A pastor’s top 10 words of gratitude

From Genesis to Revelation, we have the Word in our language. All of it. Readily available in hard copy or electronic form. I get to preach all that God has given us.

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By Chuck Lawless

THIRTY-FIVE years ago in September of 1983, I began my second pastorate. I had previously served as a pastor for 2.5 years, and I’d been preaching for several more years. Today, those memories have made me a deeply grateful preacher. I’m thankful to the Lord…

  1. For God’s gracious calling on my life. I know how strongly I sensed that God wanted me to preach when I was 13 years old. I was young, a brand-new believer, and I had no idea what a “calling” was. I just knew what I was supposed to do.
  2. For people who graciously overlook the preaching mistakes I cannot forget. Maybe I messed up a word, gave a wrong biblical reference, or clearly destroyed an illustration. I’ll lose sleep over it, but church folks are rather forgiving. They forget long before I do.
  3. For people who pray for me when I preach. I don’t always know they’re praying at the time, but it means the world to me when they say, “I’ve been praying for you as you bring us the Word.” I can’t explain how those simple words empower me for the task.
  4. For the opportunity I have to proclaim the Word without threat on my life. I realize that many preachers around the world have no such privilege, and I don’t want to take it for granted. None of us knows when that gift will disappear.
  5. For the fact that the Internet didn’t exist when I first started preaching. I shudder to think about the possibility of my early sermons being accessible to anyone who wants to listen to them. I have my notes from those sermons, and they usually embarrass me. I did record some sermons on cassette tapes, but I’m praying that God has consumed those with fire…
  6. For a church that didn’t fire me for bad preaching. I knew how to holler and get “amen’s,” but I sure didn’t know how to exegete the Word well. That’s another reason why I’m glad those sermons aren’t readily available (see #5 above).
  7. For complete access to the Word of God. From Genesis to Revelation, we have the Word in our language. All of it. Readily available in hard copy or electronic form. I get to preach all that God has given us.
  8. For God’s promise to use His Word even when the messenger isn’t so great. I regret that it took me a long time to realize that God works through His Word in spite of me, and I’m still learning that truth. At age 57, I’m beginning to rest in it.
  9. For a gracious God who didn’t remove me from the pulpit when He would have been justified in doing so. Sometimes I preached without praying much. Sometimes I carried my unconfessed, unforsaken sin into the pulpit. Sometimes I used somebody else’s outline without giving proper credit. Sometimes I hung around the church auditorium after preaching, hoping to hear somebody say, “Good sermon!” I’m a sinful man who needs God’s grace every step of the way.
  10. For the privilege to preach today. After all these years of struggle, pride and failure, God still lets me preach His Word. Today, I fall on my face in gratitude.

Preachers, will you join me there? Church members, will you join us there, too, and pray for us?

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