When the Preacher Bothers You

by Bill Denton

"Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do?'" (Acts 2:37).

"Two Chinese jugglers have been making a public exhibition of their skill. One of them is set up as a target, and the other shows his dexterity by hurling knives that stick into the board at his comrade's back, close to the man's body. These deadly weapons fix themselves between his arms and legs, and between each of his fingers, they fly past his ears, and over his head, and on each side of his neck. The art is not to hit him. There seem to be quite a number of preachers who are remarkably proficient in the same art in the mental and spiritual departments."

—Charles Haddon Spurgeon
The Quotable Spurgeon

Let's be honest. The truth is that a lot of us are quite like the fellow who served as the target for his knife-throwing partner. The idea behind the knife act is not to get hit.  Similarly, a lot of people who hear preachers on Sunday don't want to get hit either.

Over my 30-plus years of preaching, I've heard occasional comments that let me know someone didn't appreciate getting grazed by a sermon. "That was one of those "toe-stepping sermons this morning, preacher!"  Or, "Brother So-and-So should have heard that one today, preacher!" Or, more blunt and to the point, "I didn't like what you said today one bit!"

There is good news, however. The great majority of people are not like this at all. Though it is often painful to have one's heart pricked, as happened to Peter's audience on Pentecost, most of us seem to understand that it's a necessary pain that results in something good. Nobody likes to be confronted with his failings, his shameful actions, or his sin-filled words. We don't like to be told we are wrong, and we don't even like correction. Most, however, understand that God must undo some things in us before He can do something better.

I'm personally thankful for people who understand that in my role as a preacher, I'm not trying to be judgmental, hard-hearted, obnoxious, or holier-than-thou. Most of the people I've had the privilege of preaching to have understood that every sermon had to first run through me before it got to them. I hope all who ever hear me preach hear what I say as if I were sitting on the pew next to them, part of the audience, and sharing the need to hear God's corrective word.

Our hearts are often made hard and impenetrable by our pride, our ignorance, stubbornness, and rebellion. Sometimes it takes a sharp instrument to cut through the tough shell to get through to us. God must get our attention and we must understand the depth of our problems before we will open ourselves up and yield to the Father's will.  Next time your preacher bothers you, listen up. He might be saying something you really need to hear!

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