(This week’s blog postings are adapted from the theme address, “Preaching Under Pressure,” presented at the EK Bailey International Conference on Expository Preaching in July.)
Like me, you probably saw those Superman shows where the Man of Steel would take a piece of coal and squeeze it and create a diamond. (Wouldn’t you like to be able to do that? No more budget problems at your church!) But did you know that diamonds are not actually made out of coal? Most coal is nearer the earth’s surface, but diamonds are made deep beneath the surface of the earth, as carbon comes under great pressure and great heat, ignited by volcanic activity. Then the rock containing those diamonds makes its way toward the surface through those volcanic eruptions. So a diamond is only brought into existence through great pressure and great heat – and the higher the pressure, the larger the diamond.
God wants to use the pressures you face to produce diamonds in your life and ministry. Like Paul, you and I must come to realize that God’s power is not realized through our oratorical power or our leadership skills or anything else we can put on display; God’s power is realized in our weakness. It is preaching under pressure that makes the difference – not because of what you and I bring to the pulpit, but because of what God does in and through our weakness.
Over 25 years of editing Preaching magazine, the most common question I am asked is, “So who do you think is the best preacher?” Usually the questioner expects me to name some well-known preacher that they’ve heard on TV or radio or at one of the great preaching conferences. But I typically answer in this way: “The greatest preacher in the world is someone you and I have never heard of. Right now he is toiling away faithfully in a small town where the main factory just closed, or he is pastor in a village church in the African bush, or he is right now sitting in a Chinese jail cell because he refused to stop preaching the gospel. We don’t know who he is, but someday as we are gathered around the heavenly throne, all the other preachers and leaders who were so well known will stand to one side as the Father calls this humble, faithful servant into His presence, and says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You withstood the pressures, and though you never saw them with your human eyes, I took your weakness and from it produced diamonds that will last for all eternity.”
God wants to use the pressures you face to produce diamonds in your life and ministry. Don’t be afraid of the pressures, because God will use them to ultimately display His power and glory.