A Word for Preachers (and Hearers, too)

Maybe those street preachers aren’t quite as crazy as they seem…

This morning in my devotions I read Ezekiel 3:10-11:

Moreover, He [God] said to me, “Son of man, take into your heart all My words which I will speak to you and listen closely. Go to the exiles, to the sons of your people, and speak to them and tell them, whether they listen or not, ‘Thus says the Lord God.'”

These verses are part of Ezekiel’s call and commission as a prophet. There is a cold comfort in this word, especially as applied to preachers like me. I cam called to do two tasks: 1) take the words of God into my heart, and 2) speak them whether or not the people listen. Comforting words because it makes my job clear. Cold words because obeying God as a preacher has nothing to do with the success of my preaching. I am not successful if thousands of people come to faith under my preaching. I am not un-successful if I empty my church by my preaching. I am only successful if I have done what God has charged me to do, and He has charged me with two tasks: to listen and to speak. Nothing else. I am not responsible for the people who listen. I am not responsible for the people who don’t listen. My success and my failure is measured solely by whether or not I have been faithful to the word which God has given to me. It is a terribly simple task.

But this is a word for the hearers of sermons as well. Why? Because you need to know that your preacher or pastor is in no way responsible for your faith. It is not his job to make you listen, or make you understand, or to hold your hand into faith. It is not his job to cajole you to come to church, to hound you into service and attendance and a deeper life. All those things are your job. He only can preach faithfully; you must listen obediently. And in your heart you must do the work of attaching yourself to the word of God as revealed by the preacher of that word.

Will you do your part? I, for my part, promise to do mine.


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