All genuine preaching is rooted in a feeling of desperation. You wake up on Sunday morning and you can smell the smoke of hell on one side and feel the crisp breezes of heaven on the other. You go to your study and look down at your pitiful manuscript, and you kneel down and cry, ‘O God, this is so weak! Who do I think I am? What audacity to think that in three hours my words will be the odor of death to death and the fragrance of life to life (2 Cor. 2:16). My God, who is sufficient for these things?” -John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, 41-42
If a pastor is not convinced that he is weak and inadequate for the task he is blind. Paul came to the Corinthians with fear and trembling. Our knees shouldn’t be more sturdy than Paul’s.
That’s not the whole story.
If I’m not careful my self-obsessed heart will take this truth and use it to turn the spotlight on me, the preacher. Not for my awesomeness of course; I’m Reformed, after all. I know that God is glorified in my weakness. And so, I’ll make sure everyone knows how weak and inadequate of a preacher I am. That’ll get me the thumbs up that I desire.
It is true that I’m weak and inadequate. But this shouldn’t be the truth that shines the brightest. If it does, then the clay gets the attention. There is a reason why Spurgeon ascended the stairs into his pulpit saying, “I believe in the Holy Spirit…I believe in the Holy Spirit…” and not, “I’m weak and inadequate…I’m weak and inadequate”.
A knowledge of my inadequacy and insufficiency in the pulpit is only a good and helpful truth if it is married to the incontrovertible truth that the Spirit is powerful and does shine forth His glory through insufficient jars of clay.
Therefore, I keep before me the knowledge that I’m weak, insufficient, and that my manuscript is usually quite pitiful. But I proclaim that pitiful manuscript with all the boldness and force that this weak and insufficient jar of clay can muster. I do this knowing that the Holy Spirit actually does accompany the preaching of His Word and He truly does delight in shining a light on Jesus.
Yeah, I’m weak and inadequate. But He’s not! And I want that to be the truth that drives every sermon that I preach.