A friend of mine from Florida, Pat Weinmann, posted the above photo on my facebook page. I clicked and it has been shared 34,000 times and liked by more than 9,000 people. So, it definitely resonated with many viewers.
I appreciate Pat sharing it. And the message is accurate. A successful 30 minute sermon is preceded by hours of research, reading, prayer and study. In fact, it is often the cumulation of years of preparation that result in the presentation.
Like most preachers, I have been asked to preach when visiting a congregation on vacation. I vividly recall once being asked right before the worship began. I sat down and said to Norma Jean, “They asked me to preach this morning.”
Our daughter, Rachél, was sitting between us and asked with some concern, “Dad, what are you going to preach?”
As the first song began, I leaned over to her and whispered, “I don’t know yet.” Her response was a look of amazement and wonderment. Of course, that sermon was the result of prior preparation that could be delivered without notes on a moments notice.
However, in reflecting on the importance of preparation, I’m reminded of a famous quote by Abraham Lincoln, “I will prepare and some day my chance will come.” The principle of preparation is witnessed in every successful profession and endeavor in life.
It is true in the world of sports. “Champions do not become champions when they win the events, affirmed Alan Armstrong, “but in the hours, weeks, months and years they spend preparing for it. The victorious performance itself it merely the demonstration of their championship character.”
Sometimes an athlete or team is called “lucky” when they win. But I prefer the analysis of the legendary former football coach of the Texas Longhorns, Darrell Royal, who once quipped “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
When you see a successful business person, you only see the tip of the iceberg. Their failures, hard work, long hours and investment of effort, energy and resources are often forgotten or overshadowed by their success. My friend, Bob Andrews, always encouraged upcoming entrepreneurs with this advise, “Spectacular achievement is always preceded by less spectacular preparation.”
I’m reminded of the story of woman who attended the concert of a famous pianist. Following the show she approached the pianist gushing over his performance and said, “I would give my life to play the piano like you.” To which the artist simply replied, “I did.”
The importance of preparation is no less important when it comes to Christian living. Faithfulness. Spirituality. And Bible knowledge.
The apostle Paul advised his young “son in the faith,” Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
The concept of spiritual preparation is embodied in Jesus’ parable of the 10 virgins who went to meet the bridegroom. 5 were wise. And 5 were foolish. The wise were prepared with extra oil for the their lamps. The unwise were unprepared when the bridegroom came and their lamps went out because they had no oil. Jesus exhortation was “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (Matt 25:13).
Spiritual preparation is anchored in regular Bible study, persistent prayer and weekly worship. Christian maturity is realized by daily developing the Christian virtues, growing in the fruit of the spirit, and applying the wisdom of God while shunning the wisdom of the world (1 Pet 1:5-10; Gal. 5:22-25; Jas 3;13-18). Benjamin Franklin’s sage counsel can be applied to Christian living, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Preparation requires a vision for the future, personal commitment, rigid self-discipline, and a laser-like focus. And it is done daily in seemingly small, yet important actions that produce long-term results. As H. Jackson Brown put it, “The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.”
Always remember, when you see a life well lived, like a good sermon, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman