It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming. Only a pastor can relate to those words in terms of sermon preparation. It’s Friday, and right now nothing is coming for Sunday. I’m a psychologist, but I’m supposed to preach the sermon. I’ve tried to find a sermon on the Internet, and I kept booting up in the wrong shoes and browsing in the wrong rooms. I looked in my files under “sacred,” even “top sacred,” and I came up empty. I have one great illustration, but no sermon to go with it.
Rick Warren, a friend of mine, has a purpose for his whole church; I can’t even find a purpose for my sermon. When I call “dial-a-prayer,” I get the wrong number. Things aren’t looking good for a great Sunday.
But I have to deliver a sermon. I’m God’s mailman. He’s counting on me to deliver His message, and this generation won’t listen unless it’s first class with their name on it. Right now this sermon may be delivered Bulk Rate for any occupant.
I might need to preach one of those “Hell Fire” sermons. If I can’t get them to see the light, surely I can get them to feel the heat. I need a snappy title, something like “Turn or Burn,” “Fly or Fry,” “Sanctified or French Fried.” This isn’t working. Maybe I could preach “The Sermon on Amount” and tell them to give all their money.
The last time I preached, the worship leader said I preached a “Long Horn” sermon. It had a point at each end with a lot of bull in the middle. It’s easy for him to be critical. He doesn’t have to write his material. All he has to do is sing someone else’s stuff. I took it like the spiritual man that I am and told him his song wasn’t as bad as it sounded. He told me I wasn’t as ugly as I looked.
Well, Sunday comes, ready or not. I managed to come up with a sermon with one point — and I finished on time, which is crucial. Remember, those who finish in a flash will last.
It probably wasn’t my best sermon; I made a few mistakes. Without realizing it, halfway through I started calling Samson “Tarzan” and my dramatic closing line of, “Do you want to end up like Tarzan?” wasn’t very effective.
It bothered me a lot, so over lunch Penny and I talked about it. She had some good advice: “Forget the sermon, Charles. Trust me, the congregation already has.”
Then it happens. I start the next week and meet someone who tells me that what I said in my sermon changed his or her life. I start to feel proud and think to myself, “Maybe that sermon was good. Maybe it did have a purpose.”
I ask, “Exactly what point of mine changed your life?” It was probably that great illustration. The person tells me, and I can’t believe it. That isn’t what I said. It’s good, but I didn’t say it. When I was younger, I used to correct people and try to convince them that I didn’t say what they thought I said. Now I just say, “Thank you, I’m glad you were encouraged.” Why do I accept their compliment? Because even though I delivered junk mail, they received it as first class and personal with their name on it. It’s not like Ed McMahon showed up at their house, but they heard a still, small voice.
It all goes back to Friday and Sunday. Friday’s dead message becomes Sunday’s live message. Friday’s mess becomes Sunday’s miracle. What they heard was God. God used what I said to meet their needs. I don’t understand it all. Every time I talk about how God uses me, I remember the donkey in the Old Testament. It’s unexplainable.
It’s like the little boy who caught some lightning bugs. His mother asked how they light up like that, and he said, “God does it.” She asked, “How does God do it?” The boy thought about that for a minute and then said with confidence, “Remote control, of course.”
Well, I don’t know how He does it either. In the panic of Friday, don’t forget the power of Sunday, and thank God for remote control.