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The Cumulative Effect of Taking in God's Word

Monday, July 23, 2007

Yesterday after church I was involved in an humorous and interesting conversation.

During the morning service, I had preached a message on Biblical change from 2 Corinthians 2:18. Following the service, we had a meeting and then after the meeting folks were preparing to leave and a lady from church commented to me that the message was "an excellent message" (no, that is NOT the interesting part :) ), to which another lady who was nearby replied, "Yes, it was - and so was last week's message." The first lady replied something to the effect of "What was last week's message, again?" And the lady who had commented on last week's message said, "I can't remember, but it was really good."

Then there was a pause while both ladies tried to remember what last week's sermon was about. (And while I also tried to remind myself of what last week's sermon was about in case they asked me - while I am currently doing a series on Right Thinking from Philippians on Sunday nights, I am not currently in a series on Sunday mornings.) After a short delay, the one who had originally made a comment regarding last week's sermon remembered that it was in Isaiah, which then triggered everyone's memory (including mine) that it was on Isaiah 6 and the holiness of God.

The thing that struck me as interesting was the fact that the individual could remember "it was an excellent sermon", but not remember anything about it. Now, I don't fault her for that but it does seem kind of strange - yet I can completely understand it.

I have listened to well over a thousand sermons in my life. Some of those sermons have been excellent sermons - sermons that I have even made it a point to listen to a number of times. However, I would guess that there are probably only a relative few sermons that I have heard that I can still remember the sermon now. I can remember one sermon from my Youth Pastor, Ron Hamilton (not THAT Ron Hamilton) on "God Can Use What You Have." I can remember a sermon by Dr. Jim Berg on "What it Means to Know God" that I first heard on a Sunday in Rodeheaver Auditorium (it was preached during the summer on Sunday AM service). If I sat here and tried, but it would still be a relatively small number compared to the totality of the sermons that I have heard, but that is not necessary for my point.

If I am typical (and I have seldom been accused of THAT), why bother preaching sermons? After all, if people are not going to remember them anyway, is it not just a waste of time?

My answer to that is "NO." It is not a waste of time. I am convinced that there is a cumulative aspect to the intake of the Word of God that affects our Christian growth. When you and I take in the Word of God (whether it be via hearing a sermon, reading the Bible, studying a passage, meditating on a passage or whatever), there is an affect from that intake - even if we cannot actively sit down later and remember what we learned from a particular sermon.

The way that I like to illustrate it is this: (I am sure I borrowed this or adapted this from somewhere, but I have no idea where).

My mom was/is a great cook. She made excellent meals and I know that I enjoyed a bunch of those meals. However, there are only a few meals during all of the time that I grew up that I can remember. I remember Mom's lasagna (wow, my mouth almost waters thinking of it). I remember the pork chops and fried apples meals that we had as a special treat. I remember some polish sausage and fried potato meals. However, when I think about it, there are a lot of meals my mom fed me that I have no recollection about at all. Yet (and this is the important part), those meals fed me and helped me grow.

So, the next time you start to think - why bother doing the work necessary to prepare and preach this sermon - OR - why bother going to hear another sermon that I am going to forget anyway, stop and remember this illustration - while we may not be able to remember the specific details, these spiritual meals can still feed a soul and help it grow.

Andy Rupert posted some similar (but briefer) thoughts from Pastor Ashbrook over here at Isle Kerguellen that kind inspired this post.

Just my thoughts,



Barbara H. said...

What a neat illustration. It's true -- I remember a few sermons in detail. One from J. B. Williams on grace at one of my first Bible conferences at BJ has stayed with me for years, as well as a series Dr. Minnick did on I Cor. 13. There are so many more I don't remember, but I know they shaped my thinking and character over the years.

Thanks so much for your comment on my "blogiversary" post. I was surprised. Even though my blog is in my signature as SI, I didn't figure any men ever read besides my husband. :) I appreciated your very kind words, and I'm so glad to have been a blessing to you and your wife.

I have been here a few times from SI. I always appreciate your thoughts and the spirit in which you express them.