I write this on the eve of the Sunday worship service of our church. Why? The aim is to be experientially in tune with what I am going through in the heat of the moment as I prepare for what I consider to be the weightiest task on Earth— to deliver God’s Word to Gods people in God’s church. So I have cut out a bit of time to “jot down” some thoughts. I am reminded of why I try not to schedule anything, particularly Saturday night as I finish my sermon and begin to set my thoughts supremely upon that supernatural event called preaching. What is racing through my mind, some times with great anxiety is; “did I prepare enough”, “did I pray enough”, “do I have a handle on the text”, “will the people grasp the magnitude of the truths that I have labored over.”
What races through my mind is the assurance that God will bless His word. Also, not just that the church will think it was a “good sermon” but that it is effective that is produces genuine worship, conviction and transformation in lives of God’s people. Hours of labor and I don’t want it to go to waste. So I think of things to say that will drive home certain points. I make adjustments to my manuscript. I anxiously await the internalization process that lies before me.
I take approximately two hours every week on this. One hour Saturday (rarely Friday) night when the sermon, must be finished, and Sunday morning so that when I rise, the content of my sermon is the first thing that fills my mind. I don’t eat, I don’t turn on music, TV, cook, exercise, nothing— internalize, internalize, that is all my mind is consumed with. I don’t feel well Sunday mornings. I am often not even in a “good” mood. I rather not talk until I arrive at church. I do talk to my wife because I don’t need more anxiety I need less. But she will testify that our drives to the church are mainly a one-way conversation. All I can think about is delivery, clarity and the point of pulpit-contact.
In addition to all of the sermon prep is the heart work. There is always the thought of what the church is going through, where I want the church to go, and my failure to be a more effective minister of the gospel. I think of my audience. The lives represented before me. Their needs and their sanctification. I pray for the church, worry for the church, and hope that God keeps sickness to a minimum so that members don’t miss the preaching of the Word of God. I could never be a “flat screen preacher”, I want to see my people face to face and stand with them under the Word and before the face of God as we gaze at the eternal truths of Scripture together.
I am also watchful. Praying that God will crush the works of Satan. The enemy usually has something prepared specially for me and something for the church. So I anticipate warfare in the way of division, distraction and deflation of zeal, love and hope not only in my heart but in the hearts of the people as well. I sincerely pray against this every week.
At the forefront of my mind is also the maturity of my people, their sins, sanctification, and reverence. I pray that God shows me growth in a new person, joy in a new way, servanthood from those on the fringes. I am reminded of those who seem to be involved, those who seem as though they don’t desire to be, those who are faithful in attendance and those who seem to miss too often— again I worry. Staring in the face of Sunday is a curious balancing act of worry and worship. I worship God that, I, the chief of sinners, have been called to this chief of all privileges in the world; to preach the unfathomable riches of Christ. I worry that nothing I do or say will burn on the last day. I worry that God’s church not only comprehend but apprehend the truth.
I have honestly come to appreciate the wearisome nature of my task. It’s all mental. Turning pages, typing and clicking a mouse doesn’t require a lot of physical strength, not that there isn’t a physical toll (last year my right ribs collapsed on my sternum from reading), but the toll is above all internal. I honestly ask myself at times where the strength for the next 30 hour study week will come from. In this way I can honestly say, I am carried by God and His all-sufficient grace. So on that note, back to work.
Soli Deo Gloria
Emilio Ramos is the preaching pastor of Heritage Grace Community Church. Pastor Emilio is committed to the expository and exegetical teaching of the Word of God. Emilio is also the author of Convert, From Adam to Christ and the founder of redgracemedia.com- a media ministry devoted to the glory of God’s redemptive grace through Jesus Christ. He and his wife Trisha live in Dallas, TX.