How To Help The Preacher Preach

Title: How To Help The Preacher Preach

Bible Book: James 1 : 19-25

Author: J. Gerald Harris

Subject: Hearing; Commitment; Dedication; Preaching



This evening I want to speak on the subject “How to Help the Preacher Preach.” I have never professed to be a great preacher, but I do believe that you can help me to become a better preacher of the word of God. I don’t want to be like the new preacher who had been in town for about six months, and two neighbors were talking about him one day. And one said, “Yes, our preacher has a real problem. He suffers from foot and mouth disease.”

The neighbor said, “Well, what does that mean?”

The woman said, “Foot and mouth disease—he won’t visit and he can’t preach.”

Now, I really don’t want that to be said of me. I want to be a better preacher I believe that you can help me to become a better preacher. Someone has wisely said, "Great preachers don't always produce great churches, but great churches always produce great preachers. I mean, you want to get the most out of these messages. You want to get the most out of these worship services. I mean, anyone wants to get ten cents out of every dime. You want to get every possible mile out of a gallon of gasoline. You want to squeeze every minute possible out of life. You want to get the most for your visit to the theater. You want to get the most for your visit to the opera. You want to get the most out of your visit when you go over there to see the Falcons, the Yellow Jackets or the Bulldogs play. You want to get the most out of your visit to the concert. How much more you should want to get the most out of the worship experience and the message proclaimed from the pulpit in the house of God?

James, in out text, offers some very significant suggestions concerning how you can help the preacher to preach; concerning how you many profit supremely from the proclamation of the word of God.

I. Notice What You’re To Do Before The Sermon

James gives us some very helpful information concerning what we’re to do before the sermon; before the corporate worship experience. Now, as I begin to study this passage of Scripture, I suddenly came to the stark realization that the preparation for worship must begin with the pastor. Because so often I can look into the congregation and see weakness and realize that it is but a reflection of my weakness. The truth of the matter is that the most difficult thing for me is not preparing the message to deliver, but preparing myself to deliver the message.

Because, you see, I believe the word of God ought to be preached with conviction. I believe it ought to be preached with power. I believe when we come together for public worship it is a time when God's glory can uniquely come down from heaven and fill our souls with joy.

Richard Baxter said, "I preach as a dying man to dying men, never sure to preach again."

And old preacher stopped by to hear a young colleague. And after the sermon was over, he said to the young fellow, "I suppose you're tired."

The young preacher said, "No. Preaching doesn't wear me out."

The old preacher said, "Well, son, when a man preaches somebody gets tired."

I've been thinking about that. Somebody does get tired. And I so want to give myself to the preparation and the proclamation of the gospel that my very life will be spent in the process of doing so. But then, not only does the proclamation and preparation require and demand much of the preacher, but it requires much of you, the hearer.

Now, there are some things that we need to do before the sermon. First of all, he tells us what to do with our words. Look in verse 19. He says that we're to be "slow to speak." He didn't say "slow of speech." He's not talking about slow talking here. We southerners are kidded a good bit about our slow talking. And I sometimes do not realize how slow we talk until I see somebody from the south on television. They get somebody from Mississippi or Alabama on The Wheel of Fortune or one of those game shows on television, and I'll say to Martha Jean, "Is that how we really talk down here in the south?”

I heard about this old southern boy who joined the paratroopers. He'd never jumped out of a plane before. So they said, "It's real easy. You just jump out and you count to five and you pull the cord and everything will be all right.

So he jumped out and he was going down and he was passing all of these guys who had jumped out ahead of him. One of them heard him counting, "Thre-e-e-e, Four-r-r-r, Fi-i-i-ive... ."

He's not talking about slow talking here. But he means slow to talk. In other words, he's warning here against hasty words. He's warning against talking too much. It is reported that Benjamin Disraeli said of one of his contemporaries, "He was intoxicated with the exuberance of his own verbosity." Folks, I'm afraid that the disease shows no sign of abating, either among politicians or Christians.

I think it would be far better if most of us would listen more and talk less. Too many of us put our mouth to miming before our mind is in gear. God has made us with two ears and one mouth. We should use them accordingly.

There's no telling how much harm is done by wrong words. There is no telling how hurtful — quick, hasty words can be. I mean, when you're getting ready to come to church. By the time you get the children in from play; by the time you get them something to drink; by the time you get them in the car and on the way to church, you have probably said something that you did not really mean to say. But in the press of the moment you said a hasty word that you regret. So before you get to church, be careful what you do with your words.

But there’s something else. James tells us what to do with our wrath. Look in verse 19. He says, “slow to speech, slow to wrath.”

Now, there is a connection between your words and wrath. Words can fuel your anger. You think about it. Have you ever noticed how your words can stir anger in the home? I mean, you know, she says something in anger and that gets you all worked up. Then you fire something back. Angry words emerge. Why, murders have taken place that started with angry words. Our wrath is fueled and stirred with excited and moved to do things we would never, ever do.

Then notice what it says in verse 20 of our text. It says that “the wrath of man does not product the righteousness of God.” It does not produce the kind of righteous life that God expects. We don’t help the cause of Christ when we get angry. We don’t help the things of the Lord when we get mad.

In fact, I'll tell you what we'll do. We'll hurt the cause of Christ. Some of you harm the cause of Christ by your displays of anger and your temper tantrums out there in the workplace. When a Christian out here in the business world, and when a Christian out here in his daily life allows hard and hateful words to emerge from his lips and anger to pour out of his life, he does untold harm to the Christian faith. People will see that and they will go away mumbling, "If that is Christianity, I don't want any part of it."

But let me tell you why you ought not to get angry before you come to church. It is because anger will render you absolutely unfit for worship. Someone has wisely said, "Anger is a wind which blows out the lamp of the mind." I mean, if you're angry you cannot think the way that you need to think when you enter the house of God. Your mind and heart have been poisoned by anger.

So James tells us what to do with our words. He tells us what to do with our wrath. But then, if you'll move on down to verse 21, you'll find that he tells us what to do with our wickedness. He says, "Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and overflow of wickedness."

Look at the first part of that. It says, "Wherefore lay apart all filthiness." The word there means "moral defilement." Literally, the word in the Greek means "wax in the ears," the old filth and dirt and wax that gets in the ears.

I heard about a fellow who was standing on the street comer who had a banana in his ear. A fellow came by and said, "Hey, fellow, you've got a banana in your ear."

He said, "Huh?"

He said, "I say, you've got a banana in your ear."


He said, "I said you've got a banana in your ear."

The man said, "You'll have to talk a little louder. I've got a banana in my ear."

Now, what he is saying is that we've got to get rid of all that which puts the wax in our ears. You've got to get rid of all of that sin, all of that dirtiness, all of that filthiness. Some of you cannot receive the word of God because your ears are filled with the moral defilements of the old life.

Then he says, "Get rid of the overflow of wickedness." That phrase means "all of the residue of malice; all of that old tangled undergrowth of sin that came along with you into the new life."!

There are some people who teach when you get saved, you get perfect at that point. What you've got to do is just live a perfect life from then on out. A lot of people get discouraged in the Christian life because they have mistakenly understood that when they come to Christ, God just removed all of that old life from them and now they have got to live a perfect life.

Listen, when you get saved, you do receive the gift of the new birth — that's right. But when you come into the new life, you bring with you all the residue of the old life. As you go along and as you study the Word of God and as you live the Christian life, you will be absolutely amazed and saddened at how much of the old weeds and rubbish of the old life still lingers in your heart. God says, "You'd better get rid of all of that; all of that old malice; all of that hatred and hostility." He says, "Get rid of it."

How can we really make much headway in our worship of God if our hearts are defiled and our hands are unclean? Before you can have God's best you must let him search your soul and show you that unclean thing, and then remove it.

Are you jealous? You'd better put your jealousy aside. You can't worship with jealousy in your heart. Are you critical? You'd better put your critical nature aside. You can't worship while possessed with the demon of criticism. Are you angry? You'd better put your anger aside. You can't worship with anger in your heart. Are you grouchy? You'd better put away your ill disposition. You can't praise God with a grouchy spirit. Are you worldly-minded? You'd better lay aside your worldly-mindedness. You can't worship God if your mind is filled with the distractions of this world.

Now listen, dear friend, before you come to worship; before you hear the sermon, hear what James says for you to do with your words, with your wrath and with your wickedness.

II. Notice What You’re To Do During The Sermon

Notice back up in verse 19 that whereas James says that we are to be "slow to speak" and "slow to wrath," we're to be "swift to hear.” That simply means that there should be receptivity on our part to hear the word of God. You can really help the preacher to preach if you act like you're interested in hearing the word of God.

Someone has said that the average Christian in this country probably hears between 50 and 100 hours of preaching every year. How does he hear? How often do we tally listen to the preaching of the word of God with hearts akin to the heart of Samuel when he said, "speak. Lord, for your servant heareth!

Now, this whole idea is enlarged upon in the last part of verse 21 where James says, "and receive with meekness the implanted word which is able to save your souls.” Look at that word "meekness" for a moment. When you receive the word with meekness, you accept it. You do not argue with it, but you honor it as the word of God. You do not try to twist it to conform it to your thinking.

Then he compares the word of God to a seed. Look in verse 21. He speaks of "the implanted word; the engrafted word.”

Now listen, church, this word must be planted in your heart. You must receive "the implanted word." James is saying to us that the word of God must be planted in our heart just like a seed is planted in a garden.

Now, if some of you are gardeners, you'll understand the picture that is used here, because there is a negative and a positive given in this picture. He says, first of all, you've got to get rid of all the weeds. You've got to lay aside all filthiness. You've got to lay aside the entanglement of wickedness. Secondly, you've got to receive the word in your heart.

Do you have any idea how it would inspire a preacher if his congregation really had a hunger and a thirst for the word of God? You see, the great problem in America is not feeding the sheep, but it's getting them hungry enough to want to be fed.

On several occasions I have alluded to my trip to Russia in November of 1992. The former Soviet Union is going through a depression. The people work hard for very little money. There are very few things in the stores for sale. The food lines are long. But yet in the midst of chaos, in the midst of hunger, in the midst of poverty, the people were incredibly hungry to hear the truth. The people came to schools and churches in the most uncomfortable kind of situation for hours upon hours to worship God and to hear the word proclaimed.

One lady trudged for miles to church without having eaten for days and was asked the question, "Are you a Christian?"

She said, "Yes. I am a believer in Jesus Christ."

"Do you have a Bible?"

"No. I do not have a Bible, but I go to the university and I read the Bible in the university library day after day."

Then she was asked, "Are you afraid for your future in this chaotic nation?"

This is what she said, quoting from memory 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, "We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light affliction and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen."

I pray that God will give me that kind of commitment to his truth. I pray that God will give me that kind of hunger for his word. I pray that God will give our church that kind of thirst for truth. 0, that he would give us a teachable spirit. 0, that the engrafted word might find a lodging place in our souls. You see, this is what we're to do during the sermon. If you want to help the preacher preach, act like you're interested in the word. Devour it, absorb it, hunger for it, affirm it, get excited about it. When the preacher is not excited about it, your receptivity of the word of God will set him on fire.

All right now, you know what you are supposed to do to help the preacher before the sermon. You're to deal with your words. You're to deal with your wrath. You're to deal with your wickedness. Do you know what you're supposed to do during the sermon? You are to receive with meekness the implanted word. Love the word, demand the word, affirm the word.

III. Notice What You’re To Do After The Sermon

Now, look in verse 22. Do you see what he says? "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only."

You know, we have a revival of Bible studies going on today. I'm grateful for this. I thank God for those of you who are interested in Bible study. Many of you have your notebooks and you write down the things that you study from the Bible. You take notes on the messages. And I'm grateful, and I'm thankful for that. But let me tell you, it will do you no good to merely hear the word of God if you do not go out and do the word of God. There is no need being a sermon taster. It's possible to hear sermons about giving, nod your head and agree, but then keep your pocketbook shut tight. It is possible to hear sermons about witnessing and agree that it is important to witness and never speak a word to anybody about Jesus Christ. I mean, it's like hearing a lecture on salesmanship, but never selling. It's like hearing a talk on football, and yet never playing the game. It's being a sermon taster and a Sunday School sampler. It's possible to go away raving about the music and bragging about the sermon, and yet have no intention whatsoever of doing what it says.

Do you know what I am in favor of? I'm in favor of going into every store in town that sells Nike shoes or Nike products and getting their posters and getting their advertisements and just spread those advertisements all over the church. Do you know what those advertisements say? They say, "Just do it, just do it." Listen, church, if we would put into practice everything that we know to do, we wouldn't need to hear another sermon for ten years.

What James is saying here is that the word must be practiced in your life. So, to get that point across he uses the illustration of a mirror. He compares the Bible to a mirror, and a Christian looking at himself in the mirror. Now, there are two ways to see yourself. One is a photograph and the other is a mirror. One is rather flattering and the other is totally honest. When you have your photograph taken, they'll put you in the best possible light. They'll take about 700 pictures and they'll send you the proofs. And out of those 700 proofs you'll find maybe one that looks all right. And when you take that one back to the photographer, you'll say, "What about that spot. What about that wrinkle."

They'll say, "0h, don't worry about that. We'll touch it up."

But now a mirror will show you just exactly like you are. I can imagine that what James is drawing here is a picture of a man who gets up in the morning, he stumbles into the bathroom and he looks at himself in the mirror. In verse 23 it says, "he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror." By the way, the word natural comes from the word "genesis," and it means "the face you were born with.”

Now, there's not a thing in the world that you can do about that. I'm trying to improve your life, but there is not a thing in the world that I can do about your genesis face. That's just the one God gave you. You know, beauty is skin deep, but ugly goes all the way down to the bone. Have you seen yourself in the mirror of the word lately? I want to tell you something. It's not a pleasant experience. It really isn't.

I heard about an African chief who had a very unattractive daughter. He had bragged upon her, and all of the members of the tribe had gone along with the little game. She thought she was the most beautiful princess in the world. One day a missionary gave them, as a gift, a mirror. She had never seen herself before, and so she picked up the mirror. And she looked in that mirror and she saw herself for the very first time. When she saw herself, she smashed the mirror to pieces. Now, the reason some of you never really take a good look in the Bible is because it shows you up just like you are.

I heard about a woman who got suspicious of her husband. She thought he was running around on her. She saw him one day slip out into the garage. He opened up a box and he put something in it hurriedly. She said, "Aha, I've caught him now.”

She ran out there and she opened up the box and she pulled out what he had put in there, not knowing it was a mirror. She looked at it and she said, "So that's the old witch he's going with."

But what James is saying here is that we will stagger into the bathroom. We'll look at ourselves in the mirror. And our hair needs combing and we need to shave. We kind of give ourselves a lick and a promise and we're gone.

Now, that's what James calls a casual glance. You get up there and you look in the mirror and you see yourself. You just give yourself a casual glance and then you're gone. He says, "Before very long you forget what you saw."

There are some of you who come to worship just that way. You come to church. And I say, "Bring your Bibles." And I say, "Open up your Bibles." And you open up your Bibles and you just kind of give it a casual glance. Every now and then you'll kind of look at yourself down in the Scriptures, but you never really get down to business. You never allow yourself to look deeply and intently into the word of God.

You see, because we just give it a casual glance; because our worship is a casual experience; because we listen to the sermon and just kind of grade the preacher on the job that he's done, we leave the church and we're unmoved, untouched, un-convicted, unchanged. And we go home, and we don't do anything about it.


You know, there are a lot of folks who come to church, and they have just enough religion to make them miserable. They have one foot in the world and one foot in the church; half-believing and half-doubting, half-confessing, half-denying. They don't have the grace to serve God and they don't have the courage to serve the devil.

I want to ask you a question. Are you willing to openly and publicly take a stand for the Lord Jesus Christ as a blazing, emotional, bold, courageous firebrand for the Lord Jesus Christ — obeying him one hundred percent?

If you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; if you believe that he has all power; if you believe that he is going to raise you from the dead; if you believe that you’re going to live forever with him, then you ought to obey him with all you have. You ought to do whatever he commands you to do. If you don’t believe, you ought to deny the faith. You ought to take your name from the church roll. You ought to live whatever philosophy you want to. But don’t be neutral about the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s impossible to be neutral about the Lord Jesus Christ in the true sense of the word. Sell out to him. Be a doer of the word. Obey his commandments.

You see, you’ll get more out of the message; you’ll get more out of the worship experience; you’ll help the preacher if you learn what you need to do before, during and after the sermon. Amen.

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