I remember hearing Joe Stowell speak several years ago and him telling those of us in the audience that he wanted us to listen to God during the weekend’s sessions. “You can stop listening to me anytime you want,” he said, “but don’t stop listening to God!” He went on to share that sometimes people will come up to him after he has spoken and tell him how encouraged or challenged or blessed they were by something he said and, after they share what it was, he cannot remember even saying that. “So do I tell them, ‘I didn’t say that! Forget the blessing!”? he asked. Of course he does not do that. His point was that sometimes the Lord, through the Holy Spirit, pricks our hearts or our consciences and speaks to us beyond the actual words we are hearing.
I understood Stowell’s point when I heard it, and I probably even thought to myself that I had experienced that or could imagine experiencing that, but in the past few months two specific instances have brought Stowell’s point vividly to the forefront of my mind.
In the first instance someone told me after a church service in which I delivered the sermon that they found one particular phrase so neat and meaningful that they had written it down. Only the phrase was one I did not even remember saying! It got me to thinking, so later I went back and looked at my notes and it was indeed something I said; it was part of a quote I shared from someone else, actually.
Then, just this past Sunday, I had the experience that all speakers and preachers dread. In the very midst of my message I felt as if I was really struggling. Though I did not let it show (I hope) there were times in the back of my mind that I was literally thinking, “This is terrible. It isn’t making any sense. You’re just floundering up here. There’s no excuse for this!” Needless to say, when I sat down I was not feeling real good about the message. Interestingly, several people approached me afterwards to comment (positively) on the message and to discuss specific things that were meaningful to them. One of these individuals was a gentlemen who never says anything after my messages other than basic platitudes or polite comments–things like, “Thank you” or “That was a good message.” Funny, isn’t it, how the one message I felt did not go well at all was the one that was meaningful enough to prompt him to say something deeper than he usually does…
Stowell’s point, and mine in writing this post, is that we humans are the instruments through which the Lord chooses to work, and when we have that privilege we should be grateful for the opportunity. However, we must never allow ourselves to believe that anything we may have to say is particularly impressive or important. Never should we allow ourselves to get focused on or caught up in our own accomplishments or oratorical skills or pleasing turn of phrase. Instead, we must seek to remain true to God’s Word, to share it as accurately as we can and then, quite simply, to do our very best to just get out of the way.
As Joe Stowell said, you can stop listening to me anytime. After all, nothing I have to say is all that important anyway.