Lesson 2 -- first quarter 2006
June 11, 2006
© Copyright 2006
Got wisdom? Get the message!
Have you ever thought, "What a boring speaker"? Or perhaps something like, "I don't know why they ordained him; he has neither depth nor perception." Or how about this one: "I never get anything from his public talks." I have.
As a public speaker, I want to be interesting and worth listening to. I want people to anticipate my talks. I want to be perceptive and practical in my presentations. I could go on and on, I suppose, but the point is this: It is so easy to miss the real mission and purpose of any Christian teacher, preacher, speaker. I can miss it so easily as the speaker...and I can miss it so easily as the listener.
Can you imagine listening to Paul preach? "I...came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom.... I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom..." (1 Corinthians 2:1,3,4). If a brother spoke publicly like this, we would have quite the array of thoughts and attitudes...and comments also, no doubt. And they likely would not be all that complimentary and charitable.
Am I being too uncomplimentary and uncharitable here? If so, it is no more directed at you than at myself. The fact remains that I believe we often want to be entertained in our listening. When was the last time I went to a service because I needed nourishment, challenge and correction? When was the last time you listened to a preacher because you wanted to hear what God had to say? "Last time," indeed!
Now let's backtrack to the second paragraph so I can ask you this: What ought to be the real mission and purpose of any Christian teacher, preacher or speaker...and listener?
That's it! No more; no less. As Paul put it, "Declaring unto you the testimony of God" (1 Corinthians 2:1).
When a Christian stands before an audience to preach, teach or otherwise speak, he has the holy duty of presenting the revealed wisdom of God. He should be concerned with presenting the message in a coherent, interesting, compelling way, but that should not be his primary focus. No, I am not excusing inadequate preparation or careless presentation. While it is true that the vehicle can distract from the message, it is also true that the vehicle must never be allowed to become or supplant the message. So, speakers, get the Message! And get it well. All other elements of your public presentation are secondary.
When a Christian sits in an audience...it should be to listen for the Message from on high. If I as a listener get distracted by the speaker's stuttering or lack of polish, that becomes my problem just as much as his. If I am turned off by his obvious fear or his dull presentation, his "failure" has become my loss...and that's my fault. So, listeners, get the Message! And get it well. All else is secondary.
1 Corinthians 2:2 haunts me sometimes -- "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified."
What if this means that Paul was not interested in hearing anything from the Corinthians that didn't pertain to Jesus and His crucifixion? What if this means that our conversations and letter writing ought only to be about the Lord?
I wonder what your favorite topic of conversation is. Perhaps that is too broad; I wonder what you talk about after church services. How often do you discuss the devotional, the topic, the message, or the Sunday School lesson? In my own experience (both talking and listening!), I find other subjects coming up more naturally. We find it easier to talk about the events of last week or the plans for next week. We prefer to discuss work, cars, gossip, crops, quilts, computers, books, babies, Tupperware, dresses, sports, current events, and politics. Do people know me as one zealous for the Lord...or easily distracted by "other things"?
We humans tend to focus on those things and issues which affect us and which matter most to us. Perhaps the Lord doesn't matter as much to me as I think He does. Perhaps His crucifixion and resurrection have not affected me as much as I think they have. If He doesn't, I want Him to; if they don't, I want them to. I want the Lord to be the focal point of my congregation and that means He must be central in my life first of all. That is what I want! Do you?
I believe that we at times fall into the trap of talking about spiritual things just to appear "spiritual," but our hearts are not in it. This shows we treasure the wrong things and the wrong people. The Bible tells us that our hearts will be where our treasure is. May the Lord help me to get my treasure straight, my heart refocused, and my tongue more in line with 1 Corinthians 2:2.
Oh, I suppose you might face the dilemma I face sometimes. I would like to talk with someone about the service, but I can't think of what to say! By the end of the service I can't recall anything of great significance. It is at such times that I remind myself that I ought to be listening with more intensity. Perhaps one of the core problems is that sometimes I do not go to a service to be blessed or instructed or nourished or encouraged. At times a sense of obligation compels me to go; other times I go to be entertained or because I need to talk to a certain individual. No wonder I can't discuss the message right after dismissal! Can you identify with that?
Well, perhaps your "out" is that you cannot express spiritual things very adequately. You feel awkward and ill-at-ease. You are afraid of saying something theologically off-beat or doctrinally erroneous. You are not given to great profundity. Then notice the verses surrounding verse two. Paul was highly educated, all right, but his oratory was not eloquent. Furthermore, he experienced a certain fearfulness! But he spoke and preached anyway, declaring what he knew of God and allowing the Spirit to speak and reveal what he could not.
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