1 Timothy 4:16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
These are pertinent words for any minister of the Gospel! There is a tendency for anyone to stress one side of that or the other, but both are of great importance. What we teach is of course important, but if we aren’t living it out ourselves, it becomes meaningless. Examples abound of ministers who have derailed because of this very issue. Perhaps one root of the problem lies in our attitude toward the Word in the first place. When the Bible is approached as an academic object, there is no life in it. There are denominations that require academic testing before ordination, but to me that is totally missing the point. Our calling is from God, and the focus must be on Him, and the Bible as His Word to us. It is all too true that familiarity breeds contempt, and people who deal with the Bible regularly, as of course preachers do, have a strong temptation to disconnect from the truth they are studying and proclaiming. That is disastrous, and I think it is what Paul is warning against here. We must always approach the Word with joyful anticipation that God is going to speak to us through it, so that we may in turn transmit that to those who hear us.
Sometimes I have problems with people thinking I am aiming sermons at them, and some have gotten offended. They don’t understand that I must and I do preach first to myself. If I ever think a sermon I preach is “for them,” and fail to apply it to my own heart and life, I have stepped onto a slippery slope indeed. Perhaps one reason sermons come to me so readily is because I need them so much! At the same time, it breaks my heart to see people hear the message and fail to appropriate and apply it to themselves. I see so much needless suffering in people who have heard God’s truth but have failed to receive it. I need to be faithful in praying for hearing ears and hearts, in myself as well as in my listeners. Because of the Internet, I have no idea how many people, much less who, hears the Word through me, but God knows every detail, and I can trust Him with it. If I will pray for hearing ears for my listeners, He will apply that appropriately!
Father, thank You for the immense privilege of proclaiming Your Word. Thank You for modern media that allow that message to go out far more broadly and easily than in past generations. Thank You for the possibility that has come up of live streaming our whole worship services, rather than just having the messages as podcasts. Guide in all the details of that, human as well as technical, so that whatever we do, we will do it Your way. Help me be faithful in sitting at Your feet to hear what You are saying, applying it first to my own heart and life so that it will be undistorted as I share it with others, in order that the Body of Christ may be built up, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!