I read somewhere that Charles Spurgeon prepared his sermons on Saturday night. I don’t know if it is true, but I can believe it. While I don’t encourage such a strategy, I do know that there are times when the necessities of ministry make this unavoidable.
Of course, there are also times when the cause is not the unexpected, it’s just us. Call it procrastination. Call it a lack of discipline. Call it sloth. Call it whatever you like, we know it’s bad. But we also know that when tomorrow comes, people will assemble and expect us to have a word from the Lord.
The call to preach does not make us immune from the flesh and sometimes it shows in the pulpit. “Some speak scoldingly, and so betray their bad temper; others preach themselves, and so reveal their pride” Spurgeon warns. “Some discourse as though it were a condescension on their part to occupy the pulpit, while others preach as though they apologized for their existence.”
Reading this catalog of pulpit sins is like looking at a photograph which has captured us in an unguarded moment and reveals our true and most unflattering image. James is right. We “stumble in many ways” (James 3:2). We might take his counsel and give up the ministry of the word altogether, if Paul’s answering lament did not hold us in place: “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16).
If this is a check to our discouraged spirit, it is also a kind of checkmate. We cannot avoid our calling, but neither can we escape our condition. The treasure that we bear has been consigned to jars of clay. We cannot hide ourselves from our listeners, no matter how hard we try.
Nor should we want to. Preaching is a distinctly human enterprise. The heavens declare the glory of God. The angels can preach. But it is to the children of Adam that the gospel has been entrusted. It is to us that God has given this remarkable privilege of speaking on His behalf.
I don’t know how many of you are laboring over your sermon tonight. But if you are, my thoughts are with you. And so is mighty presence of God’s Spirit, who will make you “competent as ministers of a new covenant” (2 Cor. 3:6).