Stay on Message
by Sam Stinson
"What is my strength, that I should wait? And what is my end, that I should be patient? Is my strength the strength of stones, or is my flesh bronze? Have I any help in me, when resource is driven from me?" (Job 6:11-13, ESV)
A certain evangelist once said when he was younger, he was naïve enough to believe that when there was a need to be addressed he thought all he had to do was preach about it once and the need would be met, the issue would be resolved, and the matter would never repeat itself. Perhaps many preachers have once had a similar conviction become shattered like pottery shards! Let's ask, what should an evangelist do when he's preached on a topic, nothing has changed, and the topic still rears its head like a flying banner above the camp?
Preaching is about change. Change is about not just asking those outside of Christ to repent and turn to him, permitting change, making effort, assisting change in their own lives to be holy. Change is also about those within Christ contemplating the word of God, permitting change, making effort, assisting change in their own lives to be more holy. A similar procedure follows for accepting truth: Hearing the message, accepting it, believing it, repenting from any error or mistaken understanding, confessing it, doing it. It is important to be kind and patient in intent and words before, during, and after. (II Timothy 2:23-24)
It often takes several times for a message to sink it. A thesis for discussion may have to be preached or taught in a different way, clothed differently than the last attempt, for it to finally make an impression. A preacher must stay on message, not changing the essence of truth but finding new fit words, figures of speech, examples from scripture, and life to make another run at the learning objective. (cf. Ecclesiastes 12:11-12)
Job continued to discuss his thesis with his friends, though they did not listen to him. However, Job wrongly justified himself instead of Yahweh God. (Job 32:2) Let us be on guard lest evangelists and teachers do the same through frustration, getting angry with brethren for not accepting what is true. Let the preacher or teacher continue to re-examine the issue to ensure he has accepted what is true, as he examined at the beginning prior to presentation. Constant self-examination in the face of even hostile reception may be of benefit if it does not lead to constant self-doubt. (cf. II Corinthians 13:5)
We are not to be puffed up or desire constant friction but peace in acceptance of truth. (I Timothy 6:3-4) We are not to quarrel vainly about the meaning of words. (II Timothy 2:14) But be patient with those that oppose. God may graciously grant them an opportunity to repent. (II Timothy 2:25-26)