I try to read a little from the mammoth book The Art and Craft of Biblical Preaching every day. Today’s chapter was exactly what I needed.
In preparing for the coming year, one of the main areas of preparation has been work in my soul. No matter what plans I have in place, if I’m not living close to God, experiencing all that he offers, none of my plans will accomplish anything.
Somewhere, I forget where, I read these words last week: “Whatever you want people to become, you become first. Don’t work on others, work on yourself.”
Dallas Willard reenforced this theme in the chapter I read today. Some excerpts:
There is no substitute for simple satisfaction in the Word of God, in the presence of God. That affects all your actions…
The preacher who does not minister in that satisfaction is on dangerous ground. Those who have experienced moral failure are those who have failed to live a deeply satisfied life in Christ, almost without exception…The surest guarantee against failure is to be so at peace and satisfied with God that when wrongdoing presents itself it isn’t even interesting. That is how we stay out of temptation.
We are long on devices and programs. We have too many of them, and they get in the way. What we really need are preachers who can stand in simplicity and manifest and declare the richness of Christ in life. There isn’t anything on earth that begins to compete with that for human benefit and human interest.
Preachers like that are at peace. They are not struggling to make things happen.
I encourage pastors to have substantial times every week when they do nothing but enjoy God.
Henri Nouwen said the main obstacle to love for God is service for God. Service must come out of his strength and life flowing through us into receptive lives. Take an hour, sit in a comfortable place in silence, and do nothing but rest. If you go to sleep, that’s okay. We have to stop trying too hard. There may be a few pastors for whom that is not the problem, but for most of us it is.
There is a place for effort, but it never earns anything and must never take the place of God with us. Our efforts are to make room for him in our lives.
This chapter alone – just a short three pages – is worth the price of the entire book. I’ll be re-reading it often.
I’ve already talked about some of the expectations I bring to the coming year. The reality is that it all begins here: in being so satisfied with God, that it spills over to everything else I do. Thanks to Dallas Willard for reminding me once again.