Stories. We love them. From a young age we are indoctrinated by story. Bedtime stories, nursery rhymes and cardboard books dominate our childhood. As adults, we are just as addicted. Movies tell stories. Music communicates story in an emotive way. Even sports usually have a storyline running through them as we cheer for the underdog to overcome all obstacles to defeat their hated rival.
What’s your story? You might not think it’s much, but it’s yours. God has given you a story to use for His glory.
My story is simple. I grew up in a Christian household with godly parents. At the age of 16 I thought I wanted to preach. My home minister scheduled my first sermon for a Sunday night service. Blessed with a preaching grandfather and a teaching father, I had many resources to pull from to write a sermon. With the vigor of youth I zealously researched, wrote and rehearsed. I was determined that it would be the greatest sermon ever preached. In my mind’s eye I saw people repenting with tears, the waters of the baptistry rippling and fire from heaven consuming those who would defy the Lord (what can I say? I love the Old Testament!) Oh the naivety of youth!
The day came and I approached the pulpit with confidence. The pulpit was old school in design. It was elevated on an elevated stage and boxed the speaker into a fixed position. As I laid my Bible and notes on the pulpit a ‘gust’ of air blew and all 30 pages of notes fell off the pulpit to the floor below. Two things happened. First, I learned that numbering pages is a must. Second, I learned the power of prayer as I gathered the notes from the floor beseeching God that they be in the right order! In my rehearsal time the sermon took 45 minutes. When I reached the pulpit, again, I noticed the people (who knew people would be there!) and I sped-read the notes, not caring if they were in order, and finished in under 5 minutes.
As I shook hands after the service I was touched by the good Christian people who tried to be encouraging. Some offered pats on the back, others lied to me and said it was good, a few simply smiled and shook their heads as if to say, ‘Nice try. Find a plan B.’ I no longer thought I wanted to preach. One of the deacons, my future father-in-law in fact, handed me a slip of paper with a scripture scrawled on it. He told me to read it when I got home. I thanked him and placed the now wadded up paper in my pants pocket and promptly forgot about it.
Fast forward a couple of hours as I sulked in my bedroom. I argued with God over His calling. I know, it’s stupid to argue with God, but I was determined that He made a mistake. As I prepared to bed down I cleaned out my pockets and discovered the piece of paper. The Scripture scrawled on it was 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. As I read it, I began to weep at Paul’s words, “When I came to you brethren, I did not come to you with wisdom or superiority of speech. For I resolved to know nothing among you except Christ Jesus and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and fear and with much trembling and my message was not with wise and persuasive words, but in demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” As I read those words through the tears in my eyes I realized my mistake: preaching is not about me. It must never be about me. It’s always and forever about the God who called me. I no longer thought I wanted to preach, I knew I wanted to preach.
That’s my story. So far.