I would say that the same holds for preaching. Many of my sermons have been delivered with a sense of relief (I had to get that out), but at times some have lacked the itch. Why ‘preach’ if you have not felt the imperative? Why speak if the holding in is not more painful than the letting go? Jeremiah felt the pain we are talking about here:
“Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long. But if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:8–9 NIV)
Peter and John experienced something similar when they were instructed not to preach:
“But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”” (Acts 4:19–20 NIV)
Those of us granted the grace to preach the Word of God have a responsibility to make sure we are responding to a deep inner authentic call emanating from God’s Word, stirring our soul and spilling out onto the ears and hearts of the hearers God has gifted us. How do we develop this ‘positive nuisance’? Here are three tips:
- Get a soaking – while quality is more important than quantity, it is undeniably true that more time reading, thinking about and studying the Bible gives us a clearer sight of the heart of God. Spend quantity time in the Bible regularly.
- Ask the questions – questioning the text opens up our own imagination, which in turn prompts the heart. Questions such as, “What did the hearers think this meant?”, “What did the writer intend his hearers to understand?”, “What action might God have hoped we might take from this passage?”
- Pray the text – praying through the passage or about the themes of the passage helps us to deepen our conviction levels. Often I have experienced God’s hand putting the truth of a passage onto my heart through a time of prayer.
Put these tips into practice and the ‘nuisance’ value of scripture will grow in you as in me. Jesus taught as one with authority (Mk 1:27) and the people were amazed at him. There were several reasons for this, but one was that when he spoke everyone could tell he was not able to stop himself. It just had to come out. Let it be like that for every sermon we preach, every lesson we teach.