Isn’t that what God does with us? Gracious reinforcement. Over and over God patiently teaches us what we need to learn – not just information, but lessons of the heart, lessons of life, lessons on His character, His values, His heart. There is a certain rhythm in life, subtle and below the surface, inaudible, but real. It’s the rhythm of God’s dealing with us as His children. None of us learn what we need to learn first time, every time. For most of us, most of the time, it takes time, patience and repetition before something sinks in.
What we observe in our own spiritual walks, or in the lives of those around us, is part of what the preacher is called to participate in. Preaching is not a one-hit job. You don’t present a truth and then move on knowing the listeners now have that truth under their belts. You don’t encourage a specific response to God and then look for horizons new in your preaching ministry. The truth is that preaching also needs to tap into the rhythm of patient change, of gracious reinforcement.
Oh, there are crisis moments, but not every Sunday. There are times when a single message will radically transform a life. Pray for that, preach for that, but know that most fruit grows imperceptibly slowly.
The difficulties that come with this ministry are not simple. While God works inaudibly and often below the surface, the preacher works audibly, visibly, obviously and overtly. This opens the preacher up to the challenge of avoiding monotony and sameness while preaching to graciously reinforce the handful of big big ideas that weave their way through Scripture. Patience required implies discouragement faced, and it does come in so many forms – natural and otherwise.
And all along the way, as we look to God to work His heart changing work in others, asking for patience and strength to press on . . . all the while He is working in us, in our hearts, and patiently, persistently, He presses on. Praise God for His gracious reinforcement in us, and hopefully, through us too.