As I write this article, I am in the last few days of a six-week sabbatical. A sabbatical is when a pastor takes times away from his church for specialized study, ministry perspective, spiritual rejuvenation and physical rest. To that end, one of the things I have done during this time is visit other churches. It’s been a blessing to worship without the burden of leading. Moreover, I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing other preachers. As I’ve sat under the ministry of other men, I realized a valuable lesson for listening to a sermon, and the lesson is this: Listen to the preacher with the aim of receiving what he’s trying to say, not what you want to hear.

Let me see if I can illustrate that for you.

When I was a boy, my mother served home cooked meals regularly, and she was a really good cook. I can’t remember one time, however, that she made me something different from what the rest of my family was eating. In other words, when it was dinner time, I went to the table to eat what she had prepared. This means, I never went to the table demanding what I wanted. Instead, I was thankful for what she served.

That’s what it should be like when we go to church to listen to our pastor preach from the word of God. If we go to church hoping that our pastor will preach about a certain topic or specific problem we’re facing, we’re likely going to be disappointed. But if we go only expecting to hear God speak through His word, then we will be fed spiritually and leave satisfied.

This dawned on me one week as I went to a church in Greenwood with my family. I went into the service hoping the pastor would address a particular sin I was struggling with, but he didn’t speak about that topic at all. Instead, the whole sermon was about genuine love from Romans 12. It was a good sermon, and it made me realize that I need to stop listening for what I want to hear and start listening to what God has to say.

Listening to a sermon is not like ordering off the menu at Cracker Barrel. You don’t get to pick your favorite option. Sermons are like eating a full course meal at Grandma’s house. We show up and receive with gratitude whatever we’re served.
So, next time you go to church, pray this prayer from Psalm 119:18, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” Trust that God desires to speak to you through the man preaching His Word. If you do this, you will be blessed.

Thanks for reading!

Brandon Sutton (Pastor2334@gmail.com) is the Lead Pastor of Blue Ridge CU Church and New Life Church. Check out both at Blueridgecuchurch.com and Newlifeshelbyville.org.