“I have not run away from being your shepherd …” (Jeremiah 17:16a)
Preaching/prophesying is not easy, but Jeremiah did not flee from it. He did not relish the message he was given, the prophet-breaking process by which he was made fit to receive it, nor the heart-breaking process of delivering it. But he did not quit; he did not fail to deliver the message of the Lord.
“You know what came out of my lips; it was before your face.” (v.16b)
Is that not the key? The message was, of necessity, spoken to the people, but spiritually, inwardly “it was before [the Lord’s] face.” That is to say, it was presented to the Lord as worship even as it was being presented to the people in preaching.
Preaching as an act of worship–this is fundamental to faithfulness in preaching. Apart from this cynicism takes over, other offers become too alluring, the impetus to quit becomes too strong. Not fruitfulness nor effect, but worship must be our fundamental motivation. For there will never be enough results to counter-balance the weight of preaching’s burden. But making it fundamentally an expression of worship to God transforms it into a warm, personal, intimate relationship. This makes the faithfulness worth whatever its price.