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How God Saved My Sermon Preparation From Disaster

Sermon preparation

I thought I was finished with my sermon preparation.

I had studied the passage during the week, read some commentaries to test my conclusions, honed my main point, developed an outline, and written it out to make sure it was all clear.

Then Saturday morning — as usual — I went over it with my wife.

A long ways to go

But as I read it to her — she looked puzzled.

She asked a question — a really good question.

Then she asked another question — another really good question.

And I could tell — I was not really understanding the passage.

My sermon was confusing.  Vague.  Contradictory.

And then it dawned on me — I was no where near finished with my sermon preparation.

I had a ways to go.

A looooooooong ways to go.

And it was Saturday — and the clock was ticking.

Rising anxiety

So I went back to my office — sat down at my desk — and then it struck me —

I have no idea what this passage is saying.

And I could feel anxiety rising up in me.

So I opened my Bible again, and slowly read over the passage.

I thought of another possible way to understand the passage — and jotted it down.

But as I thought about it I could see — that’s not right, either.

I did that a couple of times.  Reading the passage — jotting down ideas.

But none of them were right.

An hour went by.  Another hour.  The clock was ticking.

My anxiety was turning into panic.


Finally I stopped everything — and prayed.

I folded my hands — bowed my head — and prayed.

Help me, Father.

I have no idea what You are saying in this passage.

I want to feed the flock at Mercy Hill tomorrow morning — but at this point I have nothing.

Forgive me for my concern about my image — my fear of looking bad.

But for the sake of Your glory, for the joy of Mercy Hill Church, for the advance of the Gospel — please — help me understand Your Word.

Calm my heart.  Give me peace.  Give me energy.

Give me the wisdom You promise in James 1:5.

I entrust myself, this sermon, this study time, and tomorrow’s service to You.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Then I quoted to myself the promise of James 1:5 —

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

I rested in the truth that God would give me all the wisdom I needed.

And then I noticed — the panic was gone.  I felt strangely at peace.  I knew God would help me.

And I got back to work.

And then …

I saw it — something in the passage I had not noticed — a connection that cleared-up one of the difficult verses.

Wow.  Thank You.

And then — when I understood that verse — the rest of the verses became clear.

Much more clear.

What mercy.  Thank You.

And then — I saw the point of the whole passage.

I saw a better way to communicate the passage — a way that would help people see the point more clearly.

I rewrote the sermon.  Then I went back over it — thinking and praying through it.

And I could tell — that’s it.  I’m ready.

Thank You.  You are so good to me.

What this taught me

  • Knowing that God can help is not enough — stopping and asking Him to help is crucial.  “You have not because you ask not” (James 4:2).
  • Asking God for help — and trusting His promises — is more important than working hard (Psa 127:1).
  • But working hard has its place (1Cor 15:10).  As we pray, and trust, we can be confident that God will work through our work.
  • When we pray, God will always give us all the wisdom we need (James 1:5) — including the wisdom to understand His Word (2Tim 2:7).

How does this impact you?

Have you had similar experiences?  Does my experience raise questions?  I’d love to hear — leave a comment below.

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(Picture by superfantastic on everystockphoto.)

Category: Stories from My Life


10 Responses

  1. Wow! God is so good! His faithfulness is so amazing! Thank you for sharing! Your story reminded me of a somewhat similar event that took place in our lives last year about this same time.

    Our family sells blueberries and peaches that we order in. So we take orders for the fruit and then work through different ranchers and brokers to get them in. Last year, to make a very long story as short as possible, we found ourselves sitting with 13,600 lbs. of blueberries ordered and we had no way of providing them, since the man we were working with completely dumped us and left us with nothing. We were in panic and anxiety! We frantically became searching for a new supplier, only to discover that no one could help us in the price range that we had promised people. Outside of a miracle, it was looking very grim, to say the least!

    It was so amazing how the Lord was teaching us during this time! Our faith was being tried and we were left in a seemingly hopeless and fearful situation. He began directing us to passages that we were clinging to. Passages such as, Phillipians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

    And the passage in Matthew 14:26-33 was especially ministering to us then and has continued to minister. When Peter was willing to step out of the boat in faith, but then he took his eyes off of Jesus and saw the waver, (we interpret: the problems, the fears, the circumstances, etc.) and then he began to sink. Praise the Lord for His great mercy that when we, as Peter did, cry out to the Lord to save us, He is faithful to deliver us from all our fears and troubles! Needless to say, the key saying in our home during that time became, “Quit looking at the waves and keep focused on Christ”.

    We also took comfort in 1 Peter 1:6-7, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” It was a good thing, to grow us. And we were just praying that whatever happened, God would be glorified and that His name would be praised.

    Lastly, we were exhorted with the words of Exodus 14:13 “Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.” Stand still we did, for there was nothing we could do to change the circumstances other than to stand still and watch our marvelous Deliverer work on our behalf.

    God in His mercy did just that. He delivered us from our fear and He provided so perfectly for us, even though they had lost 35-50 percent of the blueberry crop last year. The Lord worked in a man’s heart to allow us to get the berries for the exact same price that we had said they would be. Plus, He lead us to a supplier that was such a blessing, that we are working with again this year to get all of our berries from that is far better than we’ve ever had before! God is sooooo good and so worthy of all our trust and praise! He works in wonderous ways on behalf of His children!

    • Steve Fuller says:

      I love your story of God’s faithfulness, Breanna. Thank you so much for sharing it — I’m sure it will encourage many others.

  2. Susanne Schuberth (Germany) says:

    Hi Steve,

    Something that touches me time and again is your honesty as for your inner struggle and your emotions. You do express your feelings so clearly without sparing yourself. Although you seemingly don’t come off well at a first glance, in so doing you always point to God’s power in helping you when you feel weak. Frankly, I am very impressed by your humility, Steve.

    As for the Scriptures you mentioned, I can hardly count how often I am referring to James 1:5 for I am lacking in wisdom every day more than once. Another Scripture I also need again and again is one you also often quote; it is Mk 9:24 because I see unbelief so often when I ought to have trust in Him but I have none. However, the good news is that God indeed always helps, even if it doesn’t look like he would really do it…Well, for I don’t know how long it takes, He often whispers in my ear, “Don’t worry…Everything’s alright!” Shall I say how often I don’t believe Him? There’s only one answer: ALWAYS! The period of time sometimes seems to be ENDLESS until God finally intervenes, or gives the answer to my questions for which I am longing. But His intervention doesn’t depend on my feelings, my unbelief or my anxieties. He is greater than my heart and knows everything. And yes, James 4:2, “You do not have, because you do not ask.” This is so crucial. Sometimes God is helping me though I have forgotten to ask Him for help, but when he did so, “Oops!” I am reminded that I should do it next time.


    “Breanna, your comment above was very helpful too. Thank you so much!” 🙂

    • Steve Fuller says:

      That’s helpful, Susanne. I love how you say that there’s good news — that God indeed always helps. That is absolutely true.

      Press on in trusting Him — as you know, He is worth it all.

  3. Demis John says:

    Hi Pr.Steve,

    Yea many of us had faced such situations when it seems demanding to fulfill the godly responsible tasks. Some points that the Lord has taught me which I would love to share with you..

    1)It is not ‘your’ sermon but his ‘message’. Obviously you cannot take God out of the picture or place him as the last option to meet him by ‘prayer’ for preparation phase. Speaking from the bible is the same God inspired message and his words.. Else you will end up as an intellectual speaker who without the power of the Holy Spirit tickling the brain of the congregation and not piercing their hearts 🙂

    2)Every time consider it as the last opportunity to speak to your congregation. Remember what Richard Baxter said, “I preached as never sure to preach again and as a dying man to dying men”.. This mentality will not allow one never to be complacent and will urge to produce the best within.. Remember Paul’s farewell message to Ephesian church..

    May God bless your and your ministry!


    • Steve Fuller says:

      Good thoughts, Br.Demis. Love your emphasis on piercing hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit — thank you.

      And also your Baxter reference. May the Father let us feel the weightiness of eternity and the magnitude of the Cross in every message.

      I appreciate your encouragement, brother. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your insights.


  4. I too appreciate your honesty and vulnerability. You’re not afraid or ashamed to admit that you are a sinner, you need guidance, and God is ready and waiting.

  5. ashwin Roithsoha says:

    Your encouragement was fantastic for my sermon today. Now I know what to do.

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