Why Not Try This? …Check Your Attitude When You Stand Up To Preach

Much of our life is lived between our two ears. That is why our self-talk and our attitudes have such a profound impact on everything we do, including preaching.

Next time you are getting ready to stand before the people and share God’s word, why not do a quick self-check on your attitude about God, the Bible, the audience and the invitation you will make.

Attitude toward God

Hugh Latimer, one of the leading English Reformers who lived in the early 1500s, stood up to preach before King Henry VIII. The King had divorced his wife so he could marry another woman. Latimer had been convicted that he should speak to the situation since all the royalty were being pressured to approve of the immorality of the king. He began by saying “Latimer, be careful what you say because the king is listening, and he could take away your life. Latimer, be careful what you say because the royalty are listening, and they could take away your life. Oh, but Latimer, be very careful what you say because the King of Kings is listening, and He holds your eternal destiny in His hands.” He went on to preach a powerful message because he recognized who was the Source of his message and who was really listening that day. Like John the Baptist, “he could stand erect and fearless in the presence of earthly monarchs, because he had bowed low before the King of kings” (Desire of Ages p. 103) And yes, he later lost his life at the stake, falling asleep with the hope of a wonderful resurrection. As you stand up to preach, remember Who is listening to you, the One who gave you your message, and say “Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul and giving me the privilege of speaking Your message in Your presence today. You are a wonderful, holy and awesome God.”

Attitude toward the Bible

Bill Roberts, Senior Pastor at the Auburn Adventist Academy Church (WA Conf), likes to use this analogy. If you are attacked by a vicious pit bull, would it make a difference if you had a baseball bat in your hands? Of course it would. It might mean the difference between life and death. Now picture God’s word as that baseball bat, and Satan as the angry pit bull. When you have immersed yourself in God’s word you are ready to beat back the enemy. As preachers, when we recognize that the Bible is a tremendous gift from God to protect us from evil, we embrace it and share it more readily. As you stand up to preach, remember just how powerful the Bible is for the people and tell yourself “I want to offer tools to the people they can use during the week to fight off the attacks of the enemy. I want to know, understand and live the truths of Your word, Lord.”
          We all want to avoid this indictment. “The Bible has been robbed of its power, and the results are seen in a lowering of the tone of spiritual life. In the sermons from many pulpits of today there is not that divine manifestation which awakens the conscience and brings life to the soul. The hearers can not say, “Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?” Luke 24:32. There are many who are crying out for the living God, longing for the divine presence. Philosophical theories or literary essays, however brilliant, cannot satisfy the heart. The assertions and inventions of men are of no value. Let the word of God speak to the people. Let those who have heard only traditions and human theories and maxims hear the voice of Him whose word can renew the soul unto everlasting life.”  {Christ’s Object Lessons p. 40.1}

Attitude toward the audience

When Jesus looked at his audience “He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)  When you preach you probably have no idea of what it took for some of the people to get to the meeting or worship service. Some may have had to deal with an abusive spouse that morning. Others couldn’t sleep, wondering where their wayward children were all night. Perhaps one gave in to sexual addiction the past week and is carrying a heavy load of guilt. Someone else lost a job or a spouse or a child or hope for the future with the doctor’s diagnosis. Maybe many had a wonderful week, but others are “harassed and helpless” and deserving of our “compassion.” Most of them need more “how to” messages rather than “ought to” messages. As you get ready to speak to the people remind yourself “I love these people. Jesus died for them. He is coming soon to give them something better. But between now and then they can have peace, joy and a purpose in life.”

Attitude toward the invitation you will make

Harvey Kornegay, a pastor friend of mine in Oklahoma, says “Preaching a wonderful sermon and then not making a call is like spreading out a great meal and never saying ‘Let’s eat!'”

A young pastor asked the great 19th Century evangelist, Dwight L. Moody, “How do you always have people respond when you make a call?” Moody said “You don’t expect to have someone respond every time you make a call, do you?” to which the young pastor said, “Well, no, I don’t.” “And that is why you don’t have someone respond every time you make a call,” Moody replied.

At the end of every message preached from God’s word and with His presence, with love for the audience, we need to invite people to respond and we need to expect that someone will. Before we stand up to preach we need to check our attitude about the final invitation and say, “This is a wonderful chance for people to express their love to Jesus for all He has done for them. This is an appeal I want to personally respond to. Thank you, Jesus, for inviting me to be a part of this wonderful work and for giving me a chance to invite others to be a part of it, too.”

“There is need of most earnest prayer from the heart of the worker for the divine blessing, before he ventures to speak to the people. When the heart is at peace with God, when heaven’s light illuminates the soul, then the lips will surely speak forth the words of Christ, by presenting the merits of the blood of a crucified and risen Saviour. The atmosphere of heaven will surround the speaker, and souls will indeed feel that they sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. There is no one subject more necessary than to teach the people, by precept and example, true godliness, faith and love in Jesus Christ. The great masses of the people are more ignorant than many suppose. They need to be instructed line upon line, and precept upon precept, in regard to what they must do to be saved. Graduates of colleges, and persons in the highest walks of life, eloquent orators, able statesmen, men in high and important positions of trust, have given the powers of their being and their intellect to other matters, but have neglected the things of highest importance to them. They are ignorant of the Scriptures and the power of God. When such men are seen in the congregation, the speaker generally strains every power to preach an intellectual discourse, and a subject is chosen that will have a little of the simplicity of true Bible religion and heart service to God in it as possible. They do not preach Christ. They do not define that sin is the transgression of the law. They seldom make plain the plan of salvation. They seldom tell what one must do to be saved. That which would have touched the hearts of the learned, the men in responsible positions, would have been to have shown them Christ upon the cross of Calvary, to bring redemption within their reach. They are to be taught as children how to make Jesus their friend, how to bring him into their life work.”  {Review & Herald, February 22, 1887 par. 11}

Let’s ask Jesus to give us His mind and attitude as we stand up to preach Him and His word to His people.

Blessings to you,

Dan Serns

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