|One night a big storm rolled through and our power went out. Total darkness surrounded us unexpectedly. We waited a few minutes to see if it was short lived or not and then we lit all the candles we have strategically (and because I think they’re pretty) placed throughout our home. Then we did two things: we thanked God for the rain that we so desperately need and we kicked back while the storm passed. While I was kicked back I began thinking about darkness. In the Bible darkness usually represents evil, sin, or the absence of God. Just like last night, sometimes darkness surrounds us because the power is out. Sometimes it is because we live in a world where darkness is present and trying to overcome the light. As Christians it is our duty and privilege to bring light into the darkness. So, when we are faced with darkness, we do not let the darkness define us or our circumstances. We hold the key, or should I say the candle, to light the darkness. We have to decide whether our candle remains just a piece of wax or if it is lit and will overcome the darkness. To light that candle we call upon the name of Jesus. We do not fear, because time and again in Scripture He tells us not to be afraid. We garner our courage and strength from the Holy Spirit to do whatever is necessary to face that darkness. Your light, the light of Jesus Christ that lives in you, will overcome any darkness you may face if you call upon His holy name. That’s a guarantee. After all, Jesus (remember He lives in you) overcame the darkness of death. Now because you have conquered darkness once doesn’t mean the darkness is gone from this earth never to return. But it means that each time you face darkness, you become that much stronger and encouraged that you do not face the darkness alone—ever. John 1:5 reads, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Jesus is that light; Jesus lives in you; you carry the light wherever you go; therefore, wherever you are, darkness will not prevail. My beloved, go light your world!|
SERMON KILLER #1: FAILURE TO ADEQUATELY PREPARE
“The interest of the audience is tied directly to the preparation of the presenter.” – Nancy Duarte
“If I only had more time to prepare my sermons, I know I could do a better job.” – Most Preachers I Know.
We’ve all been there. The fatigue from preaching this Sunday’s sermon wears off only to be exchanged with the pressure of
preparing for next Sunday’s sermon. I would love to tell you that we’ve created a pill that provides you with more time to
prepare. If we ever do, you’ll be the first to know. Well, you and the FDA.
The reality is this – there will never be enough time. You will never find enough time.
How’s that for some encouragement?Instead of wishing for the elusive dream of “more time” what we need to do is leverage better the time we have. We can all
leverage our time better.
From here on out, you hereby have the permission to place your sermon preparation at the top of the list of your priorities.
Go ahead and block a full day every week for this. Let’s start with Wednesday. No meetings. No hospital visits. No
interruptions. One full day each week.
We all know what it feels like to be prepared. Those are the days that preaching is fun. We also all know what it feels like to
not be prepared. And here’s the scary part. The audience can tell. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking they can’t. They’re
smarter than that.
SERMON KILLER #2: THE SERMON GOES TOO LONG
“Make sure you have finished speaking before the audience has finished listening.” – Doroty Sarnoff
I’ve rarely met people who say, “That was a good message, but I wish it was a little bit longer.”
Brian Croft of Practical Shepherding encourages pastors to determine the length of the sermon based on “where your
people are, not where you think they should be.” We must push our people, but we can’t push them beyond what they are
capable of receiving. A great message be hindered with twenty extra minutes of material, or the one last story.
Just because Mark Driscoll preaches for upwards of one hour, doesn’t mean your audience is ready for that much
information. I know Ezra read the entire book of the law “from morning until midday” (Nehemiah 8:3). In Acts 20:7, Paul
preached until midnight. Most of us haven’t developed our skill to the level of Mark Driscoll, and the Puritan preachers
didn’t preach two-hour sermons to an ADD generation.
SERMON KILLER #3: TOO MUCH CONTENT
The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do. ~Thomas Jefferson
Good things, when short, are twice as good. ~Baltasar Gracian, The Art of Worldly Wisdom
A sermon shouldn’t be a shotgun – spraying a wide array of points in the general direction of a target. Instead, it should be
a rifle, taking aim at a specific issue.
Too many points is no point at all. When you give 10 Ways To Do This or 7 Ways to Do That in a 30m inute message,
your people are drowning in a sea of bullet points. By the time you’ve reached the third sub-point under Main Heading
B, people are done. Too much content leads to information overload, and instead of thinking about what you’re saying,
people shut down their minds
What is the single most persuasive statement I want them to remember? Drill down on that one point; dive deep into
that one thing.
If you have too much content for one message, make it a series. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to say
everything on a subject in one message. It’s okay – in fact, it’s beneficial – to leave people wanting more.
SERMON KILLER #4: TOO FEW STORIES
Max Lucado writes: “In this post-modern culture in which we live — where people question absolute truth — they are
resistant to platitudes; they’re resistant to me making declarations of truth to them. A story can do that in kind of a Trojanhorse
fashion. Truth can arrive within the story and ride latent — a bit incognito — within a story, and people are more
prone to receive it. I think one reason is our society is just less open to platitudes, more open to stories.”
Studies have consistently shown that people more vividly remember ideas that move them emotionally. We remember
what we feel, more than what we hear.
Stories connect emotionally with people. And people will remember stories laced with Biblical truth far more than
the carefully worded bullet point list. I’m not talking about a cliché story from an Internet search or a Book of Sermon
Illustrations – I’m talking about a developed story with emotional depth.
Jesus’ teaching was full of stories. Matthew 13:34 says, “Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not
say anything to them without using a parable.”
Rick Warren gives three benefits to using stories in preaching:
1. Stories hold our attention. The reason television became so popular is because it’s essentially a story-telling device,
whether you’re watching comedy, drama, the news, or a talk show. Even the commercials are stories.
2. Stories stir our emotions. They impact us in ways that precepts and propositions never do. If you want to change lives,
you must craft the message for impact, not for information.
3. Stories help us remember. Long after the outline is forgotten, people will remember the stories of the sermon.
SERMON KILLER #5: NO CLEAR A CTION STEP
Most people listening to your sermon live in the status quo. In fact, they are naturally resistant to anything that challenges
the ordinary. This makes clarity even more important
What do you want people to DO as the result of listening to your message? That question should permeate your
preparation. The Bible tells us faith without action is dead, so keep people’s actions in mind as you wrap up. Point them in
a clear direction.
• In a sermon about serving, hand them a card with three serving opportunities.
• In a sermon about marriage, give husbands a practical challenge to plan a date with theirs pouse in the next seven days.
• In a sermon on faith, ask people to write down an area of their life where they need to act in faith.
Help people put feet to their faith by giving a simple and clear action step
The Christian life is meant to be marked by simplicity. Jesus summed up our purpose with two statements: love God and love people. But in our humanity we have made complex what God designed to be peaceful, purposeful, and simple. A. W. Tozer remarks in The Pursuit of God, “Every age has its own characteristics. Right now we are in an age of religious complexity. The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations and a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart. The shallowness of our inner experience, the hollowness of our worship, and that servile imitation of the world which marks our promotional methods all testify that we in this day, know God only imperfectly, and the peace of God scarcely at all. If we would find God amid all the religious externals, we must first determine to find Him, and then proceed in the way of simplicity.” May we discover the peace and joy that come from pursuing a simple Christianity
“For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.”- 2 Corinthians 1:12
Often, we are kept from living lives marked by the joy and peace of our heavenly Father because of our continual pursuit for more. Humanity’s first sin was pursuing more than God intended for us, and the enemy continues to entice us with that temptation today. A core value of the world is more: more money, more fame, more friends, more success, more happiness, more possessions, more of anything, because we feel dissatisfied with our lives. We are constantly grabbing for that which will never fully satisfy in the present or lead us to a lifestyle of continual satisfaction.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:12, “For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.” Simplicity is a God-given discipline that prunes the dead branches of waste that effectually deplete us of the energy, time, and provision with which God has blessed us. When we make the decision to stop pursuing more, we step in line with the Spirit and place our trust and faith in God rather than our own understanding.
You see, at the core of a continual pursuit for more is a lack of faith in God’s goodness. If we truly believed God provides all we need, we would never step outside his provision and strive for more. Adam and Eve questioned God’s goodness and thereby brought the destructive nature of sin into humanity. They decided for themselves what was enough rather than trusting God to know what was best for them.
Our own forbidden fruit takes on all sorts of forms. We work our fingers to the bone for a taste of greater success all the while forgetting who it is we are to work for in the first place. We take God-given financial provision and waste it on worldly pleasures rather than investing it into that which will actually satisfy us. We take what we receive from God and use it to finance self-indulgence rather than sharing it with those whom God wanted to use us to bless from the beginning. And we take the valuable resource of time and waste it on pursuits that were never God’s intention to begin with.
We desperately need transformation and training in the discipline of simplicity. In order to experience joy and peace that transcends circumstances and position ourselves through faithfulness to receive more of what God longs to give, we must offer our time, energy, and money to God and follow the guidance of his Spirit and word.
Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Take time in guided prayer placing all your treasure in the only place that can offer you eternal investment: with your heavenly Father.
| The Prayer
1. Meditate on the importance of simplicity and the destructive pursuit of more.
“No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Luke 16:13
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5:15-17
2. Reflect on areas of your life that are not marked by simplicity. Ask the Spirit to convict you of anything you need to get rid of. It’s incredibly important to note the difference between guilt and conviction. Conviction from the Spirit is always done in love and will always bring you inner peace and joy as you follow through in obedience.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
3. Commit to ending the pursuit of more by trusting in the provision and goodness of your heavenly Father. Place your trust in him alone and ask him to guide you into a lifestyle of simplicity.
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:31-33
“For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.” 2 Corinthians 1:12