March 22, 2015
I did something I’ve never done today.
I have been in the Singida region of Tanzania, Africa for about two weeks. This morning I visited a church that I’ve never been to before in nearby village. I had prepared a sermon on The Need for Love from 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, that I had intended to share. But during the worship service, I felt the Holy Spirit leading me to preach instead on True Worship from John 4:23.
I have always been skeptical of preachers that say that God changed what they were going to preach right before their time to speak. I believe it is more of an emotional response to something they saw or felt. I believe the Spirit can lead us when we are preparing, and that He would show us ahead of time just what we would need to say. There would be no need of a change of direction. This is something I’ve taught my homiletics students. Yes, I believe at certain times, in certain circumstances, and for some reason we might discover the correct direction right before we enter the pulpit, but it’s not the norm, and it would be negligence on our part to expect it to always be that way.
So here I am struggling with this. If this is the message I was to preach, why didn’t I get it before when I was seeking God for direction for this service? Was I just responding to something I saw in the service and was thinking to correct it in my human wisdom? But the leading was really strong, so while the people continued to sing, I wrote down a brief outline and some Scriptures on the back of my prepared notes. Then Jacob, my translator, leaned over and told me that the song they were singing at the time said, “They that worship God, must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” Ok. I don’t understand all the details, but I get the message God.
And so I preach on True Worship. The people follow every word. They pray. They seek God. The pastor calls for special prayer for those that are discouraged. Many come forward and get help.
This is great, and I’m thanking God for His great work. But somewhere at the back of my mind I’m still wondering why I prepared the wrong sermon in the first place. And as the service is winding down, the pastor leans over and asks me if I’m ready to preach a second time.
Yes, I am, actually.
So they make some announcements, sing a few more songs, and I preach on the Need for Love.
Could God have had me prepare both sermons before hand? Yes, but it would’ve taken a lot to convince my human reason that I needed to have two sermons ready for one service. Instead he tested my faith during the service to see if I would follow Him even though I didn’t understand all the details.
Written by Matthew James Derocher who writes about biblical subjects and teaches in a Bible college in Tanzania, Africa. You can follow him on Twitter