19 May 2009

Be Ready in Season and Out: lessons from my least prepared sermon

A couple of Fridays ago I was on a date with my beautiful bride and our dachshund, Luther. All hopeless romantics bring their dogs on dates and all hopeless romantics are diligent not to double-book anything on a date night. As you will see, Romeo has some work to do.

At 8:15 p.m. I saw that the sound man at the Rock (our student ministry) had called. On most date nights, I would not have checked the message but, on this night, I felt curiously compelled. The message began with those terrifying words (for a pastor); "Mitch, where are you? ... You're teaching tonight at the Rock."

Recognizing that this was a call I should return (call me Captain Obvious), I called him back. "No, it can't be, there must be some mistake. I'm on a date with Shelli."

"Well that's what is on the schedule and we are expecting you" Zach replied.

I looked at my watch and realized that probably meant immediately and so, to confirm, I asked "I need to be there like right now... right?"

"Not, 'right now' we are still finishing announcements." I was 15 minutes away. 

"Shelli", I shouted to my beauty. "We have to go."

"Why?" Her obvious response.

"I have to teach tonight at the Rock and not in a half an hour, not in 15 minutes... right now!"

Shelli is a gracious wife with a love for Christ and tremendous sense of humor and so, without another word, we sped off, praying on our way and arriving at Johnson Hall at about 8:30 p.m. In one fluid motion I was mic'd, given the passage for the evening and jumped on stage.  
My passage for the evening? 2 Timothy 4. No kidding.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (2 Timothy 4.1-2)
So I offer the message here for the following reasons:
  1. God is often teaching everyone in the room. Teachers, don't miss this. In his divine humor, God was teaching the teacher as he was teaching this message.
  2. There is a natural filter on this message. Any good in it most certainly is from God.
  3. I am amazed at the power of the Bible and the importance of taking it "as is." It was another encouragement to teach the text and not my ideas supported by the text. If, 3 seconds before stepping on stage, I had been given a topic, I wouldn't have had a thing to say.
  4. My hope is that knowing the backstory and listening to the message will encourage those who, knowing their weaknesses, approach life passively. I am not advocating laziness, unholiness or a lack of discipline but our confidence must be in the calling of God and not in our efforts. Consider Matthew Henry's comment on 1 Peter 1:1-2: "He mentions his apostolical function as his warrant and call to write this epistle to these people. Note, It concerns all, but especially ministers, to consider well their warrant and call from God to their work. This will justify them to others, and give them inward support and comfort under all dangers and discouragements."
  5. I love my wife and I love that she loves Christ enough to jump in and support me even in the consequences of my mistakes. Without her prayer and support, this may not have happened. 
  6. In scheduled service we can hide our coldness behind thorough preparation but God does call us to unexpected service and that requires something more. My heart needs to be stoked for Christ at all times because God is always working and I am called to make the most of what he sets before me (Eph. 2:10, Eph 5:15-20). Apart from Him, I can do nothing (John 15:5).

2 comments:

  1. that was definitely fun to read. I appreciate your last point a lot. thanks for sharing.

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  2. I also really appreciate that you say that the teachers are taught as they share the Word. For the past school year, I was the Cubbies leader in AWANA. God always taught me the exact lesson I was teaching the children. It was humbling because He knew that I could easily intellectualize doctrine and then spit it out at a 3-4 year old level for them. But God wanted these truths to go deeper into my heart so I could teach the children more genuinely.

    Thanks for being an example of this also :) And by the way, I really enjoyed your talk. It might've been off the cuff, but Totally in the Spirit!!!!!!

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