This is an important question. If you can’t see what you’re preaching, then your listeners won’t see it either. That’s true with Bible stories and illustrations and applications and visionary leadership of the church and so on. But most important is not what you see, but who.
C.H.Spurgeon wrote that “We shall never have great preachers until we have great divines.” Yet we live in a busy and very noisy world: a world of phone calls, emails, text messages, emergencies, easy travel, financial complexities, family responsibilities and ministerial intricacies. Not the easiest place to keep the gaze of our souls firmly fixed on our core vision. Our core vision is not a philosophy of ministry, a theological stance or sense of calling. Our core vision is God Himself.
Jesus spoke to a theological giant of his day late one evening – a man who had political clout, theological nous and societal import. He pointed his thoughts back to Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness. People were saved back then by looking at that serpent. No work, no effort, no responsibility, nothing. Just looking. In the same way must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes, has faith (as just defined in the previous sentence), will live. Faith is more about the gaze of our heart and soul than it is about credal affirmations or signatures on doctrinal statements (while recognizing the vital nature of right doctrine).
Now if I can shift from Jesus in John to Paul’s writings for a moment, isn’t the whole Christian life a faith life? We certainly don’t switch into works mode once saved, may it never be! So preacher, how’s your faith? How’s your gaze? Without that constant gaze in the right direction, you may be many things, and you may achieve many things, but you won’t be what Spurgeon called “a divine.”
We have the privilege of being so captivated by the greatness and grace of our Lord that every moment of our lives is lived in the shadow, no the glory, of that vision. A deep awareness of who God is will continue to drive us back to His Word, diligently pursuing more of Him so that we might respond further. This is not about discipline and effort, this is about delight and response. We dive into His Word so that we might see Him more clearly, be captured more fully, and be stirred more deeply. Then we will preach more effectively.
Our preaching should flow from a personal intimacy with God and a personal passion for His Word. That is what our people need.