Tucked away in John Bunyan’s little book on broken-heartedness was this little gem which relates to preaching:
The Word of God, when in a man’s hand only, is like the father’s sword in the hand of the sucking child; which sword, though never so well pointed, and though never so sharp on the edges, is not now able to conquer a foe, and to make an enemy fall and cry out for mercy, because it is but in the hand of the child.
But now, let the same sword be put into the hand of a skilful father, and God is both skilful and able to manage his Word, and then the sinner, and then the proud helpers too, are both made to stoop, and submit themselves; wherefore, I say, though the Word be the instrument, yet of itself doth do no saving good to the soul; the heart is not broken, nor the spirit made contrite thereby; it only worketh death, and leaveth men in the chains of their sins, still faster bound over to eternal condemnation (2 Cor 2:15, 16).
This is such a powerful image. If the Spirit does not come in power then not even the best of preacher is strong enough to wield the sword—we are but children playing with daddy’s weapons. But when God uses His Word through us—He can wield it and accomplish the purpose He has set for it.
As I thought through Bunyan’s image another image came to my mind, that of a preacher who has tried to lift that mighty sword only to fall. Instead of pleading with God for power from on high he decides to craft for Himself a few tiny daggers which will get him by. These are just about the right size for him to wield effectively.
Such a thing, I’m convinced, can help a preacher keep his job for quite some time. Especially if every preacher before him also crafted his own daggers. The congregation won’t know what they’re missing having only been pierced by the preachers dwarf blade. In fact the congregation might even grow accustomed to only feeling a tiny prick of conscience on occasion.
Brothers, our daggers won’t do. We need to wield a sword that only the Father can lift. Only His work will last into eternity. Though we might feel as if we are playing the man by lacing our congregation with our self-made sabers, in the end all of the bloodshed will be meaningless. We must have God’s power to engage in any meaningful preaching.
Lord, make us preachers no longer satisfied with our own worthless daggers. Stir within us a holy desperation, in which we realize every time we speak that only You can lift the sword. Help us believe in your goodness and your sovereign care, remembering that you desire to wield the Word through our feeble hands.