When the Hook Has Pierced You
By: Northern Seminary
(BY DR. MICHAEL QUICKE)
Do you struggle to discern the message that God is calling you to preach?
In other places, I have written at length about the process of sermon conception, which is how the choice of text and theme happens. For many preachers, the choice is set by lectionary readings. But those in other traditions, choosing is open and more complicated!
C.H. Spurgeon wrote about the great difficulty in obtaining texts because of the embarrassing riches of Scripture: “I confess that I frequently sit hour after hour praying and waiting for a subject and that is the main part of my study.”
The main part of his study?!? Could it be that demanding?!?
Certainly, there should be a spiritual struggle when faced by a blank page on which anything might happen. And certainly, there should be a pastoral struggle when considering that there are particular hungry sheep needing to be fed! There are also extra weighty considerations since Spurgeon had an awesome national presence!
It is worth quoting him further: “Much hard labour have I spent in manipulating topics, ruminating upon points of doctrine, making skeletons out of verses and then burying every bone of them in the catacombs of oblivion… I believe that almost every week I make enough outlines of sermons, if I felt at liberty to preach them, to last me for a month, but I no more dare to use them than an honest mariner would run to short a cargo of contraband goods.”
Spurgeon reminds us that it is indeed a struggle to discern the message that God is calling you to preach. There are many false starts and incomplete outlines, but they all serve as part of the sermon-conception process.
How do you know when you’ve finally hit upon the nerve?
When a verse gives your mind a hearty grip, from which you cannot release yourself, you will need no further direction as to your proper theme. Like the fish, you nibble at many baits; but when the hook has fairly pierced you, you will wander no more.
These last few weeks I have been faced by an unusual blank page. I need to plan a mini-series of six sermons to preach in Yorkminster Church in the heart of Toronto during the first weeks of July. The temptation to raid my sermon store and select some past sermons that seemed to “work” is always strong. I remember hearing one itinerant preacher who said that he had preached his star sermon well over 100 times! I actually heard that star sermon, and I can still remember its powerful message. There can sometimes be value to repeating good stuff. Yet this option, of course, is only open to the traveling preacher. The non-traveling preacher – one who is engaged with their community – must continue to nibble.
As I prepared my mini-series and nibbled at many baits, I was finally pierced by the hook: the friendship of God.
What hooks have pierced you?
 C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students VI.