What makes a preacher? Is it his clever outlines? Is it his “preacher” voice? Is it his intimidating presence in the pulpit? Is it his vast library or his years of experience? Most of us would agree that the previous questions are somewhat superficial and that these things do not truly identify what makes a preacher a preacher. However, the idea expressed in our title (no matter how Biblical it is), is not usually considered the measure of a preacher either. Even still the Bible says, “Preach the word…with great patience” (2 Tim. 4:1-5).
It may be that longsuffering is one of the most under-appreciated qualities of preaching mentioned in this familiar text on preaching. In fact, it may even be considered a weakness if the world does not hear us thunder or roar often enough. May I humbly suggest that if we miss this element of preaching,we may miss it all, and someone may miss heaven as a result.
Patience: God’s Demand
Preaching is all about what God demands. He demands preaching, and He demands that we respond to it with convicted obedience. Of all the methods He could have chosen to reveal Himself and His desires for man, God choose preaching (1 Cor. 1:21). His demand places His servants under intense scrutiny (Jam. 3:1) and places on their shoulders a great responsibility. They must preach. That is demanded.
As per our text, in that demand to preach is the requirement that a preacher be patient or longsuffering. Those who preach do not get to choose whether or not to incorporate this attitude into their ministry. It does not matter if a person’s natural disposition is to be impatient or to expect immediate results. Just as one learns to be patience with the changes and trials of life, a preacher must develop longsuffering with process and people of salvation or else he should not preach! Just as a man does not get to choose whether or not he will convince, reprove, and exhort he does not get to choose if he will be patient in the process.
Patience: God’s Design
The Bible uses a vivid illustration of how preaching works that highlights the role of patience and longsuffering in the conversion process. That illustration is a discussed in detail in the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:3-9; 18-23). We often refer to this as the “seed principle.” This principle is simple, and it was designed by God. The farmer does not plow and plant one day and reap a harvest the next. Seed must be planted, the ground must be watered, weeds must be pulled, and various other works must be done. Then, after weeks or months have passed the fruit can be enjoyed. Paul applied this principle to his work when he stated, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6).
The word of God is compared to a seed (Luke 8:11), and God designed it to work in the same way. Preaching the word pierces the soul (Heb. 4:12) and that word germinates with the proper tending. Sometimes the result is a new crop, and sometimes it dies out before it can take root, but each outcome requires time and patience. Could you image a farmer getting discouraged after a few weeks and his plowing up his entire field due to impatience? Such a reaction would be ridiculous and utterly wasteful. No logical thinking person would do that, but yet preachers often react the same way when some do not immediately respond to their preaching. Hearts do not generally change overnight, and the word always needs times to grow in the hearts of men. When we do not allow for this process to take place, we are actually ignoring God’s design for salvation and we are negating any other work that we have put into preaching.
Based on God’s design and God’s demand, we have every right to expect from the men that stand in our pulpit and guide us in studying God’s word. Let us always hold them to this standard.