In the midst of those good things I was blessed to experience, another thought came to mind: I had only preached just one sermon in 2009. Never in my adult life had I been so absent from a pulpit. It was not for a lack of interest or desire. My heart is still there. It was not for a lack of willingness. I had tried to make my availability known. It most definitely is not because "I quit the ministry." It was simply a lack of opportunity to do what I know to be a God-given compulsion to preach, even as Paul noted in I Cor. 9:16.
My mind took me back to the only occasion I had to be in the pulpit in this last year. A friend in ne NC had called me and asked if I'd fill in while their preacher was out of town. I remember being a little surprised at the request because northeast NC is not a place I've been particularly welcome in the last 6 years or so. And some there, to be sure, are happy I'm not preaching these days. But I said I'd come and preach for them. It took me just a moment to recall the text and topic of the day. I preached about "Giant Problems," looking at the episode of David & Goliath in 1 Sam. 17. The day was hot and as I recall the A/C had gone out in the church, and the crowd that did attend seemed restless & uncomfortable, but they sat through the service and the sermon.
Have you ever wondered what you'd preach for your last sermon, or if you thought it might be the only sermon you would get to preach? At the time I didn't know it would be my only sermon of 2009 (and 2010 isn't looking any brighter for opportunities at the moment either). What would you say if you had but one opportunity to share God's Word?
I immediately thought of the cross of Christ. Paul said he preached "Christ and Him crucified," in 1 Cor. 2:1, 2). I thought about the necessity of knowing our need to be saved; God's desire to save us; and how we can be saved. I believe the greatest need of man is knowing these facts. Over the course of previous years I know that I've often strayed into other areas than these, things of great importance such as Church leadership; other areas of Biblical Doctrines; matters of the Second Coming, etc. I pray that I've not strayed from the truth, or lost sight of the issues of primary importance in our relationship to God.
I found the sermon I preached in 2009 and looked at the main points: (1) Giant problems are a fact of life; (2) Don't be intimidated; (3) Trust God to solve Giant Problems; and (4) God's solutions Are Much Better. It was not until the conclusion that I mentioned that "The promise of Scripture is that God is greater than our problems, the biggest of which is sin. Jesus has defeated that giant enemy and offers us the opportunity to share in that victory." I'm thinking my points were on-target; and my applications were Bible-based. But was my conclusion emphasized more than the familiar story of a young man with five smooth stones and a sling going against a giant of a man? What, if anything, did my audience take home with them that day from the 25 or so minutes I had to preach in 2009? It makes me wonder.
I've actually heard many sermons in 2009. Sadly, I couldn't tell you much about what I heard; recall important points; or "borrow" many worthwhile illustrations.
Who knows about 2010? What sermons will make an impact, or which ones will be soon forgotten? What content will be trendy, entertaining, and socially relevant? What content will lead sinners to the throne of grace?
Time will tell if I preach again or not. If that privilege presents itself, I will consider more carefully my topic, my passage, my study, my illustrations, and my applications. To the ones who regularly share the Gospel I'd urge them to consider anew, what would you preach if you could only preach just one sermon?
C'mon, Murphy. Let's go outside.