Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Little Humility, Please!

Today is day two of our eighteenth week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures today are: 
1 Samuel 20; 1 Chronicles 4; Acts 14; Psalms 56, 57, 142.

"That was the best sermon I've ever heard," said one old man on Sunday as he shook my hand after the worship service.

One person who had missed the sermon sent me a Facebook message, saying, "Do we have a way to read or hear this now, as we were told EVERYONE needed to really hear it."

Even one person who is normally a detractor said that it was an important message.  "They really needed to hear that," they said, meaning others in the congregation.  (I wonder if that person took the message and applied it personally, or not.)

My preaching professor in seminary took time in at least one of our classes to talk about the humility that pastors need, as we receive compliments about our sermons.  Now, sometimes no humility is needed at all, because you bombed a sermon and you know it.  Other times, you think you knocked a message out of the park, yet nobody says anything at all.  Every week there are the ones who will shake your hand meaninglessly and say, "Good sermon, Pastor" (whether it was a good sermon or not).  But then there are the times when you're nervous getting up to say what God has placed on your heart, the Spirit is moving, and you really nail it!  People are moved, and they really want to tell you about it.  It's on Sundays like that that a little humility is needed.  On Sundays like that, pastors need to remember that the only reason it was a good sermon is that perhaps the preacher was more yielded to God than usual.

Church folks, as well, need to recognize that a speaker is only as good as his or her yieldedness to God.  All too often, hero worship can set in, and people can become overly dependent on a pastor (or on a TV preacher, for that matter).  The people of Lystra found themselves in that situation, where because of a miracle that was performed among them, they deified Paul and Barnabas.  Instead of recognizing them as impliments of God, they thought that they were gods themselves.

In Acts 14, we read:

"They could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them."
 And in Lystra a certain man without strength in his feet was sitting, a cripple from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. This man heard Paul speaking. Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, 10 said with a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet!” And he leaped and walked. 11 Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” 12 And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes.
14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out 15 and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, 16 who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” 18 And with these sayings they could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them.

Pastors and congregants both need to avoid the tendency to put clergy on pedestals.  The higher the pedestal, the greater the fall!  Let's remember that great sermons (and even great miracles) come from God, and not from man.  Let's remember that their purpose is not that we might make heroes out of God's servants, but that we might hear what God is trying to say to us through that message.  Make sure that your focus isn't on whether "they" heard the message, but on whether you heard the message.  Because if your preacher is worth his or her salt, they're listening to what God is saying to them about their own lives as they preach to themselves as well.

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