Motivating the Messenger
By Terry Powell
As a Bible study leader or group facilitator, do you ever lament a lack of formal training, or feel inadequate compared to the abilities of other women whom you’ve seen teach?
Have you ever listened to a silver-tongued orator and felt envious because you don’t have the same natural capacity to command an audience’s attention?
As a Sunday school teacher, have you noticed how another volunteer down the hall exhibits an effervescent personality that draws kids in, all the while wishing you weren’t as reserved or introverted?
Does your confidence as a communicator of God’s Word often sag?
I don’t discount the value of training courses or a Bible college education. I’m grateful that God’s grace allocates exceptional presentation skills to a few choice servants. Yes, the magnetic pull of a riveting personality enhances the atmosphere of a classroom. And confidence in our gifts and calling sustains us as teachers.
Yet none of these is the primary factor that gives efficacy to our words as speakers and teachers. The variable that matters most isn’t intrinsic to us, nor something we can add to our resume, nor part of our gift mix. It isn’t something we work to obtain or that improves with experience. It isn’t anything we can take credit for or boast about.
The basis for confidence in our ministries, and the key that unlocks fruitfulness, is the power inherent in God’s Word. No other asset compares to the Holy Spirit’s shuttling of Scripture from the ears of listeners, to their mind and hearts. Time and again, reminding myself of this truth buoys my spirit and boosts motivation as a communicator.
Remind Me Again
Stuart Briscoe tells the story of a man who, because of an error during surgery, had the wrong part of his brain removed, totally destroying his memory. In all other areas he functioned well, just without memory. Every time he picked up a newspaper, he read it as if he’d never seen one before. Each time he met someone, it was as if he had never seen the person. Whenever he heard a song, he was for all practical purposes hearing it for the first time. “Relearning” occurred daily.
Despite giving us the capacity for memory, God wants His people to be reminded of certain truths, to “relearn” them on an ongoing basis. Paul told Titus to remind believers at Crete of particular responsibilities and the core doctrines of salvation, justification and grace (Tit. 3:1-8). The present imperative verb “remind” in Titus 3:1 suggests repeated action over time.
As someone who handles the Word of God, you’re familiar with what Scripture says about itself. No doubt you’ve read and reread verses conveying characteristics of God’s Word and why it’s integral to Christian living. But if you’re like me, when victimized by doubts, inadequacy, or outright lies from Satan about your usefulness, it often seems like part of your brain is missing. We easily forget verses on the Bible’s capacity to transform, and their implications for our ministries.
We need reminders of the nature of Scripture, to review verses that engender hope concerning our communication of God’s Word. What follows are two insights about God’s Word that I’m constantly relearning.
God’s Word is Permanent
In contrast to our physical bodies or stock market gains, God’s Word is permanent. What prompts me to engage in the unglamorous task of diligent study of Scripture is awareness that what I write or teach will outlive my years on planet earth. Peter told his readers that they owed their conversion to God’s Word: “You have been born again, not of seed which is perishable, but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding Word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23). Then he added a citation from Isaiah 40: “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the Word of the Lord abides forever” (1 Pet. 1:24-25).
God’s Word Wields Power
This simple reminder rejuvenates me when I feel inferior, don’t see results, or wonder if all the time and effort invested in Bible teaching is worth it. Memorizing the following verses helps me counteract negative thoughts about the effectiveness of what I do. Just as a believer who’s touched by a particular sermon will hear it time and again, I preach these verses to myself over and over when my energy for service needs replenishing.
Jeremiah 23:29: While contrasting His words with those of false prophets, God exclaimed, “Is not my word like fire? ... like a hammer which shatters a rock?”
1 Thessalonians 2:13: Paul understood that God inspired the words he proclaimed. Reminiscing about his initial preaching venture in Thessalonica, and their responsiveness, he wrote, “We thank God that when you received from us the Word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the Word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.”
2 Timothy 2:9: In contrast to his own physical confinement in prison, Paul wrote, “…but the Word of God is not imprisoned.” The New Testament suggests that he led people to Christ while in prison (Phil. 4:22), and his incarceration prompted others to take his place in spreading the gospel (Phil. 1:12-18).
Hebrews 4:12: When there’s no evidence that our communication of Scripture packs a wallop, let’s remind ourselves of this assertion: “The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Will we believe appearances, or our feelings, or cling tenaciously to this verse?
Nineteenth-century British pastor Charles Spurgeon illustrated the transforming effect of God’s Word even long after its delivery. He told the story of a pastor named Flavel, who felt so burdened about unsaved persons in the congregation that he didn’t give the usual benediction after a message in which he shared the plan of salvation. He said to the audience, “How can I dismiss you with a blessing since many of you will be accursed when the Lord returns because you didn’t love the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Here’s how Spurgeon described the outcome:
A lad of fifteen heard that remarkable utterance; and eighty-five years afterwards, sitting under a hedge, I think in Virginia, the whole scene came vividly before him as if it had been but the day before, and it pleased God to bless Mr. Flavel’s words to his conversion, and he lived three years longer to bear good testimony that he had felt the power of truth in his heart.
Imagine – 85 years after Flavel shared the gospel and poured out his heart, God’s Spirit imprinted His Word onto the heart of a congregant! Time doesn’t diminish the potential fruitfulness of a seed you faithfully sow when you teach. Yet Spurgeon himself discovered that God’s Word may exert an immediate influence as well.
In 1867, Spurgeon spoke at a series of meetings in Agricultural Hall, Islington. Remodeling efforts expanded the seating in this vast hall to over 11,000. The day before his first message, Spurgeon tested the acoustics of the revamped auditorium, empty at the time, by shouting, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). A worker high in the rafters heard him, and as a result converted to faith in Christ.
The seed of Scripture sown by Flavel and Spurgeon has the same growth potential when you speak to or lead groups of women.
Do you recall the long night a Bible verse or passage comforted you, assuaging your pain?
Can you still see the fog lift on the day a Biblical principle clarified which alternative in a career move was better?
Do you remember the battlefield where God’s Spirit fortified you against temptation and exposed the lies of Satan through a verse you had memorized?
Can you still see the tears pooling on your carpet, and feel the pain piercing your heart, from the time God’s Word convicted you of sin and spawned repentance?
Then don’t lose heart in your ministry! Your own experience with God’s Word is all the evidence you need of its clout. What transformed you is the same Word you use when you teach, counsel, or witness. Fuel your faith with the verses in this chapter. Keep reminding yourself of how you’ve experienced its power.