There are several Bible verses that drive my commitment to faithful preaching. They are 1 Timothy 4:16, 2 Timothy 2:15, and 2 Timothy 4:2.
I regularly share these verses with young preachers, when I am asked for a passage of scripture to encourage them in the work.
But there is another passage that reminds me of my charge to preach the word. I rarely share this verse. It is not from the Pastorals. For that matter, it is not from the New Testament.
It is 2 Samuel 24:24.
But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.”
David sinned by numbering the fighting men of Israel. It was not wrong that the kind took a census of his army. But there was a subtle but great sin behind this census. Counting the men betrayed the fact that David was not counting on God.
The Lord was displeased with David. And he would punish Israel for David’s sin. But he let David choose the punishment. Three years famine. Three months of persecution from your enemies. Or three days of pestilence.
David responded, “I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man” (2 Samuel 24:14).
For restoration, the Lord commanded David to offer a sacrifice on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. In obedience, David asked to buy Araunah’s threshing floor, to build an altar on it. Araunah freely offered the land to the king. But David refused. He insisted on paying for the land, because he could not make an offering that cost him nothing.
Of course, this passage has nothing to do with preaching. Yet it does. It addresses anything we do for the Lord. We should follow David’s example and never offer to God something that cost us nothing.
How much more should cost us to preach the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ?
There are three costs you should pay to honor the Lord in your preaching
The Cost of Personal Consecration
David prayed, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
This is a good prayer for preachers to offer. But for this prayer to work, you must make both petitions. The words of your mouth must be acceptable in God’s sight. God is pleased with preaching that has biblical fidelity, sound doctrine, and a Christ-centered focus. But God is also looking at the meditations of your heart. The Lord is not honored if by true word from a false heart.
We must guard our hearts, so that the words of our mouth will be the overflow of our devotion to Christ. We must guard our life and doctrine. Pay whatever it costs to preach with a clean conscious, pure heart, and godly motivations.
The Cost of Diligent Preparation
Have you heard the one about the preacher who didn’t study? As he stood to preach, he prayed, “Lord, speak to me.” And the Lord did. He said to the preacher, “You should have studied!” Upon hearing that story, I concluded that I don’t want the Lord to talk to me in the pulpit. Get it?
I am convinced that the preachers that make it look easy work hard to do so. They pay the price in the study to be faithful to the text, clear in their presentation, and compelling in their argument.
How long does it take to prepare a sermon? As long as it takes. Get in the seat. Gather your tools. Go to work. And don’t quit until the hard work is done. Think about it. You have left the pulpit feeling bad that you did not prepare better. But you never leave the pulpit feeling you over-prepared. When you offer God your best work, you will sense his smile on you as you preach.
The Cost of Believing Prayer
You have prepared yourself to preach. And you have prepared the message. But there is another cost to pray. It is the cost of believing prayer.
In a real sense, the entire message should be an exercise in prayer. Pray before you begin your study. Pray as you study. Pray after you finish the message. Pray over the message. Pray for faithfulness, clarity, authority, passion, wisdom, humility, and freedom as you preach. Pray that those who hear the message will have receptive hearts and minds. Pray that the Lord would govern the presentation of the message, even as he has guided the preparation of the message. Pray that you and the congregation will encounter the Christ as you study the word.
When I was a boy, I used to hear preachers say, “Preaching and praying go together. When there is preaching in the pulpit there should be praying in the pews.” I fully agree. But there should also be preaching and praying in the pulpit. Powerful preaching comes from praying preachers.
What do you think? What other costs must the preacher pay? What costs should a listener pray to honor the Lord listening to the sermon?