As someone who has been attending church, there have been times I found myself really motivated after a sermon or church service. On the other hand there are times whereby I was just going through the motions of the service. There are also times whereby the motivation was short lived and I felt totally flat out on a Monday night, dragging my heels for the rest of the week. I remember clearly a conversation with my wife while driving home from church one time when I was asked what I thought of the service and the sermon.
I said “Good sermon, touching, motivational …..”
Although I don’t look like it now, I grew up watching lots of sports on TV and playing competitive sports in school. If you are like me, you will know the importance of the half time team talk. I must clarify first that I’m not a mad sports fan of any sorts but I have read and watch some great moments where players changed their attitudes post the break and a game is turned around.
Reflecting on my previous answer and comparing it to our week and the half time team talk, the Sunday service does sometimes feel to me like a time out from the week’s routine where we take time to worship and listen to God’s word. The Sunday sermon in the same light will be the half time team talk. Looking at some of the great sporting moments, we obviously know how a conversation or speech can transform someone around. There are also great stories and testimonies on how someone’s session in church transformed their lives forever. Personally I struggled to find those moments and at times I’ve questioned myself if there’s a missing jigsaw in my Christian walk.
This then leads me to the questions “Is the Sunday Sermon Enough?” and more importantly “How can we be like the Good Seed?” in the parable of the Sower, where we listen to a sermon and subsequently change and park ourselves in good soil so that we can grow and bear fruit.
Refer to Matthew 13: 1-9 The Parable of the Sower
“Is the Sunday Sermon Enough?”
I will start with the easy question. Clearly we all know the Sunday sermon is not enough, if this is the only time you set aside to listen to God. No good sports team will rely solely on half time motivation speeches to do well and a good team requires consistent practice, coaching, recognising your gifts or strengths and using them in the right places.
Of course there are lots of other factors that could be added to this list, however in simple terms, a Christian walk is a relationship with God which will require constant focus, priority, daily devotion and prayers.
In John 15: 1-8 Jesus said he is the true vine and we are the branches and no branch can bear fruit by himself.
Therefore staying attached through our daily devotions and our daily lives is an important spiritual discipline that help us get to know God that ensures we stay connected to him.
“How can we be like the Good Seed?”
Matthew 13: 1-9
In this Parable Jesus speaks of 4 situations where seeds are sowed and this can be linked to the different 4 kinds of hearers of the word.
- Heart heartened listener
- Shallow heartened listener
- Clutter heartened listener
- Good heartened listener
I must admit that there have been times in my Christian life where I was sitting through the sermon thinking to myself “I know this parable”, “I heard this from another speaker”, “This sermon is not applicable to me” and with these thoughts I stopped concentrating like the hard heartened listener
I do have a habit to take notes, however I realised that these are more than just a collection or a knowledge bank in our smart devices to copy and paste to someone. Listening and writing but having little staying power in life like the shallow hearted listener
There has also been times in my walk where I was just too tied up with the things of these world and the sermon just didn’t take root like the clutter hearted listener.
So how can we be like the Good hearted listener? How can I change to be like the good seed? Honestly, I’ve heard sermons around this parable numerous times and I know I need to be a good seed that develop deep roots. However I realised that our relationship with God is more than just mere knowledge and find it hard to answer this question from an application viewpoint.
A few years ago, due to a home move and change in personal circumstance, my wife and I were looking for a church to settle into near our home. Through visiting churches and listening to different Pastors preach, we found ourselves regularly discussing about the quality of the sermons and comparing them to how they stand against our previous church.
However eventually we settled on the church right next door to our home as we realised that we actually play a major part in receiving God’s word. Through this process I learnt about some things I need to do to be the Good hearted listener, which will hopefully help answer the question. I do realise this may be differ from each individual but below are things I’ve learnt.
- Prepare for the sermon
There is an old saying in the church I grew up in, where it is said that the “Sunday morning service starts on Saturday night”. For me when I was young it always meant getting enough rest for Sunday morning 630 wake up time to attend the 8am service. These days with late morning and evening services, this old saying seemed to be lost. However I think this saying actually has much more meaning to it than just getting enough rest physically.
Ezra 7:10 – For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord.
Proverbs 4:23 – Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it
Noticed how Ezra prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord and how our hearts is the centre of everything we do. It is therefore important for us to prepare ourselves before the sermon, reflecting on our blessings, our past actions, struggles or upcoming challenges before the sermon. This doesn’t need to be on a Saturday night like the old saying says but set aside enough time to do this before Church. Think about areas where we need answers from God before the sermon.
More importantly guard our hearts before the sermon. Be open, willing and obedient.
- We have homework after the Sermon
In Acts 17:11 the Berea Jews were said to be of more noble character than those of Thessalonica for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Notice how the Berea Jews were commented because they examined what was preached.
In James 1:19-25, where it speaks about listening and doing, notice how verse 25 say we need to look intently and also not forgetting what we have heard.
In the same way as Christians we need to do our part after the Sermon to look intently, understand the Scriptures, revisiting the verses that were preached. If you have a note taking habit look through the notes after the sermon and throughout the week.
- Reflect after the sermon and discuss
In the same verse James 1:19-25, notice how it describes how a man looks at his face in a mirror and after looking, walks away and immediately forgets what he looks like. In contrast the good hearted listener looks at his face in a mirror to find something he doesn’t like to see.
Incorporate the sermon points into your daily lives throughout the week, reflect and ponder regularly throughout the week and ask the question “why did God send this sermon message to me?” Let’s not be just a branch that attaches to the vine but a better one.
If you can, discuss constructively with a close family or friend after the sermon, especially those that knows you and your weaknesses. Continue to maintain an open heart and guard your hearts during these conversations.
- Action it
James 1:22 – Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
James 2:17 – In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead
After looking into the mirror, the good listener does something to change that image, in doing so allow God’s word to bear fruit in his life. For hearing, understanding and believing by itself is not enough, we need to do what God tells us to do.
We need to change, to strive, to love and to bear fruit.
So “Are you ready for God’s word?”