By Wayne McDill
You will only build the faith that changes lives by pointing beyond the believer to the One to be believed. Faith is not created by calling for faith. It is not created by criticizing the faithless. It is not created by aiming for obedience. It is not created by aiming for guilt. It is only evoked by appealing to the credibility of the object of faith.
The object of faith is God himself. He is the source of any and all resources for the living of the Christian life. “For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace” (Rom. 4:16 NASB). This principle prevails throughout the Bible. If anything is to be by grace, it must be by faith. If it is not by faith, it cannot be by grace. That leaves us with the clear choice of preaching for faith or pursuing a policy that actually leads our people out of the grace of God.
If preaching is to aim for trust-God rather than do-better results, it must be planned for focusing attention on God and his credibility. This leads us to an examination of the credibility of God.
- Claiming the credibility of God means preaching on the character of God. This kind of preaching is in the indicative mood, emphasizing the reality that is. God is faithful. He is love. He is our Shepherd, our Rock and Fortress. God never changes. He is the loving Father, the Gardener, and the King of heaven. All our faith is focused in who God is in his person. To preach the character of God is to claim his credibility.
- Claiming the credibility of God also involves preaching about his capabilities. What is God able to do? If he cannot act in the lives of believers, our faith will be misplaced. If, however, he is able to do all that is needed, he is worthy of our trust. God is omnipotent, all powerful. He is omniscient, all knowing. He is omnibenevolent, all good and gracious toward man. He is able to hear us when we call, in any language. He is able to see us in any need. He is able to speak to us for any instruction. God is able.
- Claiming the credibility of God calls for preaching about his intentions. Faith is awakened when we realize what God has promised us in Scripture. There are thousands of promises, for every need man can possibly experience. God intends us only good. Jeremiah wrote in 29:11, “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’” (NASB). This timeless statement is the believer’s assurance of God’s intention, even for today.
- Claiming the credibility of God involves preaching about his record. Any person worthy of trust establishes credibility with a positive track record. The Bible records the mighty deeds of God in behalf of his people. It was common in their sermons and psalms for the Hebrews to recount the wonderful works of God for Israel. They never tired of telling those stories over and over again. It was those very stories that gave the Jews courage in the midst of their troubles. So it is with preachers who would have our congregations grow in faith. We must preach God’s record.
Let me urge you to commit yourself to trust-God preaching instead of do-better preaching. To do this will require aiming for faith in every aspect of sermon design.
Adapted from 12 Essential Skills for Great Preaching by Wayne McDill (B&H Publishing Group, 2006)