Bible teachers and preachers regularly experience a degree of anxiety right before they take the stage to speak on behalf of God. After all, that’s a pretty serious representation, and a reverential heart should recognize the weightiness of such responsibility; however, to say such an experience is common is different than saying it is required.
I regularly hear conference speakers claim that if someone isn’t nervous before they stand up to declare the words of God then something is wrong. I'm not sure this is right. For one thing, personal experience cannot be the normative standard by which someone provides a blanket declaration for all God’s people.
The truth is that I usually don’t get nervous before preaching. When I first started preaching, I did. But for years now, I’ve been hesitant to say that I don't get nervous any more, because there are plenty of godly men indicating that I ought to be! Recently, I sat down and reflected on why I don’t really get nervous, and why I don’t think that's a bad thing.
I determined that when these three mindsets are present a confident calmness reigns over my life, not nerves.
Have I adequately prepared? Have I studied and meditated upon the appropriate implications of this passage? Do I genuinely believe that what I’m about to say is truth from God? Have I examined my own heart in light of these truths?
Preparation is critical. I know a pastor who prepares by listening to country music on Saturday night to get inspired, and then he writes his sermon. Such preparation merits a great degree of nervousness before speaking, but in contrast, if the heart has been consistently exposed to the truths of the word throughout the week, if the mind has studied the contextual truths present, if the person has faithfully prepared, then why is it necessary to be nervous?
Am I relying on my own power or the power of the Spirit of God to transform lives? Do I really believe that God has called me to this task? Do I also believe that the God who has called me has adequately equipped me? Do I believe that God will ultimately communicate the message he has for his people to his people?
Acknowledging the source of genuine power is critical. The word of God is powerful on it’s own accord (Heb 4:12), and the Holy Spirit is the one who guides the hearer into all truth (John 16:13; 1 Cor 2:10-13). Where does my confidence lie? If my confidence is in myself, then I should not only be nervous but down right terrified. If my confidence is in God, then what do my nerves communicate about my belief in God’s power and ability? I’ve found that the more confident I am in God accomplishing his will through the preaching of his word, the more a steady calmness fills my heart and mind.
I’ve been here before. I’ve preached and taught God’s word for years. God has always been faithful to use his word even in spite of me at times. Experience helps steady the boat. Throughout the Scripture, God reminds his people of the past in order to provide them with confidence in the presence. Preaching and teaching should be no different.
So, the truth of the matter is that I’m not nervous, and that’s not bad since I’ve prepared, since I recognize the source of true power, and since I’ve been here before.