Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching (2 Timothy 4:2, NLT).
Something unique and supernatural occurs when I preach a sermon.
When we listen to a speech, it’s words to brain. When I preach, something else happens. Instead of words to brain, it becomes my words through the Spirit to your brain. I believe the Apostle Peter indicates this when he wrote . . .
For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21, ESV).
When preparing for a sermon, I read, study, and outline, but also pray.
I realize that the power of my words comes more from the Spirit than my skill as a preacher. I can preach what I think is a great sermon and get a “ho-hum” response from those listening. I can preach the worst sermon in the history of Christendom and have multiple people say to me afterward, “That’s the best sermon that I’ve heard.”
It’s not me, it’s God!
Again, from the Apostle Peter . . .
Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you (1 Peter 4:11, NLT).
With a great sermon primarily about the Spirit’s conviction, it doesn’t eliminate the need for me to hone my gift of speaking. Besides studying and also understanding the craft of speechmaking, there is another aspect that I’ve had to develop.
I have spoken thousands of times in over 50 years of ministry. I was often asked to speak for several hours at conferences in Russia – spontaneously with no time for preparation.
This meant – besides recognizing my gift, that I should hone my gift and the Spirit would empower my words – I needed to learn to speak “in the Spirit.”
In other words – listen then speak, listen then speak, – while depending upon God at that moment.
Paul was used to speaking spontaneously and long as well . . .
Paul was preaching to them, and since he was leaving the next day, he kept talking until midnight . . . as Paul spoke on and on, a young man named Eutychus, sitting on the windowsill, became very drowsy. Finally, he fell sound asleep and dropped three stories to his death below (Acts 20:7-9).
Fortunately, Paul was able to pray for Eutychus to be raised from the dead! Someone once told me, after I preached a very long sermon, “Hey, Pastor, before you speak that long again, please make sure that you have the faith to raise the dead.”
I concluded this person didn’t appreciate good preaching.
This brings me to my final point. For a sermon to have lasting impact, it must be heard, remembered, and acted upon.
New studies on the brain indicate that stories and humor are the best methods for hearing, understanding, and changing behavior. I confess that while people have told me they enjoyed one of my bad sermons, no one has ever said they enjoyed one of my bad jokes.
Humor and stories must be solidly rooted in careful Scriptural explanation. Illustrations come alive when illuminating truth found in the Bible.
We should listen to sermons regularly as they are a form of communication guaranteed by God to be empowered by His Spirit. Even the bad ones have life-changing power!
Remember: A preacher’s words through the Spirit to your brain. Only a bad joke will interrupt the process.