One of those nights, my father came into the front room and heard me crying. He demanded to know what was wrong.
I told him about what happened and how I felt about it. And I concluded I didn’t know if I wanted to preach any more.
When I finished my rant, my father said he understood and he would not sit up with me all night.
“The only advice I’ll give you is this,” he said as he got up to head back to bed. “If you can keep from preaching, do it.”
He continued, “If preaching is something you can get into and out of when you want to, it’s a sign the Lord did not really call you. So if you can choose whether you are going to preach or not, I recommend you don’t preach.”
That was all he said.
He then turned and disappeared into the darkness of the hallway as he went back to his room.
I was angry at how seemingly unconcerned my father was. I was also surprised at how his advice (or non-advice) was exactly what I needed to hear. By the Lord’s gracious help, I was able to pull myself together.
And I continued to preach. And I am still preaching more than 20 years later, to the glory of God.
By the look on my friend’s face, I am not sure he found my father’s advice to be very helpful. But it definitely helped me. Again.
As I wrestle with frustrations over my need to grow as a preacher, and as I face the various, inevitable challenges of my pastoral assignment, I need to be reminded my calling is not my choice.
I keep preaching because I do not have a choice. And I pray I will never have a choice in the matter. May the Lord graciously choose to continue to use me to herald the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.
“For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” – 1 Corinthians 9:16 (ESV)