We go through the unbelieving world 6 ½ days per week, bombarded with evil thoughts, suggestions, and images from friends, strangers, TV, billboards, salacious “news” articles on the internet, and advertisements that show up on our smartphones or tablet computers. Then, once day a week, for a short period of time, we attend Church. How often in the Church do the weekly exercises seem stale or futile in contrast to all of the evil influences that surround us daily? How often does it become just a humdrum routine to go to Church every Sunday morning? The rest of the week, you barely have time to think. And when you plop yourself down in the pew or maybe a chair at church, it can be hard to draw your mind from the things on your mind from the upcoming week. Did I remember to thaw the hamburgers? Will the truck be fixed by tomorrow morning? Will I have enough time to complete my assignment by Tuesday? And besides these relatively harmless topics, there are thousands of fears, resentments, and bad thoughts going through our minds because of events or temptations that are lingering on our minds. But, for the moment, you are in Church. So what? What could be so special about this comparatively small portion of your normal weekly routine? Is it really that important? What life-changing good could possibly be accomplished in this very short time?
Worship at Church includes several elements according to the Bible, all of which are vital to this regularly scheduled meeting of God with His people. In particular, there is: prayer, praise, and the reading and the preaching of God’s word. But the central part of worship that I would like to focus on right now is the preaching of the word in a sermon from Scripture. A flawed human preacher gets up to give us a word from God. His voice is frail. He stymies a word or two. He drags on for 25, 30, maybe 35 minutes. The hearers are tired, and a bit uncomfortable in their seats. Can it really make a difference in the life of the gathered body of individual Christian believers? Yes!, because God has promised to use this humble sermon to build us up in our covenant relationship with Him.
1 Thessalonians 2:13 when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
God says that His word preached works effectually in believers. But do we believe this? I am convinced that much of the ineffectiveness of preaching in our day is due to a lack of faith in God to work through it to make it effectual. This lack of faith is found on the part of the preachers and the hearers. How often do we approach God’s word preached in giddy expectation, not of what the preacher’s talents can achieve, but of what God will do for us through it? How often can be said of our preaching and hearing, what was said of Jesus’ own countrymen, that, He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief? (Matthew 13:58) God will work through preaching, but He requires that we have faith.
Faith is a trusting in God to use the preaching of His word to convince people that they are hopeless sinners under God’s wrath and curse for their sins. It believes that truly born again Christians hearing the word will be strengthened in the “inner man,” built up in greater faith, holiness, love for Christ and one another. By faith, we believe that God will send His Spirit in to the hearts of the hearers to make them able and willing to hear, receive, believe, and do His will. Faith inspires the preacher to preach with bold confidence that God’s word will not return void, fearless as to what reaction he might get from some people. Faith provokes churchgoers to await a word for God with eager expectation with ears itching not for entertainment value or a quick completion of worship ceremonies, but for the sincere meat of God’s word which will nourish them. Are we going to hear in faith? This is the type of hearing that God has promised to bless.
God blesses His word when it is both preached and heard with expectant faith.