I find that when I prepare a message to preach, it’s an interesting process. On the one hand I want to be faithful to the text and not take passages out of context. This is what I was trained to do in seminary. It is called expository preaching: explaining what the text means.
On the other hand I always want to bring a relevant word from the Lord that speaks to people in their current situation. Even if it is a message series that I am participating in that I have not personally picked out, I still want to bring God’s word in such a way that it is really God speaking to people through His living word.
I was preaching on Matthew 9:35-38, where Jesus talks about many people needing to hear the Good News of the Kingdom and healing every disease as He went. The message was part of a series that we had worked out. The emphasis was on radical living.
It was natural that I would preach on the mission passage seeing that we had served in the Dominican Republic for a time before coming to serve the church where we were at. Yet I was not prepared for what the Lord did that morning.
I had sensed the Lord moving in the preparation of the message as I considered what to include and what not to include, and what to emphasize.
I got to the part where Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). My voice started to get very emotional, so it seemed. I hadn’t even started preaching. I was only reading the text. It caught me by surprise, so much so that I said, “I am getting emotional already.” I could hardly make it through the words in my Bible. I didn’t know what was happening, until I realized later that it was the Lord. It was not me. He was moving on the very words of Scripture to emphasize the words that He wanted to emphasize. It impacted people in a way that I could not have done even if I had tried to orchestrate it.
I am talking about the Lord moving physically on a word. We can always trust Him to emphasize to people what He wants them to hear. A word spoken that can seem insignificant to us can have great power on the ears of the hearer when the Lord moves on it, when He adds His weight to it.
I never know what the Lord is going to do when I speak a word, whether it seems significant to me or not. I am always in awe when people come back to me in order to let me know how something I said, preached, prayed or prophesied touched them in a very personal way. Most of the time I don’t know when I speak the words, although sometimes I can tell immediately by the reaction on their faces.
We can be sensitive to His leading to be guided and what we speak. Then we can trust Him to do the rest.
By Ralph Veenstra