The request came by telephone a week or so before Christmas. Was I still doing pulpit supply? And could I speak on January 3? With a quick and easy “yes” response to both questions, the date was set.
I even knew exactly what I would be speaking on. Just a week or so prior to this request, my column had been about Moses and the children of Israel encamped in the wilderness desert for 40 years.
In front of them lay the Promised Land which they were convinced could not be overcome because of giants. Behind them was the Red Sea, a formidable barrier to retreat, and around them were mountains. Thus, they were basically trapped, and for help they had to look up.
Well, what better start to a new year? Look back at the one past with its joys, sorrows and challenges, basically our Red Sea, and ahead to the unknown year, the Promised Land, with whatever giants it would hold. The message was obvious – our only source of help is to look up.
So, with that firmly entrenched in my mind, I didn’t really sit down to study until the week before I would be preaching. Then, I got out my Bible in a couple of different translations and some study books.
I poured over the Scripture lesson. I searched the commentary and other sources. Nothing stuck out. A message just wouldn’t come together. I read. I studied. I tried writing. And still, nothing!
I laid everything aside for the day and went on about some other things that needed my attention. Surely, tomorrow would be better.
I prayed, “Lord, give me the message you want me to use.” (By the way, I do that for this column as well.) By morning, I knew I had to search farther.
I went to my computer files to see what I could find. Now, these files are not very well organized and it’s almost anybody’s guess what a title might mean. So, when I saw one entitled “Joshua and Caleb”, I pulled it up. After all, they were vital players in the story I had been working on.
Surprise! Surprise! Yes, Joshua and Caleb were there but they were definitely not the chief players. (Strange title for what I found.) What I did find, however, was very suitable for the coming of the new year. Now I had the bare bones on which to build a message.
I spent that day building that message and was blessed by it – by the outcome of the day’s study and work, by the message itself, and by the very fact that when I prayed and asked God to give me the message He would have me deliver, He did!
I really, truly know He does answer prayer. I’ve been on the receiving end of His answers so many times – specific prayers for specific problems or needs. He really does answer.
I know better than try to write a sermon or a column without consulting Him. Yet, that is just what I did!
When I took myself and my know-it-all attitude out of the picture and put God and His desires first, He gave me the message He had already chosen. It’s also good to know my church was praying for the delivery of the message that day. And it went well.
Because I (we) prayed.