Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.
I’ve become a bit of a fan of Friday Night Lights and for those of you who’ve watched this series as well, these words will sound familiar. They’re the chant, the rally of the Dillon Panthers, the football team it’s all about in this series. Every time they go out on the field, they say this, they shout it. It’s what helps them to keep focused, to keep their heads in the game.
I had to think of this when I watched an interview with dr Charles Stanley last week as part of the webinar Preach Better Sermons organized by Preaching Rocket. He was asked what the most important thing was in preaching and time and again he stressed this: it’s about your relationship with God more than anything, it’s about your spiritual discipline first. When asked what that looked like, this is what he said (1):
Courage to be obedient to God
It’s the first two that struck me. Clean heart. Clear mind.
A clean heart means a heart that’s free of sin. It doesn’t mean sinning disqualifies us from preaching or from doing ministry, but it means we need to deal with our sins. A clean heart is a heart that’s fully surrendered to God, in which there are no hidden corners of darkness or sin anymore. It’s the results of the daily prayer of David: ‘Create in me a clean heart and renew the right Spirit within me’.
A clear mind is a mind that’s permanently focused on God and seeking His will and on nothing else. I love this verse from Isaiah 26:3:
You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed in You, because he trusts in You.
If we focus on God like that, it will bring an incredible peace to our life. I’ve personally found this to be true in those times where I was able to do this. Focusing on God brings about an unrivaled clarity to what we do and a deep contentment from knowing you’re doing the right thing. It’s been a constant struggle though for me to keep focused on God with so many that’s trying to distract me from Him.
I think if we’re all very honest, the single one issue that keeps us from being more effective in our preaching is our own relationship with God. Now I’m not idolizing dr. Stanley here, but the way he talked about his sermon preparation, the amount of time he spent in prayer as part of sermon prep, that really made an impact on me. He said this: ‘a man can preach no better than he prays’. I think he’s right.
If we want to become better preachers, it’s a great idea to read books on preaching, to go to conferences or workshops or to learn from others. But the single most important thing we can do is to work on our own relationship with God. How clean is your heart? What (hidden) sins are negatively impacting your ministry? How much of your sermon prep is spending time in prayer? Are you truly focused on God?
Clean heart. Clear mind. I’m almost tempted to add ‘can’t lose’ to these two. If our heart is clean, if all our sins are brought into the light and dealt with, if our minds are focused on God, what’s there to stop us from acting in God’s power?
Clean heart. Clear mind. Can’t lose.(1) I did some googling and discovered these are six of the seven aspects dr. Stanley wrote about in his book How to Reach Your Full Potential for God. He may actually have mentioned the seventh (using your gifts) but I was taking notes while watching so it all went a bit fast…I haven’t read this book, so these thoughts above are completely my own!