May 27, 2016 Words of Grace – Hard Sermons to Preach (and Hear)
Some of the most difficult sermons to preach are those that touch on human emotions and experiences that are raw. These can also be the most difficult ones to listen to. Why is that?
Consider the passage we will deal with this Sunday. Philippians 4:4-7 tells us not to be anxious. It tells us to pray. And it tells us that if we pray we will have God’s peace.
I stand up, read the text, and then preach the sermon. Some of the people listening to the sermon aren’t overly anxious by nature and not presently experiencing anxiety-producing circumstances. They hear the sermon with total agreement and a hearty “Amen.” But others listening are anxious people with current anxieties in the heart. They are hearing the sermon differently, and I know they are.
At times, the anxious person will hear this sermon and find sweet comfort and almost immediate peace. What a gift!
At other times, the anxious person hears “don’t be anxious” and is still anxious. This person prays during the sermon but leaves with no sense of peace. Within the span of thirty minutes his or her anxiety is compounded by the guilt of being anxious when the Bible says not to. Discouragement sets in because the prayer doesn’t seem to be working. Some will leave doubting that they are Christians. Some will doubt the Bible is true because their experience doesn’t match what they perceive it is saying. I’ve had people tell me that the sermon sent them into a downward spiral.
What are we going to do about this on Sunday?
Let’s read, preach from, and listen to Philippians 4:4-7 as the word of God.
Let’s believe it, trust it, and obey it.
Let’s remember that God grants peace and we don’t manufacture it.
Let’s remember that there is a time element involved in our spiritual growth and experience of the promises of God. God patiently builds our character over time, so we will be patient with his timing in granting us his promises.
Let’s keep seeking the Lord in prayer and seeking him together. One sermon on anxiety and prayer will not be the end of our struggle. It will be one in a long series of reminders to keep turning to the Lord until we are absent from the body and present with him. Together, let’s grow in Christ as we incorporate his word into our everyday lives and experiences.
See you Sunday.