I first put this on the wall of my study almost thirty years ago–sometime during the first week of October, 1987. I had run across the quote several years before and decided it was descriptive of the preaching I wished to offer and the life I wished to lead. It was before the days of personal computers and desktop publishing, so I asked my dear wife, Julie, if she would lend her skillful hand and write this out for me. I framed it and on a fall day in Wisconsin in 1987 drove a nail in the wall of my study and posted it where I would see it often . That was my first week as a full time pastor, of being crushed under the weight of submitting myself week-in and week-out to the Word of God and to the God of the Word and then seeking, somehow, by His grace, to speak it faithfully to those He put before me. It has hung there before me every day, ever since.
I’ve spent many moments contemplating that second sentence. I have come to read it in three ways:
- I read it in the light of Jesus reminding us that, “… out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45b)
- I read it in light of what Paul was saying when he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20a). And thus I can speak, trusting that “God [is} making his appeal through” me (2 Cor. 5:20) and that I might be “one who speaks the very words of God” (1 Peter 4:11, NIV).
- I read it in the sense that was on the mind of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones when he said. “Any man who has had some glimpse of what it is to preach will inevitably feel that he has never preached. But he will go on trying, hoping that by the grace of God one day he may truly preach.” There is the grinding hard work and discipline of studying the Word of God, of submitting oneself to it, of preparing to speak it … all undertaken in hope that God will somehow speak His Word through you into another life.
So when I look up and see this on the wall before me, I am reminded that the fabric of a preaching-life is woven of these threads: my life (#1) offered up to Jesus in such a way that I become the conduit through which His life (#2) is made known to others, and this, lived out over the course of my entire lifetime (#3), is my great hope that one day I might “truly preach.”
And since I am sitting here typing for you in my study on a Saturday morning, you’ll excuse me as I turn my attention back to Philippians 3:17-4:1 (the Scripture portion for tomorrow’s word) and give myself again to the labors of preaching, in hope that perhaps tomorrow will be the great day when God finally allows me to “truly preach.”