Preparing a sermon is hard work, and that is a good thing. There is no question from the Scriptures that a pastor’s primary work is to preach and teach the Word of the Lord. While there are many other spiritual works of the pastor, no duty should come before the work of teaching.
As our brother Paul tells young Timothy, pastor at Ephesus, “Be diligent to present yourself to God as one approve, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). A shepherd must give instruction; he must give illumination to and from the Scriptures so that we may “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” (Jude 1:3). It is within this charge that the pastor must be committed to hard work of prayer, study and presentation. Each of these disciplines should be committed to the Holy Spirit, that He might do a great work in the household of God.
Pray for direction
You may have heard it said before, and I echo, that prayer is where the pastor’s sermon begins. While we preach from the Scriptures, we must be mindful that the Lord does a work in our hearts, He prepares our hearts to speak truth and teach truth. The pastor must be sensitive to the direction the Lord has for each congregation. Each church is not only unique, but each church is at any given time in a unique situation that needs spiritual instruction. Psalm 32:8 says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”
The Lord is not distant; He is near. He is near the pastor when making his appeal to the Lord. So, make your appeal to the Lord. Before you preach, before you prepare, make your appeal and trust that the Lord will direct you, so you can instruct His people well.
Study through Scripture.
When the Lord convicts the pastor of a book or text from the Bible to preach he must next come to understand this text. Pause. It is sad that this may need to be inserted, but it is necessary: the pastor is called to preach from the Bible, to preach the Holy Scriptures, the Word of the Lord.
Paul also instructed Timothy saying, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” (1 Tim. 4:13). Paul emphasized the act of expositing the Word of the Lord, by reading it, by explaining it, by clearly teaching it. So, we search the Scriptures to understand the scriptures. The best commentary on Scripture is Scripture. The pastor would be wise to use the tools and resources that have been handed down from theologians, scholars, historians, and other faithful shepherds. However, he must not forget that the Scriptures teach together; they are held together by a special kind of thread, a spiritual thread, and an eternal thread. No matter your text, study through the Scriptures to better understand that unique text.
Present with clarity
There are no two pastors completely alike in sound, mannerisms or style. It does not matter how close you sound to Spurgeon, Rogers or Piper. What matters is that you present the Scriptures with clarity.
In 1 Tim. 1:7, Paul says, regarding those who have become false teachers that, “They want to be teachers of the law, although they don’t understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on.” The only thing worse than a false teacher is a false teacher who doesn’t even understand what he is saying.
Paul is drawing a distinction between the false teacher and the good teacher. The good teacher understands the Gospel and delivers it with clarity. In the local church, the integrity of the Gospel message is held by the good teaching of the Gospel message. Good teachers present with clarity. This is helpful to the preacher because it reminds us that simple is best. Not because people need simple instruction but because simple means clear. The good teacher can distill eternal truth into a clear message.
It takes prayer, study and practice. It takes hard work because it is a good and eternal work.