By Luke Holmes
My wife had been in labor for hours, and the medical team finally decided they had to do a C-section.
Just before they whisked her back to prep for the surgery, someone said, “I’m a student doctor. Do you care if I stand in and watch your wife’s surgery?”
I figured everybody has to learn somewhere, so I gave my permission.
It’s a fairly common practice to have students watch an experienced surgeon’s work. They build venues for that type of thing, with theatre seating and bright lights—all designed to help people see where the surgeon makes incisions.
As a pastor, I have a close-up view of an operating room. But the surgery we see performed is even more important than heart surgery or a C-section.
We get to watch God, through the scalpel of His Word, operate on the lives of people to make them more spiritually healthy.
God’s Word cuts and exposes the diseased parts of our hearts, allowing them to be removed. The Great Physician deftly works to bring us to health, to remove unhealthy parts, and to make us into who He wants us to be.
As pastors preach the Word every week, work in counseling, and labor in discipleship, we often have a firsthand view of God’s working in a person’s life. It’s a joy and a privilege to watch God work on a person’s life.
It’s through this work that God brings a person into maturity and begins to make us more like Him. Three things come to mind as we watch God operate—truths that remind us we’re not in charge.
1. You’re not the surgeon.
It’s not your job to save people. Christ has already done all the work needed.
Our egos are fed when someone says our sermon spoke to their heart, but there’s no power in our words. We don’t have some sort of special knowledge we can impart to others.
God is the one who works in people’s lives, and it’s Him we should point them too. A student watching a surgery would never interrupt to tell the surgeon what he or she is doing wrong, or that they should do it a different way.
Even as a surgeon does something that looks painful to us, we can trust the surgeon to work in people to bring them to health and life.
2. We preach, we teach, we disciple, but the Word is doing the work in people’s lives.
When someone tells you they’re thankful for your sermon, what they really are thankful for is God’s Word through you.
His Word is living and active, after all, sharper than a two-edged sword. The Word can even judge between the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Our most cleverly turned phrases and alliterations can never do that. Labor over your sermon and work hard at the craft.
But trust the scalpel of the Word. The most important thing a church does is get the Word into people’s lives, whatever that looks like.
Whether it’s from the pulpit, small groups, or Bible-reading plans, a pastor must give room to the Word of God for it to work.
3. Sometimes people get up off the operating table.
In the middle of my wife’s c-section, she never got up or moved. But some people don’t like the painfulness of the Word exposing the diseased places in our hearts, so they get up and walk away.
It’s a hard thing to watch someone you care about get up and walk away from the work of God. This is one of the hardest things to face as a pastor. It’s worse than being marginalized by the world or bitten by stray sheep.
It’s hard to see someone who is drawing close to God decide they don’t want that after all. But it’s not uncommon.
Falling out of regular church attendance, neglecting God’s Word, and not setting minds on things above are just a few of the ways people get up off God’s operating table.
The good news, of course, is that no matter how many times we get off the table, God welcomes us back. There’s no one beyond the reach of God’s Word.
Preach with boldness and enjoy your first-row seat to see God work in the lives of His people.
LUKE HOLMES (@lukeholmes) is husband to Sara, father to three young girls, and pastor at First Baptist Church Tishomingo, Oklahoma, since 2011. He’s a graduate of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and can be found online at LukeAHolmes.com.