I hate preaching tough messages. I really wish I could preach sunshine and lollipops all the time. I don’t like preparing for tough messages; it always puts me in a weird mood.
Last week’s message was especially tough. I must have spent hours looking and reading about evil in the world. Then I spent more time looking at how Christians should respond to that evil. Talk about feeling inadequate! I finished all my research and the only thing I could think was, “God, is there anyone else who can give this message?”
There were so many thoughts running through my head. In addition to the subject matter, there is also the issue of the how the audience is going to receive the message. Honestly, I believe that God wants me (and all preachers) to preach the tough messages, but I just wish there were a way to know that people would still like me after they hear it! I'd like to say that I didn't think about that sort of thing, but this is one area of my humanity that I am always fighting.
I just want anyone that hears me preach to know this: I am preaching to myself as much as I am preaching to you. I struggle with all these messages, I work on understanding, I work on delivering them in accordance with God’s will, and most of all – I work on trying to live them out in my own life (and just so everyone knows, I fail miserably – often!)
So last week, as I wrapped up this difficult message I walked out to greet the church family and I realized something: The best messages are the ones we all need to hear. That is to say, if I’m not struggling with the message in preparation, how can I expect anyone to struggle with it on Sunday morning? The conflicting and difficult messages, the ones that make us wiggle in our seats or shudder in preparation, those are the sermons that challenge us to look at life differently.
As I looked back at all that we covered over the last month, I think I found something really important: We can’t stop giving each other the tough messages. Whether you are a preacher, or just a friend, the tough messages are the ones that make us better. They aren’t easy and they aren’t fun, but through them we find ourselves getting closer to Christ.
17 As iron sharpens iron,
so one person sharpens another.