When you listen to a sermon do you really hear it?
Let’s face it! Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. And that can make it hard to get much out of our pastor’s sermons. But in God’s divine plan, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17), so listening to sermons is pretty important. As the Puritan Richard Sibbes put it, “Preaching is the chariot that carries Christ up and down in the world.”
With this in mind, how can we make sure that we get the most out of the sermons we hear?
Here are three tips that will help anyone willing to follow them.
- Crave a Powerful Appetite
- Commit to Persistent Attendance
- Cultivate Purposeful Listening
Crave a Powerful Appetite
Are you hungry for God’s Word? The Apostle Peter says you need to be.
"As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word..."
(1 Peter 2:2, KJV)
The imagery is that of the tiny baby who has one primary desire in life – to be fed. If you’ve ever been around a newborn you’ll know that he’ll cry for his milk morning, noon, and night until he finally gets it. The more he eats the more he wants to eat. This can be very wearisome to mothers but it is a powerful indicator that her baby is healthy.
In the same way, Christians are healthy if they crave God’s Word. If a person is spiritually sick, however, they will have no appetite for the Word and perhaps even thinking of it will make them uncomfortable and restless. This is certainly the way it is at a physical level with a person suffering from stomach flu, let’s say. The last thing he or she wants is to sit down at the table for a delicious meal.
The point is, to get the most out of preaching we must ask the Lord to make us spiritly healthy and hungry. Only then will we cry out for the sincere milk of the word.
Commit to Persistent Attendance
A genuine appetite for the Word is expressed publically by faithful participation in a church that preaches the Word. Yes, reading printed sermons or listening to sermons online can be greatly helpful to Christians – but these things cannot replace the great benefits received by faithfully attending a church that is serious about communicating the Bible. It is through the corporate worship of God’s people that Christians are filled with the Word, and Christians are strongly cautioned against neglecting corporate worship (see Hebrews 10:25).
Regarding the benefits of corporate worship Paul wrote to Christians, saying:
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God."
(Colossians 3:16, ESV)
The most important part of corporate worship is when God speaks to us through His preached Word. This is why C.H. Spurgeon said: “There is no worship of God that is better than the hearing of a sermon... it stirs all the coals of fire in your spirit, and makes them burn with a brighter flame.”
To make the most of preaching you must be hungry for the Word and you must commit yourself to a congregation where dinner is served.
Cultivate Purposeful Listening
In His parable of the soils, the Lord Jesus describes four kinds of listeners to the Word. Sadly, only one of the four actually receives the Word by faith and goes on to produce fruit. For this reason the Lord concludes His parable by saying “take care then how you hear” (Luke 8:18). If you want to get the most out of your pastor’s preaching then you must intentionally follow the Lord’s command to listen.
Purposeful listening actually starts before you ever get to the church. Throughout the week – and particularly on Saturday as you anticipate the Lord’s Day – you should ask God to prepare your mind and heart to receive His Word. Then on Sundays as you head out to church you should deliberately remind yourself (and the kids screaming in the backseat) that you are on your way to the throne of God to hear from Him. Finally, when you arrive at the church, find your place, and see the preacher stand in the pulpit you must remind yourself that God has purposed in His wisdom to speak His Word through mere men. Therefore you must pray that the Lord would fine-tune your ears that you might not merely receive the words of man, but the Word of God. As John Calvin once put it, “Whenever the gospel is preached, it is as if God Himself came into the midst of us.”
In summary - to make the most of preaching you must be hungry for the Word, you must commit to be present when dinner is served, and you must intentionally prepare yourself to hear God speak.
By making use of these three tips you can get the most out of your pastor’s sermons, to the glory of God.