Missionaries are given the immense privilege of representing God’s heart to both the nations and the church. When we return from our fields of obedience, we are invited into pulpits—grand and humble—to speak on behalf of both the lost and the Lord. We are feted and lauded, which can lead to pride. We observe shallowness and performance, which can lead to a critical spirit. The more we travel and speak, the more we must beware our own hearts. I sat down this weekend and wrote out some warnings to myself:
- I do not deserve the pulpit; I have not “earned” it.
- I am not better than the ones I preach to.
- I cannot presume God’s favor or anointing.
- I cannot live in sin and call others to holiness.
- My life has to match my exhortations.
- I can’t rely on old sermons. I am responsible to give God’s flock fresh bread. If a sermon is to be re-used, it must be fresh to my soul.
- I cannot allow any whisper of entitlement into my heart. I am not owed praise, respect, attention, or any financial offering.
- I cannot think my looks, height, posture, style, or natural ability is important, nor that natural gifts can in any way impart divine life to the hearer.
- I cannot waste God’s time or money with half-hearted preparation, reflection, passion, or effort.
- The flock must see and feel that I love them, and more importantly that I love Jesus.
- My spirit must be gentle even if my words are hard.
- I must have true humility and lowliness. Nothing is as proud or as disgusting as false humility, whether to the individual or before the congregation.
- I must care more about what God thinks than what man thinks and must obey His promptings and speak as His oracle.
- If I do not ascend to the pulpit clothed and endued with the Holy Spirit, I am immediately exposed as naked and foolish before God, and it will not be long until I am exposed as a fraud before all men.
- I must have a holy terror of speaking in my own strength or from my own wisdom. I must have a heavenly horror of speaking what is false, exaggerated, or misleading. I must be terrified of speaking one word without the covering and impetus of the Spirit.
I noted with sadness this weekend that even if all is said in the right spirit and under God’s authority, some ears remain deaf and others hear selectively. We cannot control our hearers, nor are we responsible for how they hear. We are responsible for what and how we speak. It is incumbent on us to speak the words of God in the way and in the spirit He requires. This is a fearful and awesome privilege. God help us. God watch over our hearts and lips.