This week we are taking a break from new posts and re-sharing the articles you read most in 2021. We think you will find these evergreen and helpful in your ministry in the new year!
“God, did tonight make any difference at all to those teens?” I’ve often asked God this question on my drive home from youth group. Maybe you have, too. Maybe your message felt like a flop. Maybe the teenagers were distracted and didn’t appear to be listening to a word you said. Maybe you had a really small turnout. Maybe you had several teenagers there who didn’t even want to be there. You wonder if anything of lasting, spiritual significance came about from your time together.
I’m so thankful that on many of those discouraging drives home after youth group, the Holy Spirit brought these verses to my mind from Isaiah 55:10–11: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
What an encouraging promise that the Lord always accomplishes what he purposes when we faithfully proclaim his word. It doesn’t matter how eloquent we are, how winsome we are, or how entertaining we are. What matters is that we simply proclaim the word of God.
God’s Word Creates and Sustains Life
The word of God not only describes faith in Christ; it is God’s appointed means to create faith in Christ. The word of God is living, active, and powerful, and we as Christians get to proclaim it and then prayerfully anticipate how God will use it to accomplish his good purposes.
For thirteen years, I was blessed to live in a beautiful community an hour north of Seattle, Washington. It rained A LOT there…I mean A LOT…sometimes for weeks at a time. Do you know what the result of all that rain was? Luscious green vegetation everywhere you looked, rivers filled to the brim with water to irrigate the fields, and mossy forests, damp with moisture. Just like water sent from heaven creates and sustains much beautiful life there, so does God’s word proclaimed on earth create and sustain spiritual life.
In Genesis 1, God spoke and created the heavens and the earth by his word. In Ezekiel 37, God prophesied to the valley of dry bones through the words of Ezekiel, and God raised his dead people to life. In John 11, Jesus cried out with a loud voice to the corpse of his friend Lazarus, and Lazarus rose from the dead. In 1 Peter 1, Peter told believers that God made us born again through the living and abiding word of God. Just as God has always used his word to create and sustain life, so also God promises that he will use his word to create and sustain life in your life and ministry.
Preach and Teach the Word
In 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul charges Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” Paul doesn’t charge Timothy simply to preach; Paul charges Timothy to preach the word.
Are you good at telling stories, making teenagers laugh, or using creative object lessons? That’s great. Just make sure that whatever methods you use in your teaching and preaching, they serve to point young people to the wonder and truth of God and his word. Let’s avoid giving Bible-based messages in which we begin with the Bible, only to launch into other topics that we think will interest young people more. As we walk teens through passages of scripture, let’s help them see the devastating effects of sin, the majesty and power of our sin-bearing and sin-defeating Lord Jesus, and the new life they can have with him because he rose from the dead.
Humbly Ask God to Work Through His Word
2 Timothy 3:16 says that all Scripture is breathed out by God, and God tells us in Isaiah 55 that His word that goes out from his mouth shall not return to him empty. God always accomplishes all of his purposes in every one of our God-ordained encounters with his word—whether we’re reading it, listening to it, or proclaiming it. So, as pastors and leaders, let’s pray according to God’s will that God would work mightily through his word in the hearts of those we’re shepherding. Let’s humbly, boldly, and expectantly ask God to use his word to make people born again, to convict us of sin and to grant us repentance, and to encourage and sustain his people.
Be Encouraged in Your Weakness and in Your Faithfulness
If you are proclaiming the word of God to teens and their families publicly and privately, then be encouraged—God is working through you! God promises that he will use his word to accomplish that which he purposes to accomplish every time you teach and preach his Word and proclaim his gospel.
Are you feeling unprepared before getting up to speak? That’s okay. Ask God for help, and then guide teens through God’s word.
Are you feeling weak and discouraged after a hard day? God can and will use you. Ask him to use you in your weakness and feed your own soul while you feed teenagers the word of God.
Are you feeling anxious and fearful before you speak? Ask the Lord for strength, and show grace to yourself. God doesn’t need you to be a rockstar communicator. He simply wants you to depend on him as you faithfully deliver his word to the people He’s brought to you.
For a host of reasons, there will be times when you will be tempted beat yourself after giving a message. When that happens, preach the same gospel to yourself that you’re preaching to teenagers. Your personal worth and acceptance by God is not due to your perfect performance for God; rather, you are worthy and accepted by God because of Jesus’ perfect performance for you in his life, death, and resurrection.
Whenever we teach or preach, we must not trust in our own knowledge, charisma, or experience. Rather, we must bow before the Lord in prayer as we demonstrate our need for and trust in his Spirit and his power to work through his word to create and sustain spiritual life…and He will!