Currently, I am preaching through the book of Ecclesiastes. This is not the first time preaching through the book in my ministry. It is officially the second trip through those twelve chapters about the meaning of life. My first exploration through it was 20 years ago. It was so long ago that I had handwritten notes for each sermon that were then put in a manila folder and placed in a big metal filing cabinet. For my new series, I went back and pulled out the file and looked over each sermon. When I did this, I noticed a few things.
- God’s word never changes. Many of the things I said 20 years ago are still 100% correct because they were based on God’s eternal word.
- A sermon that honors God’s word is timeless. Now, I did not preach those old outlines and sermons, but I could have done it. The structure was sound, and the words were valid.
- I have changed tremendously. While the original sermons were fine, my insights and applications have adjusted through the years. When you are 27 years old with a newer marriage and a couple of small children the world looks different than it does to a 47-year-old with 25 years of marriage and four boys who are almost adults.
I am continually reminded of the Biblical image of God being the potter, and we are the clay, but I also like the idea that I am iron, and God is shaping me with each pound of his hammer. Both of those images fit my life so perfectly. Sometimes God has molded my life with gentle hands on my soft clay, and other times he has hit me repeatedly to get me to change my shape.
As I look back over my life, I am amazed at the things that have changed without my noticing. My words are different, my heart is softer to certain things and tougher with others, and my knowledge of God and life has expanded with every passing year. My prayers are less desperate, and my faith is firmly established. I have gone from being a kid who embraced the reckless love of God to a middle-aged man who holds tightly to God’s unchanging nature. Twenty years of molding and shaping by the master have made me a different person, and I barely noticed until I opened that file.
For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord, there is this unseen hand making us into the image of God. Most of us lose sight of that until we pull out the old files and look back at old pictures of ourselves. I think one healthy practice for all believers is to spend a few minutes thinking about who you used to be and who God has made you into today. The sermon is still true, but the person delivering it is not the same.