I really like this description of both the pain and pleasure of preaching. I have to remind myself of this every day but especially on Saturday nights and after church on Sunday. It keeps me not on my toes but mostly on my knees where I cry, “Lord, do it again for Your own Name’s sake!”
Preaching is the most public of ministries and therefore, the most conspicuous in its failure and the most subjective to the temptation of hypocrisy. It is imperative only that those who undertake it are appropriately gifted by the Holy Spirit. Such ‘gifting’ includes prophecy, evangelism, the consciousness of an unavoidable call, providential endowments, and outward confirmation as evidenced by the Holy Spirit’s making the preaching effort into a new Bethlehem.
There is no special honor in being so gifted–there is only special pain. The pulpit calls them to it as the sea calls its sailors, and, like the sea, it batters and bruises and does not rest, but always there is the lure of its ‘better and incomparable’ society.
To preach, to really preach, is to die naked a little at a time, and to know each time you do it that you must do it again. Only one certainty sustains the preacher: That God never denies a man peace except to give him glory.”
Source: Bruce Thielemann, and appeared in the Wittenburg Door in April of 1977.
I found the following letter from John Newton (the writer of the famous hymn, Amazing Grace) very inspiring, challenging and encouraging. It’s full of sound, practical and biblical wisdom. Very good for the soul’s nourishment and growth in sanctification. I commend it to you. Here it is:
We are disciples–Jesus is our Master. The world we live in is His school–and every person and event is under His management, designed to forward us in the great lessons which He would have us to learn–such as . . .self-denial, a distrust of creatures, and an absolute dependence upon Himself.
In this view, afflictions are mercies, losses are gains, hindrances are helps, and all things, even those which seem most contrary–are working together for our good.
Creatures smile or frown, caress or disappoint us, friends grow cool, and enemies become kind just as His wisdom sees most expedient to promote our spiritual progress.
Where we look for most blessing, it often comes to little; where we look for nothing, we often obtain most benefit.
Our wisest plans and best endeavors at one time produce great troubles! At another time, what we do at random, and what we account the most trifling incidents are productive of happy, lasting, and extensive consequences.
It is well for us if, by a long train of such changing, checkered experiences, we at length attain to some proficiency, and can say with David, “My soul, wait only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.”
The heart possession of two maxims of Matthew Henry, is well worth all that the acquisition can cost us:
1. Every creature is to us only what God makes it.
2. We cannot expect too little from man, nor too much from God.
In this school I am placed and these lessons I am aiming to learn. But I am a poor scholar and indeed any master but He who condescends to be my teacher, would turn me out as an incorrigible dunce!
Yet I sincerely wish to be willing to be what, and where, and how the Lord would have me be, to cast all my cares simply upon Him, and to be always satisfied in my mind that He assuredly cares for me!
You can also listen to an audio recording of this letter online by clicking on this link: Our Wisest Plans and Best Endeavors.