On social media, Darrin Patrick once tweeted, "Prepare with fire in your bones. Preach with a song in your voice. #sermonprep".
Much attention is given to delivery when considering preaching, but in his short tweet, Darrin captured a truth often overlooked. The sweet song of the good news of the Gospel is first forged on the anvil of fiery preparation.
DRINK IT IN
"My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!" Psalm 119:25 (ESV)
A great preacher must firstly love the Word not as a source for sermons, but as the deepest source of his life and passion.
A friend of mine, a weary Pastor of a small rural church, once confided in me that he had long stopped reading his Bible, apart from looking for an outline to preach on the coming Sunday. As we prayed together, our cry to God grew in unison as we humbled ourselves in repentance. Soon our prayer became, "Lord, let me see Jesus." We pledged that day to read the Scriptures together often, and when we did, that we would do so with a heart that yearned to fall in love with Jesus every time we turned the page.
For my weary friend, reading the Bible for the sole joy of seeing Jesus was the seedbed of powerful ministry and preaching over the years that followed. Out of a life that was overcome with the glory of the Gospel came messages of hope and life for those around.
It's good for me to recall that story. It's good, because I love grammar, and syntax, and arcing, and thought diagramming, and cross referencing, and...
...and, those things are great, but I need to stop.
Pick up a readable translation (I usually use the NLT on these occasions), and just read.
Read an entire book. Read aloud. Don't read with a pen in your hand. Just read.
Read...and look for Jesus.
Only pause when you have caught a glimpse of your Savior that leaves you with just enough breath to praise.
Preacher - there is a time to stop and chew, but make a habit of drinking in the wonder of the Word. Let it run so fast that it cannot be contained. Allow it to spill over and drench your beard. Don't stop to wipe it away. Just drink. See if you can quench the unquenchable thirst God will give you.
STOP AND SAVOR
Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous work. (Psalm 119:27, ESV)
When you have drunk freely from the well of truth, the time will come when you must stop and aggressively pursue the wisdom of God in His Word.
It was Martin Luther, in recalling his earlier struggles in understanding Grace as it is revealed through the book of Romans, who said: "Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently to know what Paul wanted.”
He beat upon Paul.
Did you get that? He hammered it out!
All great preachers do this. You need to know what you're going to say, before deciding how you're going to say it.
Great preaching isn't built around an illustration or a sermon outline you found online. Great preaching is heard from the pulpit, but constructed in solitude and sweat.
Preacher - Stop. Savor. Beat on the Word.