Are You Ready to Preach?

In Psalm 51:12-13 the psalmist prayed: "Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto Thee" (KJV).

John Wesley was one of the greatest preachers in church history. He had a mother who was one of the grandest Christians that every lived. His father, both grandfathers and great grandfather had all been preachers. He was an Oxford man, a man of passionate prayer, deeply religious, and a missionary who had gone to America to convert the Indians.

However, it was not until he went to a little meeting on Aldersgate Street that he was ignited by a fire from heaven and became one of the most amazing human firebrands in church history.

It is amazing how such a man can have intellectual ability, personal appeal, and charisma, and not be ready to preach. 

Dwight L. Moody was another man who was ignited by divine fire. There is a grand difference between spiritual preparation by the hand of God upon a man, and the well-meant striving in the flesh.

We have all the professional facts, the program formulas and financial provisions, but it amounts to little more than "strange fire," like the sons of Aaron (Num. 3:4). We have "strange fire" in many churches. But where is the true fire of God that burns in the soul of the God called man?

The indwelling presence of God flows like a river of living water. The outflow and overflow come only when we spend time with Him. There must be a confrontation with God. Moody said, "I've been carrying buckets of water. Now I have a river that carries me."

We're not ready to strengthen the brethren and feed the sheep until we have spent time with the Shepherd. Like the psalmist we ask, "Could there be something the matter with me?" Robert Murray M'Cheyne said, "My people's greatest need is my personal holiness." How is my relationship with the Master?

You cannot remove the direct relationship between effectiveness in the pulpit and our intimate personal relationship with God. Our pulpit credibility depends upon our personal character.

Everything the preacher says is in vain unless there is the enablement of the Holy Spirit to bring conviction and regeneration and change in the listener's hearts. "We proclaim him by instructing and teaching all people with all wisdom so that we may present every person mature in Christ. Toward this goal I also labor, struggling according to his power that powerfully works in me" (Colossians 1:28-29, NET).

We must pray before we prepare the Bible message in order to have power in the pulpit. The preparation must be bathed in the presence of God. We must pray as we prepare the message. We must pray as we preach the message. We must continue to pray that the Holy Spirit will work in those who respond to the preached message (Phil. 1:6).

I have read many accounts of the great Shantung revival in China. The missionaries were some of the most dedicated servants of God. Yet things weren't happening. Then a missionary began standing at the door of the church after each service and as everybody went out, she asked them one by one point-blank, "Have you been born again?" That's not exactly the accepted way to greet people going out of a church. One those she met was Dr. Culpepper. She asked him, "Have you been filled with the Spirit?" He hemmed and hawed and swallowed, and God began to speak to him. Dr. Culpepper began confessing all the sins that he was aware of in his life, and God began to use him. God's fire spread all over that land.

John Owen said, "The Word must dwell in us with power before it can go forth from us with power."

Are we ready to come before God and say, "Put out the strange fire in my life. All that I'm doing in my ministry is subject to change by the Holy Spirit. I willing to be shaken and revolutionized beyond anything I ever dreamed of." But the worse danger today is not wildfire or strange fire. It's Luke warmness. You know the old adage, "The good is the enemy of the best." Lord, if You have something better, don't let me settle for the good, or Your second best. I will change any plans anywhere, if by some doing I can move from the good into Your very best. I yield to the absolute sovereignty of the Holy Spirit.

I pray the Lord will keep us flexible in the hands of the Holy Spirit. "Lord, give us what we need whether we want it or not." God wants to do something far beyond anything you can ask or think. God grant that it may be so in my life today.


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