Preparing sermons to me is like parenting. It seems to require SO much of what I DON’T have. Because of this, I often wonder, “Lord, am I doing all this myself? Where is the fruit ... I don’t feel like a good parent this week. Are you with me, my kids and family?”
It was earlier in the week that I prayed, “Lord, will you please show me that you are with me?” There was a lot going on with my house and financial affairs in NC, my wife being gone for two weekends in a row (missing her), conflict within the kids, people in the congregation with troubles and other stuff that I felt like I was carrying on my back. I was burdened.
Honestly, I have ALWAYS seen God answer this simple prayer because it appears to be ‘user generated’; like God were saying, “it is time I just touch Jonathan; I think I’ll prompt Him to ask for that”. Well, it is sometimes it takes a day and sometimes a week or more, but He always does SOMETHING so subtle and kind and I always remember, “oh yeah, I prayed for that!”
Well, Sunday morning that prayer was answered; I had a GREAT experience that really encouraged my faith. A busy week of being with people pushed my sermon prep towards the weekend. So Saturday night I was up until 1:30am getting the sermon together (speaking on Colossians 2:16-23). Like most sermons I was wondering, “God, are you in this with me? Should I be doing something I’m not so I feel you are more involved than I feel right now? Are you even speaking through me, or is this all Jonathan?
I woke up BEFORE my alarm, which was set for 7am (so I could put some last minute touches on my sermon). This should have been the first indication God was up to something because I NEVER wake up before my alarm when I’ve only had about four hours of sleep. When I woke up, the first though in my head was about the Scripture of the woman caught in adultery (John 8). Very random. But it was almost like the thought had been planted there, so when I woke up it was automatically downloaded – like Microsoft Update – into my consciousness. Cool.
So anyhow, I was not awake enough to connect how John 8 had anything to do with the sermon...until I was typing it out on my computer. Seeing it all before me, it was only then that I could see God wanted me to preach the Gospel (our sin, His love, mercy and forgiveness) ... even out of Colossians 2 where I didn’t see any Gospel (even though I’d been reading the passage for a week). Shame on me. Seems like God is not ONLY very intelligent, that He knows the Scriptures much better than me, but also that He is passionate that His people be reminded that ONLY within the context of our BIG sinfulness do we understand the need for a BIG Savior.
This John 8 wake up experience was a very simple, subtle and pure moment of knowing God is still with me; doesn’t that make all the difference in the world in terms of our confidence, and our prayers. I’ll chew on this one until I sense the need to pray that prayer again ... only to once again have an experience where He taps me on the shoulder and says, “I am.”
"When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power." 1 Cor 2:1
P.S. If you want to hear how I believe God wove it all together, click here. John 8 is at the end of the sermon.