In the two previous posts, I made the case that looking after the health of our souls is not a luxury, but a necessity, for all who preach and teach God’s Word. This is true whether we preach to an entire congregation, teach a Sunday school class or lead a small group.
Soul care for a preacher or teacher involves making personal commitments to cultivating a healthy devotional life and personal holiness Here’s a third commitment I’ve found important.
I will preach the Gospel to myself every day–especially Sundays.
No matter how committed we are to walking in humility and holiness, we will stumble at times. It’s impossible to walk through this fallen world and not dirty our feet and muddy our souls. Our sense of God will become obscured at times. We will lose the relish for spiritual things.
And yet, Sunday still comes as scheduled. It comes whether or not our sermons are ready. And it comes whether or not our souls are ready.
If I had to choose, I’d much rather step up to preach with my sermon unfinished than my soul unprepared. One of the worst burdens preachers can carry is the weight of standing to preach when we can’t honestly sing, “It is well with my soul.” Preaching with a sullied soul leaves you feeling like a poseur, not a preacher.
That’s why as preachers we must not only preach the gospel to others; we must begin by preaching the gospel to our own souls. On Sundays when our souls are clouded over by grief or guilt, we must preach the gospel to ourselves before we preach it to others. We don’t presume upon God’s mercy and grace, but we still preach it to our own hearts.
As preachers, we are right in seeing personal holiness as a prerequisite for faithful and fruitful proclamation of God’s Word. We must constantly heed Paul’s instruction to Timothy: “Watch your life and your doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16). If we are to be “useful to the Master” we must be cleansed (2 Timothy 2:20-21).
But the subtle danger for us as preachers is that we forget our usefulness is still based on God’s grace. Jerry Bridges is right when he reminds us that on our worst days we are not beyond the reach of God’s grace and on our best days we are not beyond the need for God’s grace. Preaching the gospel to ourselves helps us remember God’s grace.
So when our sense of God is obscured by foolish or sinful choices, we must come back to the cross, claiming the gift of forgiveness Christ procured for us through His death and resurrection. When we are tempted to feel our sins and failures render us unworthy and unusable to God, we remind ourselves that we are forgiven not because of the depth of our sorrows but because of the death of God’s Son (Ephesians 1:7). We don’t earn our way back into God’s good graces. We come boldly, by faith through grace, to find grace and mercy in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).
Preachers need to preach the gospel. Starting with ourselves. Especially on Sundays.