Just a few weeks ago I was asked if I would deliver a sermon at nearby Kenwood Baptist Church. I had been there before and enjoyed the warmth of the congregation. They are good people as far as I can tell. I do not think of myself as a preacher, but I do not mind filling a pulpit when God provides the opportunity.
As a text I chose Romans 8:13:
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
I chose that text because I had heard John Piper speak on it and I was moved with conviction against my own sin (if you’re wondering, no I didn’t plagiarize his sermon). It is a powerful verse, especially considering our culture, which takes sin lightly. I really wanted to convey a passion similar to that of Dr. Piper when I spoke. I wanted to see that the people were moved as I was moved. I failed.
When my sermon was over and I stepped down from the platform my heart sank into my stomach. The sermon was too short. I fumbled with my words. I lacked the intensity I thought necessary for the subject matter. The people of the church congratulated me on my sermon and said they enjoyed it. I suspected either the Holy Spirit had done a work in spite of me or the saints of God were lying in an attempt to be kind. I chose to believe the former because, again, these were good people.
As my wife and I pulled out of the parking lot she asked how my sermon went (she had to take our sons down to the nursery). I told her that I laid an egg. She tried to raise my spirits by telling me someone had said they thought I would go far, but to no avail. I had failed in my own eyes, and I saw no one to blame but myself.
Roughly two weeks passed and my college graduation ceremony arrived. I enjoyed it very much and rather liked celebrating my achievement with my family and friends. After the ceremony was finished and the time for refreshments had arrived, I was approached by Jane Waddell, who attends Kenwood.
Mrs. Waddell took me aside and told me the story of what happened after my family and I left two Sundays ago. In the sermon I made the comment that we often laugh at our sin, as though it’s some big joke. This struck the heart of a young woman in attendance. She thought, “That’s me!” As I understand it she left the auditorium after I made this comment.
After the service was over and the pastor and some of the congregation had gone out to eat, he received a call on his cell phone. It was the young woman. She wanted to meet him back at the church. Long story short, she wanted to reaffirm her commitment to Christ. When I heard this I praised the Lord. God had shut my mouth for doubting the power of His Word, and I can think of few better outcomes than this.