Providence and Preaching

In the past I have repeatedly challenged us to be diligent in grasping the meaning of the text and preaching that message.  What we can make it say is not as good as what God made it say.  Part of this is a high view of Scripture and the need for society to be reached and church to be fed with the Word of God.  At the same time, I have warned of the danger of implying or relying on direct revelation from God.  Many people will drop the Bible as a primary resource in the face of an offer of direct hotline info from above.

But does this mean that God is not involved in the preparation process and in preaching?  Not at all.  Over recent months I have been struck by God’s providence in anticipation of preaching.  Where in the past I might have been flustered or annoyed by something, now I seem to be more sensitive to the possibility of God working all things together for good, even in preaching.

Let me explain, and then we can probe the thought in other related areas:

The unexpected interaction is not a distraction.  In the past I would head toward preaching with an “in the zone” mentality.  As the message drew nearer, I would become more and more focused.  There’s a lot to be said for that.  Not least, prayerfulness is entirely an appropriate feature of pre-preaching days.  But in that “zone” I would sometimes get annoyed (maybe only internally, but still annoyed, nonetheless), at interactions that seemed to confuse my “zoneliness.”

It could be a comment relating to someone who will be at the service.  It could be a query of my view of the forthcoming, or the preceding message.  It could be any number of things.  Careful, don’t knock my “zone-ish-ness!”

But actually, I have grown to see how God has providentially provided help on many occasions through these means.  A sensitivity to a different type of listener.  An awareness of a potential misunderstanding.  An opportunity to be slightly more on target.  An opportunity to connect that little bit more.

I was preaching a series some time ago and after one message I was asked a very direct question.  I might have been annoyed that the person asking didn’t know better, but prayerful consideration prompted me to a clearer understanding and explanation.  I answered the question in the next message.

He thanked me for clarifying.  I should have thanked him.  I thanked God.

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