Every week I prepare and plan in an effort to present the best sermon possible. I pray, read, study and search the internet. Hours are spent putting together every single talk.
Each week I hope and pray this will be the one. This will be the sermon that does it. It will inspire people to change. It will move people from their complacency to commitment. God will speak through me in a clear and convincing way and the people who hear it will be changed in a deeply profound way.
Every week I am let down. Each sermon lacks the punch I hope it will have to knock people out. It is like a boxer who delivers his best right hook, and the opponent seems unfazed. Usually, the response is lackluster at best. A few people say nice things and most just talk about the weather or other trivialities. Sundays end in exhaustion, and I go home hoping that next week will be better.
While I still do my best every Sunday, I am learning that change is not an overnight event. There are very few cases of dramatic change because of one sermon or lecture of any kind.
1. Becoming Fully Devoted to Jesus is a Long Slow Process. I wish there were some way to microwave a person into a committed believer. You know, send them to a conference or on a mission trip or to a week of camp, and they come back a new person. Frequently people do those things and the come back all excited for a few weeks or months. Slowly the newness wears off, and the person returns to their old habits. Real change comes from a day after day commitment to doing the right things. Prayer, Bible reading, and fellowship are part of the disciplines that help people become like Christ. There are no shortcuts or quick ways to grow. Believe me; I wish there were something.
2. True Change Only Comes After Repeated Exposure to the Truth. I compare spiritual growth to physical or athletic growth. If you want to develop that perfect body and compete at a high level in some sport, it requires going to the gym day after day after day. You expose yourself to the proper tools and tactics enough times, and you slowly start to change. You look back a year later, and you say, “I cannot believe how good I have become.” This type of daily commitment is the only way to grow spiritually too. I encourage people to attend Church every week, plug into a small group and develop a daily quiet time. Why? Because you will only change though repeatedly doing the same spiritual exercises. Sure, some days will be hard and sometimes are boring but keep the end goal in sight.
3. Lasting Change Often Comes in an Unexpected Moments. Many times, I have been surprised by the response of a person to the unexpected events in their life. A lousy doctor’s visit, a call from the school, a heart to heart conversation with a spouse or a visit by the police can change your life in an instant. Those are the events that we rarely see coming. Years of listening to Christian teaching through sermons, lessons, books and bible reading suddenly all make sense. You are surprised by the hope, joy, and optimism that fills your soul as all those years come together in one amazing moment. It is like years of training for a tragedy has prepared you for a time of clarity, understanding, and peace. What could have set you back into an abyss of despair propelled you forward in a new and dramatic way.
I am still waiting to deliver that one perfect sermon. Until that day, I preach, and I preach, and I preach. God takes those repeated actions, and he plugs them into your journey. He takes my words and helps you develop a routine of spiritual growth. He prepares you for the moment that will change your life.
A Monday of disappointment follows each Sunday full of expectant change. Once again, I failed to change the world. But maybe, just maybe, God used my words or the words of some preacher to help move you closer to him one inch at a time. I certainly hope that is true.