Open Youth Mouth! God Will Fill It!

Studying and preparing sermon notes to preach is sometimes frowned upon. It is hard to believe, but it is true. I have seen it happen. Unsurprisingly, the frowners use scripture to support their frowns. The scripture verses they use are Matthew 10:19-20, Mark 13:11, and Luke 12:11-12. Let’s look at Luke. “Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (NKJV). The latter part of the verse is what the frowners have adopted to support their frowns, “For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

Indeed, the Holy Spirit can teach us what to say, but in this verse, it is not in the context of preaching. Jesus is talking about the persecution that his disciples would face for being his followers. They would be brought to trial before rulers and authorities who oppose the gospel. When that happens, Jesus tells his disciple that the Holy Spirit would teach them what to say in that instance. Stephen is probably a good example. At the very end of his defense to the Jewish council, scripture says, “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!” (Acts 7:54-56). We can surmise that the Holy Spirit directed Stephen’s defense of his faith and the gospel to the Jewish council that day.

One popular phrase among the frowners is, “Open your mouth, and God will fill it.” They believe that God will instantly fill their mouth with what to say when they are called upon to preach. Of course, I am not saying this is impossible because with God all things are possible; however, it is wrong to use this verse to justify not studying and preparing a sermon to preach. Let’s look at preparation in the natural sense. When guests are coming to our home, we decide on a menu, go grocery shopping, season the meat, prep the dishes overnight, and spend hours in the kitchen preparing the food so our guests can enjoy it, and beyond that, we take pride in how we serve the guests and in the presentation of the food. Personally, I would never serve my guests burnt, salted, soggy, or unseasoned food. Neither would I serve them out of the pots, frying pans, and dirty dishes. That is simply unacceptable to me the hostess, and I am certain it would be unacceptable to my guests.

We put a lot of care and time into preparing natural food, and that is fine, but shouldn’t we put as much care and time or even more care and time into preparing spiritual food? I believe we should, yet there are preachers who think it is acceptable to not study and prepare a sermon to preach. Consequently, when they are called to bring the word, they ramble from topic to topic without purpose and focus. Jesus said this to Peter three times, “Feed my sheep.” The Greek word here for feed is bosko. It means feed; tend. Aligned with Hebrew it means to feed, graze, drive out to pasture; shepherd, protect, and nourish. Feed my sheep could then be restated as nourish my sheep. Nourish means to provide the food or other substance necessary for growth, health, and good condition.

The food that nourishes us is the word of God. We obtain nourishment through reading, studying, meditating, and hearing it. Of the four ways, we obtain nourishment from the word hearing it through preaching is probably the most important in my opinion because it gives birth to faith. Romans 10:17 explains, “So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ” (NLT). This faith is what leads people to accept the gospel. First Corinthians 1:21 further explains, “Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe” (NLT). From these two verses, we come to understand that preaching has two main purposes. One, to birth faith, and two, to save those that believe.

With preaching having such important purposes, how can preachers think that it is acceptable to feed God’s people with their ramblings and random thoughts? How can they think it is acceptable to not study and prepare a sermon? How can they think it is still acceptable to use scripture out of context to support not studying and preparing a sermon? Unacceptable! God’s people deserve better! They deserve to be fed with well-thought-out sermons that do what sermons are supposed to do—birth faith and save people. When God called Ezekiel to be a prophet, one of the first things God did was to fill Ezekiel with the Word then God sent Ezekiel to prophesy. “And He said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly, and fill your stomach with this scroll that I give you.”  So I ate, and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness. Then He said to me: “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them” (Ezekiel 3:2-3). God clearly values preparation. Now, I do understand that there are times when the Holy Spirit bypasses the preacher’s sermon and gives a new word for the congregation, but that is not an excuse for not studying and preparing a sermon to preach. Preachers should still study and prepare their sermons and if the Holy Spirit directs them otherwise, they should follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.