Has God ever changed your sermon?
It happened to me a few weeks ago. It’s only happened a few times in the fifteen years of my ministry. During our Sunday morning Worship Service, as my preaching time approached, I got this strong impression to change my sermon. After a week of studying, praying, note-taking, and outlining, I felt I had the message for the day. But that’s not the impression I was receiving five minutes before I took the stage.
There was a palpable presence of God in the room. The congregation seemed to be in tune with that presence of God. And my prepared message didn’t fit with the impression I sensed. After a minute or two of internal debate, I settled on what I believed God wanted for that moment. I took the stage, went to the passage I felt God was leading me to, and preached with everything I had. There was a strong response from the congregation and some life-changing decisions were made.
Would those decisions have been made had I stuck with my original sermon?
The first time God changed my sermon I was a brand new, first-time pastor. As I rose to approach the pulpit, I was overwhelmed by the need to preach a totally different Bible passage and message than what I had selected for the day. I had probably preached less than 50 times and I was, frankly, scared. What do I do? I shakily announced to the congregation there was a change in plans and God wanted me to share my story of Jesus saving my awful soul. As the message concluded, several people committed to Christ for the first time. I was ecstatic.
Since I was still in seminary at that time, I couldn’t wait to tell one of my professors about my experience. At the end of class, I excitedly shared my story with him. He was enthusiastic, but he asked me a question, a tough one at that. He said, “Rob, that’s fantastic. But let me ask you something. Did God change your message at the last minute, or did you just miss Him throughout the week?”
Needless to say, that’s not what I wanted to hear, or even expected to hear. But it’s a valid question.
Has God ever changed your sermon at the last minute? How did you handle it? What do you think of my professor’s reply? I’m very curious to hear your answers.
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I chuckled all the way through your post — because I’ve been there a few times myself, including once very recently. I handled it simply by telling the Lord that I trusted Him to give me the word for that moment. Telling Him that was a direct answer to a very simple question in my heart in the couple of minutes before I took the stage, “Do you trust Me?” Experiencing trepidation and a few butterflies, I answered Him that I did. Ready to preach a 5-minute sermon, off we went, the Holy Spirit and me, allowing Him to simply guide and lead, filling out the time with no problem at all, and feeling as though I said all that He led me to say that morning. As for your professor, I cannot lie…I hated that response. He has a point, I guess, but I can only tell you the response I’ve received from my God in those moments, which has been to understand that the research and study and outlining and note-taking and praying…it was for me and Him, together. I can understand where your professor was coming from, but that experience was between you and God. The key to me is not the question of your professor. The key, to me, is asking God what His intentions were behind it. I have no doubt our Lord has taken all that prep you did and utilized later in your life and ministry. I know He has in mine.