Editor’s Note: The weekend can be an incredibly distressing time for many pastors to enter into. The desire to spend quality time with family while juggling the pressures of an unfinished sermon can be an exhausting reality. What many pastors need are not more tips on how to prepare better sermons as much as some encouragement to better prepare their hearts to preach the sermon they have. Join Ronnie Martin every Friday for The Preachers Corner, where he offers some words of comfort and stories of hope to help preachers enter the weekend encouraged by the gentle and lowly heart of Jesus.
Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. Psalm 69:1,2
Oh man. It’s hard to say if part of David’s angst in Psalm 69 was due to an overwhelmingly busy schedule, but I do know that my schedule has me feeling a lot like what David is describing. I can attest that since the beginning of this year, I have had little to no margin to catch my breath or collect my thoughts. I feel like I need to pay royalties to the person who invented the phrase “keeping my head above water” because it’s the only way I know how to illustrate my life some days. The problem is that, as pastors, we can become so bombarded with busyness that preaching feels like a side job we’ve been hired to do when we get around to it.
So what do we do when the demands of ministry feel like drowning in waters so deep that everything around us, including our preaching, seem to be sinking in the mire?
Here’s a few questions I’m trying to consider:
What Is God Speaking To You?
We have the tendency to think that our busiest moments drown out the stillness of God’s voice, and that is certainly true. But let’s not miss that God uses the chaos around us to cut through the noise, too. David acknowledges that You, God, know my folly; my guilt is not hidden from you (Ps. 69:5). As preachers, God uses the sweeping floods that surround us to form the person He has called to preach. Ponder what God is speaking to you, because He is always speaking to those He has called to speak for Him.
What Does the Deep Mire Reveal?
When all you seem to be doing is fighting for steady footing, what does this tell you about the places you keep trying to stand? For reasons we only know are good, God gave us 168 hours per week to work, rest, eat…and preach. When we put ourselves in places that offset the balance God created, we create a sense of spiritual vertigo in our minds, which is the sensation that all the important things are spinning uncontrollably around us. Maybe it’s time to sit down and consider the ministry mire you’re sinking in, how you got there, and what it would look like to be rescued from it, as David pleads in Psalm 69:14, Deliver me from sinking in the mire… There might be practical implications here but start with prayer, so that your preaching reveals a more reflective heart to your people, and to the many who are in the same deep waters as you are.
Are Limitations Your Friend?
David pleads for God’s love and mercy because he is acutely aware of what his life amounts to without them. David knew his limitations, and they weren’t his enemy, but rather the catalyst for entrusting himself to the Lord.
Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me. Hide not your face from your servant, for I am in distress; make haste to answer me. Psalm 69:16-17
Are limitations your friend? Because they’ve been given to you by God so that the end of yourself is something you embrace with increasing clarity. Befriend your limitations. See it as a tool in the hands of God that is united to His heart for your preaching and pastoring.
Your people need a preacher who knows their limitations, because they need to understand theirs and make a beeline to the cross, where limited people find an unlimited God who helps those who are up to their neck in the waters of life find the oxygen of Jesus.