14 July, 2024

‘Preaching with No Regrets’

by | 1 July, 2024 | 0 comments

By Chris Philbeck 

I’m writing this on the Monday after Bob Russell was guest speaker at Mount Pleasant Christian Church, the church I’ve served for over 22 years. Bob delivered a powerful message called “Keeping Calm in Troubled Times” from Philippians 4:4-9. In his typical fashion, Bob used humor and personal stories to bring the text to life in a way that made a huge impact on all who were present. It was a tremendous weekend.  

The Power of the Word 

As I sit here thinking about the message, I am reminded once again of the power of God’s Word. In a day and age when many preachers simply “reference” the text of Scripture, Bob preached the text, not just verse-by-verse but line-by-line, and in some portions, word-by-word. He also reinforced each of his sermon points with other verses and passages. The message primarily revolved around what Paul said about anxiety in Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). Bob began by sharing four practical truths about anxiety, and then he used the text to provide four very specific cures for anxiety in everyday life.  

Recently while looking for a reference for a monthly devotion I write in a community newspaper, I came across a podcast whose title caught my attention: “Preaching with No Regrets.” The podcast, as it turned out, wasn’t about preaching, but that title stayed with me. Most every preacher will tell you they have a certain number of regrets in their life when it comes to ministry. I certainly do. But I don’t want to have any regrets when it comes to preaching. One of the best ways to make sure that never happens is by committing to always preach the text of Scripture. 

The Bible is an old book. Its earliest sections were written more than 3,000 years ago. But that doesn’t mean the Bible is out-of-date or irrelevant to modern times. We must always remember it’s not our job to try and “make” the Bible relevant. Tim Chester shared two dangers with this approach in a Lifeway Research article aptly titled, “Stop Trying to Make the Bible Relevant.”  

First, we misapply the Bible by making it say something (more) contemporary. “When you make the Bible say something,” Chester wrote, “the chances are you’re communicating your thoughts rather than God’s thoughts.” The second danger is even greater. “If we think the Bible isn’t a contemporary word, then we’ll be tempted to update it . . . to make it fit our culture.” We must remember that one thing that makes the Bible so special, and so relevant, is that it is a “living word.”  

Living and Active 

Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” In context, the Hebrew writer is talking specifically about the promise of the rest in Hebrews 4. At the same time, however, these words describe the entire Bible, which is alive through the Spirit of God and the power of God.  

More than 3,000 people heard Bob’s message, plus the students in our Next Gen ministry and hundreds of people who worship at our four satellite campuses. How many of those people do you think struggle with anxiety? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 30 percent of U.S. adults experience some kind of anxiety disorder. As someone who’s been the pastor of a local church for almost 45 years, I think that number is low. But I can tell you from personal comments and testimonies that those people were challenged, they were blessed, and most important, they were instructed by a straightforward and practical message on how to deal with anxiety that came straight from the Bible.  

In fact, this morning I received an email from one church member thanking me for what he called “the remarkable service yesterday.” He went on to write some very complimentary things about Bob’s message and what it meant to him. Then, he ended the email by writing, “I was recently told that I have a probable ALS diagnosis and have been on disability since January. I am 47 and have three school-aged children. It’s been overwhelming.” I’m so grateful this man was able to hear Bob’s message from Philippians 4.  

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 Paul wrote, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The word Paul uses for “thoroughly” means “completely outfitted and fully supplied, decked out, furnished, and equipped.” I love that! 

There is a verse that becomes more and more meaningful to me with every passing year. “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception” (Proverbs 14:8).  

There have been times in my life when I thought, Maybe I need to reinvent the way I preach, or Maybe I need to be more creative in the way I preach. Perhaps you’ve had those same thoughts. But this past weekend I had a front-row seat (literally) to the power and significance of preaching God’s Word in a straightforward way, with humility and authority. And it reminded me of Charles Spurgeon’s words of long ago: “Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years.”  

We can trust in the power of God’s Word.  

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