Here is an interesting exercise that might help you in your preaching. Take a number of your sermons. Try to find the purpose of each one. Then ask yourself, what is the goal of my preaching? Where do I want people to go? What do I want people to do? I am not talking about what you “think” you want people to do, no look at your sermons, they will tell you what you actually want people to do with your sermons.
Are your sermons about getting a better car if they do ______? And your sermons simply fill in the blank. You know what I am talking about, the sermons that guarantee financial blessing if you only “plant a seed.” Perhaps your sermons point to a better relationship with your spouse if they would only ______.
Look at your celebrations. Do you always celebrate the man who is healed? Do you always celebrate the better job, better house, better car that is only yours if you follow the prescription in this sermon? Do you always celebrate the guaranteed good result? I ask again, where do your sermons point? What about the woman who dies of the disease, do they have reason to celebrate? Does your sermons give them a place to be sick and to celebrate? What about the honest worker who is laid off, does your sermons give them a place to celebrate?
Some may wonder, “what is Cox talking about?” Well, ultimately, I am talking about sermons that point to the kingdom of God which is realized through the cross of Christ that we participate in through faith. This is in contrast to the “American dream” gospel which is about acquiring more and living better and getting more. To celebrate the cross means that sometimes we are gonna have to celebrate that God walks with me up the mountain rather than moving the mountain. Sometimes it means celebrating that God is with me though I do not know where I am going to live, rather than with a guaranteed mansion. Sometimes it means celebrating that even though you have a bed in hell, God is with you. (Psalms 139:8). It means that sometimes the one who plants her seed will lose her car, house, and job and the one who does not plant anything prospers. But it still holds on to the idea that somehow, someway, it is better to be with God in hell than to be without God and at ease.
I am not saying don’t have a celebration, I am simply saying celebrate the truth and not fairy tales. Look at your celebrations and ask yourself, am I preaching the truth, or am I propagating fairy tales. Look at your celebrations and ask yourself, am I preparing folks for the battle or lying to them about the lack of a battle. Look at your celebrations and ask, am I preparing folks for eternity, or simply for a promised life of ease that is a lie for all who will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). Ask yourself, am I serving up cotton candy or the solid meat of a real meal. In the end, that is the point, prepare messages so that your people can stand with Job when all hell breaks loose. Prepare messages so that your people can stand with the Hebrew Boys in the furnace. Prepare messages so that your people can stand.