Aim, shame, and tame
The gospel preacher has definite goals. He has vision. There is a difference in sight and vision, of course. Helen Keller said, The greatest tragedy in life is people who have sight but no vision.1Marcus Aurelius Antoninus said, The true worth of a man is to be measured by the objects he pursues. Norman Vincent Peale believed, All successful people have a goal. No one can get anywhere unless he knows where he wants to go and what he wants to be or do. William Barclay wrote, There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why.
The preacher aims to accomplish something with each sermon. And he doesn’t just aim, he fires! Acting on goals is important. The Wright brothers were not the inventers of the plane. Another man had a plane ready a year before them but didn’t believe it would fly. We must take, or in some cases make, our opportunities (Joh 4:6-10; Acts 16:13, 31:33; 20:7, 18:21; 28:16, 30:31).
What are the preacher’s aims? The gospel preacher aims to speak in season and out of season (2Ti 4:2). He watches for a good opportunity to speak a good word for the Good Shepherd (Gal 6:10; Pro 12:25; John 10:11). He does not want to be too shy in speaking to others about Jesus Christ (Rom 1:16; 2Ti 1:6-7). The phrase be instant is used of persons coming upon one suddenly. It can be used of a rain shower coming up quickly, or of the advent of angels.
The gospel preacher aims to be patient (2Ti 4:2). Patience3 means endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance, forbearance, longsuffering, slowness in avenging wrongs. It describes the spirit that never grows irritated, never despairs, and never regards any man as beyond salvation (cf. Mat 5:22). Preachers like for needed changes to be immediately made in the lives of those who hear their sermons; they are zealous to see the congregation grow in zeal and faithfulness; but at the same time, they realize that the situation likely did not develop overnight, and probably will not change overnight. Like turning a large ship around, it takes a while even to tell it is moving, and longer for the bow and the stern to switch positions; but if enough pressure is applied, it eventually happens.
The gospel preacher aims to reprove (2Ti 4:2). He must make the sinner aware of his sin. As politically incorrect as it may at first sound, at times, the gospel preacher aims to shame. Reprove carries with it a suggestion of shame of the person convicted. It means, to bring to the light, expose; find fault with, correct (Col 1:28-29; 1The 2:11-12; 5:14). At times, Paul spoke to shame others. He said candidly, Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame (1Co 15:34; cf. 6:5; Heb 5:11-12). Some behaviors are shameful (1Co 14:35; Eph 5:12; Php 3:19); those who do them should be ashamed of themselves. That feeling of shame is powerfully motivational to change (Lu 16:3; Rom 6:21; 2The 3:14).
In another sense, the preacher’s work is to tame others. The word tame is found four times in Scripture. Like the possessed man in the Gadarenes, no one but Jesus can tame the rebellious spirit of sinful people (Mar 5:4). Speech patterns are especially difficult to control (Jas 3:7-8). Sermons gradually help hearers to bring their lives into complete submission to King Jesus.
Reprove4 means to convict, refute; reprehend severely; call to account, demand an explanation; chasten, to punish. This takes courage, conviction, and discipline. This does not fit the stereotypical ineffectual person who takes five sugars in his tea, always says positive things, never rocks the boat, and finds his members consulting psychics and astrologers when they are in distress. Someone observed that in modern pulpits the priest threatens to push the prophet out of his place. To be a priest requires less study and less courage since it is easier to do something for God than to be something for Him.
The gospel preacher aims to rebuke (2Ti 4:2). This word means, to raise the price of; to tax with fault, rate, chide, censure severely; to admonish or charge sharply (cf. Rev 3:19). Epictetus contrasted the false philosopher, who is out for popularity, and the real philosopher, whose aim is the good of his hearers. The false philosopher dealt in flattery; he pandered to self-esteem. The real philosopher says: Come and be told that you are in a bad way. The philosopher’s lecture, he said, is a surgery; when you go away you ought to have felt not pleasure, but pain.
Alcibiades, the brilliant but spoiled darling of Athens, is a case in point. He said to Socrates, Socrates, I hate you, because every time I meet you, you make me see what I am. The first essential to change is to bring a person to see himself as he is.
A doctor or therapist who always avoided causing pain could not treat disease and injury. Neither can a preacher. Ideally, truth is dispensed in small doses over a long period of time – like a prescription. But sometimes doctors must give a large dose immediately – like a shot. Preaching is the prescription; a rebuke is getting a spiritual shot. It is painful for a moment, but speeds the process of recovery.
John T. Lewis said: I would rather have thousands to say to me at the judgment, ‘We heard you preach and you hurt our feelings,’ than to have just one lost soul to say, ‘I heard you preach, but you did not tell me the truth.’9 Preachers must be both loving and plain (cf. 1Co 13:1; Jo 10:24).
In personal relationships a word of warning spoken early and often would sometimes save a brother from spiritual shipwreck (Pro 27:5). It must be spoken with a consciousness of our common guilt (cf. Gal 6:1-2). God’s Word judges us; we do not have the right to sit in judgment on another based on our preferences (John 7:1, 24).
~ Allen Webster ~