade. The lemonade social, preceded by much preaching, broke the tension and returned things to normal. The Lord gave me a sensitivity to the needs of the people even during the hot spell that we were having. We as preachers need to compassionately anticipate the needs of the people. If we anticipate their needs, we will be more alert in meeting their needs.
When the real man of God who has been entrusted with a congregation of people sees his people suffering, he, too, will suffer. Often the pastor is called upon in the stillness of the night to help calm a raging storm in someoneís life. An example of the way that storms play a major role in each of our lives can be found in Mark 4:35-5:1. Perhaps a brief exposition would be helpful concerning this thought as we consider "The Storms of Life."
And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.
Note please: "Let us pass over unto the other side." Then the next verse mentioned says, "And they came over unto the other side of the sea . . . " As readers of the Sacred Word we have the luxury of connecting these two separated verses together. The connecting link is a storm-tossed sea with all of its force and its fury lashing out against a fearful, faithless group of disciples who are in a boat with Jesus.
While Jesus slept, a great storm suddenly appeared, causing great fear to seize the hearts of the seasoned sailors, thus demonstrating that storms may come quickly. Storms may also come at any time, and may repeat again and again. Storms even come to great sailors. A truly great storm can make a great sailor feel rather small.
As the water swept into the ship, the sailors cried, "Master, carest thou not that we perish?! In response, Christ arose and rebuked the wind, saying "Peace, be still." Immediately, what was previously a great storm now became a great calm.
May we observe three great truths concerning the storms of life:
Perhaps the most significant reason for them to have been calm was because of the Word of God. Christ told the sailors, "Let us pass over unto the other side." He did not say, "Let us get to the middle of the lake and sink." Praise God! Even if you are currently in the midst of a storm, you can be assured that you will, by the grace of God, reach the other side. Sometimes it seems that the storms are here to stay. William Dean Howell was heard asking Mark Twain as the two walked out of church into a flooding downpour, "Do you think it will stop?" Twain dryly responded, "It always has." Whatever storm you might be facing, latch on to the sure anchor of Godís Word, and together ride the storm out.
In verse 40, Christ asked, "Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?" Note the part of the verse that says, "so fearful" and the part that says "no faith." So fearful? . . . No faith!
The ingredient that was lacking in the disciples and that caused them to be so fearful was their having no faith. Hebrews eleven illustrates how men of old were able to triumph midst the storms of life with that great ingredient called faith. They were able to face depression, doubts, discouragements, and disasters of all kinds.
Regardless of the storm, just knowing that the Lord is in the midst of the storm offers great encouragement. Recently, I was called during the night to go to the hospital to comfort a family who had just lost their only son in a wreck. I hardly knew what to say at a time like that. One never feels prepared, yet the Lord impressed upon my heart to say, "If you have the Lord Jesus Christ and lose everything, you still have everything! But, if you have everything and do not have Christ, you have nothing." His presence makes the difference during the storm.
If you are going through a storm or have just come out of a storm, there is a lesson to learn from the storm.
It is imperative that one heeds the message that comes forth from the storm. If you are going through a storm, be assured that the Lord has permitted it.
The disciples were to learn a great lesson; they were to have their faith increased as a result of the storm.
Storms may come into a personís life to show him his need for a sure foundation. In Matthew the foolish man is told of building his house upon the sand. As the winds came and the storms came, they blew against the house, causing it to fall. Great was the fall! The wise man is told of building his house upon the rock. Again, the same thing happened that happened to the house built upon the sand; yet the house stood! Make sure that your spiritual house is built upon the Rock, called Jesus, that you may stand at the day of judgment.
Storms may also come to strengthen a person for service. Abraham Lincoln suffered the storms of depression. He once said, "I am now the most miserable man living, whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell, I awfully forebode I shall not." He was wrong. He became one of the greatest presidents this nation has ever known. May we learn the lesson from the storms of life, realizing that in each and every storm there is the Great Presence of God! Above all else may we learn that the same one who can calm the angry waters by saying "Peace be still," can also calm the poor lost sinner who is tossed by the angry waves of sin.
As Jesus was on the cross, the storms of Hell lashed out viciously against Him; yet He endured the cross for the joy that was set before him. Today, that same (and only) Lord and Saviour can save you if you will only believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ. If you do not enjoy salvation, will you be saved today?
In this message, just as the Lord Jesus Christ was a source of strength, the pastor also needs to be a source of strength. He needs not only to sympathize with his people, but also to soothe his people. The pastor is perpetually being called upon to impart spiritual understanding and consolation during the times of heartache and sorrow. The compassionate preacher is a sensitive, sympathetic, and soothing preacher. As we labour, may we be preachers with compassion.