Sermons are boring to me. I kept that thought inside my head until I was over forty and then I felt like I had the right to say it out loud. I was saved by an evangelical sermon, a re-telling of why God sent Jesus to be my savior and why he deserves to be my lord, but I can’t remember a sermon since then that shaped me into being a real disciple.
Before I go further let me point out that this might just be my problem. Perhaps others are becoming great warriors for Jesus through sermons but sermons have played little to no part in my growth and I have heard hundreds of them from dozens of different preachers.
Disciples are followers of Jesus who utilize faith to achieve God’s purposes.
Here is where I think the problem lies. Disciples are followers of Jesus who utilize faith to achieve God’s purposes. So, where does this faith come from? The first verse that comes to my mind is Romans 11:17: faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
According to this verse, the more that you hear from the word of God, the more faith you will have. And, we have been told that that phrase, word of God, equates to the things that God told us in the Bible. So, Christians sit and listen to lessons taken from the New and Old Testament week after week.
Honestly, I thought something was wrong with me because I also sat and listened to the sermons, pushing through the boredom, but I never felt like I was growing in faith. I picked up some interesting facts, like the one above regarding the phrase, “word of God,” but I was only growing in academic knowledge and was not growing in any kind of faith-based strength at all. In my life, listening to sermons wasn’t resulting in my doing stuff like Gideon, Moses, Phillip or Paul—not that I ever expected to do something as remarkable as those guys but, when I got saved I did expect that the rest of Christianity would have some kind of faith-based action.
Over the years, though, through personal Bible study and prayer, I got guidance from the Holy Spirit, I obeyed that guidance and I grew in faith. Listening to and obeying the Holy Spirit, it turned out, was the path to faith-based strength for me, not sermons.
Obedience to God's instructions results in the kind of faith-growth that you are looking for.
This may help. If we go back and look closer at the verse above we see that the English language is limited in its ability to represent the meaning of that phrase “the word of God”. When the New Testament is referring to the Old Testament, and even when it is referring to itself as scripture, it uses the Greek word, logos. The Bible is the logos, the word (reasoning, logic) of God. Also, the book of John tells us that Jesus is the logos of God. When we hold our Bible, we are holding the logos of God and those that sat and listened to Jesus were looking right at the logos of God. It is a beautiful word with a deep meaning.
But the verse that we’re talking about in Romans doesn’t use the word logos. It uses the less common word, rhematos, which refers to a word, perhaps of encouragement or instruction, that is spoken by God to an individual. Rhematos is an utterance, varying from the audible words that Jesus spoke to Paul on the road to Damascus to the spiritual guidance that many of us have heard from the Holy Spirit. This completely changes the verse to: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the rhematos (personal word) of God.”
Jesus said: My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27) This is what rhematos is talking about. A true disciple really wants to know where Jesus is leading him, he (and she, of course) listens intently for that rhematos, personal instruction from God, he follows that voice, he experiences God through obedience to that voice, and his faith grows.
So, according to this verse, the faith to believe and to obey comes from the specific rhematos-word that God gives you when you are listening for him. You can hear that voice during a sermon but, with the exception of that first sermon that led me to Christ, I have best heard from God in my personal prayer and meditation.
Main point: Faith comes when you hear God's personal instruction to you and you obey it. So what? To what degree are you listening for that instruction from God?
I know there are some sermon-lovers out there so let me hear your thoughts.
Yep, that is me, a sermon lover! I have not always been that way, nor will any ole pastor do it for me. You see, some pastors inspire me to study my Bible and pray more, or find my spiritual gift and use it while some do not. Some pastors challenge me to care for the orphans, widows and marginalized; some do not. Some pastors encourage me to embrace my pain because God will redeem it and use it one day to help others; some do not. Some pastors give me hope and remind me that God is good even though it may not seem like it right now; others do not. Some pastors do not necessarily preach the word, are greedy or like you say, boring. Maybe if you are ever back in the states you just need to look harder. Sometimes we “get out” of something what we put into. Sometimes sermons are just boring. We are all different and diverse, having various learning styles and different spiritual gifts, that is what makes us the body. Oh, that is another topic…. You say your main topic is “Faith comes when you hear God’s personal instruction to you and you obey it”. I believe God uses some pastors to give me personal instruction, and it is up to me to obey.
Great response, Susan. You really got what I was going for, that faith is to be used for practical purposes, like praying for others, caring for the needy, etc. Your list is excellent and demonstrates wisdom. I think my frustration is about the whole system. I was taught in seminary that a good teacher must spend 20 – 25 hours per week preparing the sermon and I am questioning, within myself, whether that is really the wisest use of a leaders time. I have heard about pastors taking members into prisons and have even gone out street witnessing with a leader in the past. Many times I feel like the current system is geared more towards discussions about obedience then obeying. Of course, it is all about grace and obedience comes from love of our Savior. Anyway, thank you for your excellent reply.