By Rev Tan Eng Boo
Every Sunday I look forward to being in God’s House for worship. “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!” (Ps. 122:1). I also look forward to listening to God’s Word through the preacher. ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant hears.’ (1 Sam. 3:9). This because the preacher is God’s messenger. We must recognise the preacher for what he is – a herald of God.
Now, you may ask, “but what if the preacher does a poor job in his preaching?”
Martin Luther wrote:
“Since the preacher has the office, the name and the honour of being God’s co-workers, no one should think that he is so learned or so holy that he may despise or miss the most insignificant sermon. This is especially true because he does not know at what time the hour will come in which God will do His work in him through the preacher.”
Pray for the preacher
What we can do is to pray for the preacher. If we believe that God’s Word will accomplish His purpose in our lives, then we should pray for all the preachers who ascend the pulpit in Grace church. “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:11). The apostle Paul writes: “And pray for me….” (Eph. 6:19, 20). Paul, the preacher asked for prayer. The preacher needs your prayers too. Pray together as a family for the preacher. Pray for his preparation during the week. Pray for the delivery of the sermon on Sunday. And, pray for the congregation’s (including your own) reception of it.
The listener’s attitude
What is your state of mind when you are listening to a sermon? Listeners with bad attitudes are poor listeners. Some people listen to detect flaws in the sermon. What is your focus? Finding faults or listening to discover the truth of God’s Word? We are biased people, aren’t we? We tend to choose to listen to certain speaker/s only. Therefore, the church seems to have “popular” speakers and the “unpopular” speakers. Jay E. Adams said, “There is no way we can totally empty our hearts and minds of bias.” That may be true, but we still need to work hard at being a good listener. Remember that we go to church to worship God and a significant part of it is to hear what He has to say to us. God’s Word is more important than the words of any man. How much more ought we to give the most careful attention to it, regardless of who delivers it. “That’s why the proper attitude towards the preaching of the Word must be, “I want to learn everything God is saying to me” – Jay E. Adams.
Why is listening to preaching so important?
God speaks to us through His Word. “Hear, O Israel” (Deut. 5:1). When Jesus said, “Whoever has ears, let him hear” (Matt. 13:9), and He repeated it in Revelation 2, 3 at the concluding message to each of the seven churches, He expects His people to pay attention to what He says. These words were not aimed at the preacher but to those who are listening to him. “And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Rom. 10:14).
To the preacher
Learn from Augustine as he told the congregation –
“To begin with, I commend my inability to your prayers, that speech may be given to me, as the Apostle says, that I may open my mouth, and address you in such a way that speaking may hold not peril for me, and hearing may be salutary to you.”