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“With Tears In His Eyes”

Many of us who are seminary students or ministers (or both) have heard some variation of this story (roughly reproduced here from memory):

A church was interviewing candidates for pastor. They had narrowed the field down to two candidates. Both had seminary degrees and were highly recommended. The pastor search committee decided that they would invite the candidates to preach, one speaking the Sunday after the other, in order to make a final determination.

As it turns out, both candidates preached from the same passage, preaching essentially the same sermon. Both gave a clear, biblically faithful presentation of the Gospel from the passage. Both engaged their audience and related the passage to life. Both gave a clear invitation to respond to the Gospel at the end of their message. The committee selected one minister to fill their pulpit.

But the minister that was not selected was confused as to why he was not offered the job. Several months later, he saw a member of the committee at a coffee shop and engaged him in conversation. “Why did you select this person over me?” he asked. “I thought I was a great fit for your church.”

The man sat thoughtfully for a moment before responding. “You’re right, you would have been a great fit for our church,” he began, “but you both preached the same sermon. We had to go by something more important than your ability to preach the Bible faithfully.”

“What was that?” the minister asked.

“Well, when you preached, you presented the Gospel clearly and forcefully. You left us with no doubt in our minds that we were to respond in obedience. But you preached this with the cold, simple expression and tone of an academic or lawyer. It was as if you did not care if we obeyed as long as we knew what was expected.

“But when our pastor preached the same sermon, when he exhorted us to obey the Gospel, he did so with tears in his eyes.”

Well, I don’t know if such a criteria is valid or even biblical. But what I do know is that this past Sunday I had such an experience. The overwhelming magnitude of what I was asking my listeners to do struck me with the force of an oncoming train. Some of the people in our worship were lost and going to hell. Others were backslidden. Others were simply dazed and confused. Others needed nothing more than an encouragement to continue. And when I reached the apex of my exhortation to respond to the Gospel with obedience, I literally choked up and tears flooded my eyes.

I did not want anyone to go to eternity without Jesus. I did not want anyone to continue in their sin. I did not want anyone to continue in confusion. I did not want anyone to continue in discouragement. And it was literally crushing to me, in that moment, to contemplate the possibility that some of them just might do those things. Suddenly I understood (in my own way) what Paul experienced when the Lord said to him:

My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9

I honestly do not know if I ever want to experience such a crushing weight ever again. It is depressing! It makes me feel inadequate! Will I ever be able to be used by the Lord to reverse this horror? Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.

Would that we all be blessed with such a humbling of ourselves.

Categories: Commentary
  1. Steve D
    March 27, 2007 at 8:53 pm

    Amen, bro! Know how that feels and guarantee more will come! I find it overwhelming sometimes when my group or any group of people constantly bobs their heads in agreement to whatever I am relaying from God’s Word. Because in our minds, we know the ones who are backslidden, we know the ones who are not Christians, we know the ones who are faithful in their walks with Christ, and yet when we preach, it penetrates only a few who really pay attention. God is good all the time anyway, right?

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