Last week in my blog, I was talking about our need as followers of Christ to have a “commitment to excellence”. Let me share with you my own experience in learning the importance of giving God my very best. Sometime after I became a student at Philadelphia College of Bible, I was invited to be the closing speaker at a retreat for the church my wife and I had been baptized in and married at a few years before. We had been gone from that church a year or two and they heard I was at Bible College and invited me to be their guest speaker for the closing session on Sunday morning. This was going to be my first actual preaching opportunity. Well, I hadn’t prepared and I got up and shared a few devotional thoughts from a passage of Scripture and that was it. I was horrible. It didn’t matter that people complimented the message; it wasn’t what I was supposed to do. As we left the lodge to take a walk that morning, I was struck with a deep sense of conviction for not being prepared and not giving God my best. I immediately confessed my sin to God and told Him if He ever gave me another opportunity to share His Word I would do everything I could to communicate His Word with excellence.
Sometime later during my first preaching class at Philadelphia College of Bible, following one of my sermons, the professor made a comment that has stayed with me to this day. He stated, “It was like a well prepared meal that didn’t taste very good”. He could tell that a lot of preparation went into the message but it just didn’t connect. Paul in the 2nd letter to Timothy tells us in the 2nd chapter “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the Word of Truth” (v. 15 NIV). I remember feeling very devastated by the comment about the “well prepared meal” as any cook would. I am sure since then I have preached many messages that just didn’t connect (it was over 25 years ago). But I always come to the task of sermon preparation as a workman who doesn’t need to be ashamed. I want to put maximum effort into my service for Him because I want Christ to be glorified through my efforts to serve Him.
Finally, I am reminded of Paul’s words to the Galatian church which was trying to satisfy God by following the law. In the 6th chapter he writes “May I never boast except in the cross our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (v. 14 NIV). Whatever gifts or talents I may have are purely because of the great God who is at work in and through me. Without the cross of Jesus Christ setting me free from the bondage of sin and the slavery of the addictions I had when I met Christ, I probably wouldn’t be alive today. Anything I have accomplished is because of His awesome power and amazing grace. But my response should be to give Him the very best I have to offer for His glory. I prepare the meal and He serves it in the power of His Holy Spirit. Let us offer to God our very best with a commitment to excellence and see what Jesus can produce.
For the Glory of Christ,
Pastor Rich Sivo