PREACHING IS NOT MERE TALK

We are looking at passages in the bible that talk about preaching with a view to learn precious lessons for us as we prepare ourselves for ministering the Word. Today, we will look at the passage in I Corinthians 1: 17-25 & 2: 1 -16

COMMISSION: Christ sent me to preach the gospel – (1:17)

In his first among many letters, Paul writes to the Church at Corinth and tells them, “Christ sent me to preach the gospel” (1:17a). We are sent to preach – to preach the gospel. Preaching – the gospel – is a privilege. Preaching – the gospel – is a responsibility (How will they call if they don’t hear? How will they hear if we don’t preach? Rom 10v12 – 14). Preaching – the gospel – is an obligation. I am obligated to preach the gospel (Rom. 1v14). Preaching is a commission. Christ commissions us to preach – the gospel. He sends us to preach the gospel. Of the many things we do and will do, preaching – particularly preaching the gospel – must take primacy.

CONVICTION: We preach Christ crucified (1v23)

Paul was eager to preach because he saw the need out there. He knew that people needed the Lord. He had a strong conviction that Christ is the answer to the human predicament. He preached Christ. He preached Christ crucified (v 23).
The message of the cross may not be fashionable thing to do. It may not be the in thing. But, he was convinced that Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.

The message of the Cross is not foolishness. We don’t have to be ashamed of it. We don’t have to apologize for it. We don’t have to be embarrassed about it. The message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1v18). Christ is the wisdom of God and the power of God (1v24).

The message of the Cross is still foolishness to many in our world today. A wounded healer – a crucified saviour – is not a message that makes sense to a lot of people. What do we do? We preach Christ crucified. We don’t have to be embarrassed. We don’t have to be ashamed. We don’t have to apologize. We must have a deep conviction that Christ is the power and the wisdom of God. This conviction must stronger and stronger.

The message of the Cross has the power to save humanity – you and me – from lostness. The message of the Cross has the power to pull us out of the mess. The message of the Cross has the power to save us from self-destruction. The message of the cross is also wisdom that will save us from self-delusion. The message of the cross is wisdom that will save us from futility of the ways of the world. The message of the cross is also wisdom that will save us from all our folly.

CONSCIOUS CHOICES: I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God (2v1)

Paul was sent to preach. He preached Christ crucified. But, he also made conscious choices as he preached the gospel. These were non-negotiable. What were the conscious choices?

  1. He preached but not with words of human wisdom (v17). Why? Simple! He did not want the cross to be emptied of its power.
  2. He preached Christ crucified (v24). Why? It was the wisdom of God. Moreover, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe (v21).
  3. He did not go with eloquence or superior wisdom. Why? Simple! He did not want the faith of his hearers to rest on men’s wisdom (2v1).
  4. He went as any other ordinary speaker – although he was brilliant scholar. Paul went with weakness, fear and much trembling (2v3)

Let’s get one thing straight! Preaching is not a matter of talk. It is not being smart. Sounding intellectual. It is not about juggling words. It is not about verbal gymnastics. It is not about wise and persuasive words. It is not a free flow of carefully crafted choice words that is designed to overwhelm your audience.

Friends, hear me out! Preaching is not a matter of talk. Preaching is all about the demonstration of the power of God. It is the demonstration of the Spirit’s power.

Those of us who study Homiletics – the art and science of preaching – must be careful not to be carried away by the idea that it is the right use of words – careful choice of words – clever stringing of words. It is not our words. It is not our points. It is not the brilliance of the preacher. It is not the fluency, flowery language and finesse. It is not even our power points. The power lies in the message of the cross. As one preacher who is not known for power point presentation put it –“I have the points, God adds the power”.

Friends, hear me out. We must not use Paul’s statement as an excuse for not studying or preparing. Paul is not denying the importance of study, careful preparation and the use of effective means of communication. Effective preaching must combine serious study, preparation, reflection and presentation. But, preaching must rely on the Holy Spirit. It must be demonstration of the Spirit’s power.

CONFIDENCE: Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this? (1v 20)

Paul was sent to preach (commission). He preached Christ crucified. Christ is the power and wisdom of God (conviction). He knew preaching was not mere talk but a demonstration of God’s power. He did not pep up his preaching, employ techniques or engage in personal brand building (conscious choice). He asks, “Where is the wise man? Where is the philosopher of this age? Paul was brimming with confidence.

Paul had more reasons to be confident.

• Firstly, he knew the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength (1v25). That must give us confidence too!
• Secondly, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. That must give us confidence too!
• Thirdly, the spirit reveals deep things (2:12). When we preach we speak secret wisdom (v7). We speak of words taught by the Spirit expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words (2v13). We have not received the Spirit of the world. We have received the Spirit from God. He helps us to understand what God has freely given. We can boldly proclaim. For we have the mind of Christ (2v16). That must give us confidence too!

In conclusion, let me summarize

We will preach. We will preach Christ crucified.
We will preach to the wise man. We will preach to the scholar. We will preach to the philosopher of this age.
We will continue to challenge the wise man, the scholar and the philosopher of this age.
For we know that preaching is not a matter of talk, it is the demonstration of the Spirit’s power.
It is the expression of spiritual truths in spiritual words.

We are sent to preach! We will preach! We will preach Christ crucified. Amen!

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Professional Jealousy – How to fight it?

We are going to look at the very same passage of Scripture that we looked yesterday – 1 Samuel 18:6ff. Yesterday, we dwelt on the theme of professional jealousy. We saw how King Saul grew jealous of David’s rising popularity. We saw how this professional jealousy was due to deep seated insecurity, spiritual deficiency and crisis of purpose. We also saw how professional jealousy usually expresses itself in bouts of anger, indiscriminate violence and even lifelong animosity. King Saul was greatly displeased when the crowds went gaga over David’s victory over Goliath. He was furious (v8) when he heard the women sing, “Saul has slain his thousands and David his tens of thousands”. He kept a close watch on David (v9), physically attacked him (at least twice), wished his death in the battle field at the hands of the enemies, publicly humiliated him and even tried hard to ensnare him so as to finish him off. Worse, King Saul remained an enemy throughout his life (v29).

Today, we will continue to look at the same theme – professional jealousy – albeit with a slightly different focus. Our focus this morning will be to learn how to face the heat and more importantly learn how not to be consumed by it. It must have been extremely difficult, if not suffocating for David to face such rabid personal vendetta. I am sure you’d agree with me that it is not easy to face such open animosity. Such an experience is not all that uncommon. It happens all the time. People with skills, gifts and talents are often perceived as threats and therefore are to be sidelined or eliminated.

How do we as young people face such a situation? This morning we are going to draw principles from David’s response to rabid professional jealousy. How did David respond to King Saul’s displeasure, anger and violence? To me it looks like there were at least five different options available to him. But, I wonder why David did not opt for any one of them.

Firstly, he could have easily retaliated to Saul’s open animosity. After all, sometimes offence is the best defence. Probably, it was easiest thing to do. King Saul was not that invincible. David had personally seen King Saul knock his knees in the battle field. King Saul was no match for David. In any case, David, having won the champion of Gath, had the psychological advantage. Some of us don’t understand why David had to go through all of this particularly when he was strong enough to give it back and get even! I wonder why David did not retaliate!

Secondly, David could have packed his bags and gone home. It’s so easy to give up. Pack your bags and leave, particularly when you are caught in the crossfire of power-politics, when you are put down, insulted and repeatedly targeted. It is probably the best thing to do. David could have easily packed his bags and gone home to tend his sheep. David did not need King Saul, as much as King Saul and the entire nation of Israel needed David. But, interestingly David stays put and does what the Lord requires him to do. I wonder why he did not pack his bags and go home!

Thirdly, David could have chosen to be a silent killer. Well…even if you assume that David was powerless against the King/system, David could still have taken revenge. He could have simply refused to play the lyre and made life a little difficult of King Saul. Most people resort to such passive aggressiveness even if they don’t have the resolve to fight openly. Interestingly, we find David playing the lyre and helping King Saul escape the occasional bouts of torment. I wonder why David did not make Saul’s life a little difficult.

Fourthly, David could have turned the entire army against King Saul. After all, he enjoyed the support of all the high ranking officials. And more importantly, he enjoyed the support of all Israel and Judah (v16). Most people would have garnered support and tried to pull the rug under King Saul’s feet. I wonder why David didn’t!

Fifthly, David could have manipulated Michal’s affection towards him to redraw the power equations. Michal – King Saul’s daughter – had fallen head over heels for David. David could have easily used and misused Michal to rein in Saul. Interestingly, even Saul wanted to use Michal as a trump card. But, I wonder why David didn’t do this? It is not that David was naive, clueless and stupid. David could have engaged in a fight-back or at least in some kind of shadow boxing. But, he doesn’t do that? Why? It is here that we can draw precious lessons. Agreed, that there is professional jealousy and worst kind of partisan politics in the Church that the Church has become a graveyard of talent. But, what we can learn from David is that we don’t have to fight evil with evil. We can still overcome evil with good. How does David respond to professional jealousy, hatred and personal vendetta?

Firstly, he remained faithful. David was playing the lyre as he usually did (1Sam 18:10), leading the army into battle and winning victories. David was being himself and being faithful to what God has called him to do despite the odds. He knew God was with him and those around him also recognized that God was with him. Even King Saul recognized that God was with David. There was nothing King Saul could do about it. If God be for us no one can stand against us. David remained faithful and never got distracted from God’s plans and purposes for his life. David remained faithful for he knew God was with him. We don’t have to be really worried about who’s pulling us down, pushing us out, trashing our ideas, dampening our zeal and puncturing our resolve to make a difference. God is with us and all we need to do is to remain faithful even in little things – the mundane everyday things we are asked to do.
Secondly, he stayed available. David knew God was going to use him – at the right time. David knew he was anointed by Prophet Samuel. He didn’t have to rush things. There was no clamouring to be at the centre stage. He continued to be available to God as he usually did – just like how he was available to God when he was tending the sheep, available to God when he fought against Goliath, available to God as he was playing the lyre, available to God as he was King Saul’s armour bearer and available to God as he fought the many battles of the Lord on Saul’s command. We don’t have to do anything extraordinary. We just need to be available to God – even in the midst of personal vendetta and power-politics.

Thirdly, he believed in God’s promise – that God will fulfil His plans and purposes. God’s plans and purposes are eternal. They can never be thwarted. Prophet Samuel had anointed him as King (1 Samuel 16:13) and David knew that God will bring this to pass. It took a while for Saul to realize this. But eventually, he tells David, “I know that you will surely be king and that the Kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands” (1 Sam. 24:20). We don’t really have to worry about the evil schemes that are done to harm us. We must believe in God’s promises. He who has called us his faithful and he will fulfil His plans and purposes for our lives.
I am not condoning King Saul’s jealously, personal vendetta and use of violence against David. They are definitely wrong and need to be condemned. They do not rightfully belong to those who profess to follow Christ, let alone serve Him. I am just drawing lessons from the experience of David in dealing with professional jealousy.

Let us not be sidetracked and distracted from the plans and purposes that God has in store for us all because of the jealousy, anger and vengeful attitude of some people who are hurt by what God is doing in and through us. Let them do whatever – pull us down, push us out, trash our ideas, dampen our zeal and puncture our resolve to make a difference. But, we will remain faithful (For God continues to be with us), stay available (For God is going to use us) and believe His promises (for he will fulfil His plans and purposes).