Revive Our Hearts Podcast

God Will Speak

Leslie Basham: The way you begin listening to a sermon will affect how you respond at the end. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Don’t wait for that invitation to be given to respond to that message. Start responding before you hear the message, before you even know what your pastor is going to say. Say, “Lord, I’m here to listen, and I’m here to obey. My heart is surrendered.”

Leslie Basham: It’s Tuesday, October 17th, and this is Revive Our Hearts with author and speaker Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Do you ever find yourself leaving church thinking, “I didn’t get much out of the sermon today. The pastor didn’t do a very good job.” Well, maybe your experience has more to do with your heart than the pastor’s words.

Here’s Nancy in a series called How to Listen to a Sermon.

Nancy: I read a cute story about a little boy one Sunday morning who was staring up at a large plaque that hung in the foyer of his church. His pastor noticed this little boy looking up at this plaque. The boy had been staring at the plaque for a long time, so the pastor looked up. He stood next to the boy, and he said quietly, “Good morning son.”

“Good morning pastor,” said the little boy. He was still focused on the plaque on the wall. Then finally, the boy looked up at the pastor, and he said, “Pastor, what is this?”

“Well son,” said the pastor, “that’s a list of all the people who’ve died in the service.” Then as they stood together staring up at the large plaque. The little boy finally said in a barely audible voice, “Which service was it—the 8:30 or the 11:00?”

All the people who died in the service—well there are a couple of different meanings to that word service. But we’re talking about how to get the most out of your pastor’s preaching, how to listen to a sermon, how to get the most out of church. I think for some people the church service is their weekly nap. Or if truth be told, many people feel that going to church is a boring experience. We tend to say the reason is that the pastor or the people on the platform or the people doing the service, they’re just not sharp enough or good enough or entertaining enough.

We tend to think the responsibility lies on them. Now, some of the responsibility may lie on them, but I wasn’t called to preach to preachers. I was called to share the Truth with women. As we sit in services week after week we need to realize that sometimes the problem may lie with us. So we’re talking about how to prepare our hearts to get the most out of preaching at church when we come together for public worship.

In the last session we talked about what happens before we go to church during the week, how to prepare our hearts. Even as we’re driving to church Sunday morning, how to prepare our hearts to come with a sense of anticipation and expectation that God will speak to us.

Now, in this session I want to focus on the service itself—when we’re gathered for public worship. I’m going to refer to Sunday because that’s when most of us meet for public worship. You may do it on Saturday. You may do it morning or evening. But many of us gather for public worship on Sunday mornings; we call it the Lord’s Day.

I want to talk about how to get through a service and get the most out of that Sunday worship experience. I quoted in the last session from E.M. Bounds his book on Powerful and Prayerful Pulpits. He says, “The thought of waiting on God, of meeting with Him should possess us. We should not come as spectators.”

That’s so good. The thought of waiting on God, of meeting with God together with God’s people should grip us. It should inspire us. We should not come as spectators—“Here I am; entertain me”—the way we go to a ball game. “Here I am; entertain me” the way we look at a movie. “Here I am; entertain me.” That’s not the way to go to church. Church is something that should actively engage all of our being.

So let me give you several suggestions. If you’re taking notes there are eight on my list here. I don’t know how many we’ll get through. We’ll just see.

Number one is participation. By that I mean be there. You’re not going to get a lot out of church if you don’t go. Be there. It’s important that you and I be under the proclamation of the Word on a consistent basis.

I find that many times after I’ve done a weekend conference, a weekend of speaking, I’m depleted. I’m worn out. Sunday morning I do not want to go. I don’t want to go anywhere! But I know that it’s important for me to get my own heart under the preaching of the authority of the Word of God.

You need to be there. You say, “I can turn on the radio. I can turn on the TV.” There is something, biblically, about the value of the church, the people of God gathered together to listen together to the ministry of the Word of God.

Then, let me suggest secondly that you get to church early enough to spend a few minutes before the service quietly preparing your heart for worship. Now, let me just tell you about a pet peeve I have. I’m not going to make a biblical absolute out of this because I don’t think it is.

When I go to church, I am so grateful for opportunities at church to fellowship with people that I know and love. But it’s really important to me, and I have found it to be so valuable over the years to have a few minutes sitting down before the service starts. It may be while some prelude music is playing if they do that in your church, but some few minutes to prepare my heart and not be talking.

I like to sit there and to pray for God to move in that service, to pray for Him to move in the pastor, in his heart, in my heart, in other people’s hearts, the people who are sitting with me, family members, friends. I love that old spiritual:

Brethren, we have met to worship
And adore the Lord our God;
Will you pray with all your power,
While we try to preach the word?
All is vain unless the Spirit
Of the Holy One comes down;
Brethren, pray, and holy manna
Will be showered all around.1

Don’t expect to go and just sit there and get this great meal if you haven’t done anything to help prepare your heart to pray for the Spirit of God to come into that place. If you know the text for the message—some churches have a bulletin where they record what the message topic and text will be—then you may want to sit there and read that Scripture prayerfully asking God to speak to you through that text.

I remember some time ago one of my little nephews (I think he was ten at the time) said to me on the phone (I don’t know how this came up). But he said, “We have to go to big church now, and it’s hard to listen.” I talked to him about this matter of praying and asking God to speak to your heart.

It was so cute. He said, “I did that Aunt Nancy, and it worked.” Well, it does. Sometimes it is hard to listen, not just for little people but sometimes for us big people. But as we pray and ask God to speak to us, He does.

There are a couple of old hymns that I love along this line. You may be familiar with them. Remember that one that says it’s a prayer:

Break Thou the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,
As Thou didst break the loaves beside the sea;
Beyond the sacred page I seek Thee, Lord;
My spirit pants for Thee, O living Word!2

So as we go to the Word we’re saying, “Lord, I want to see You. I want to know You.” Then again another old hymn:

Speak Lord in the stillness,
While I wait on Thee;
Hushed my heart to listen
In expectancy.

Speak, O blessed Master,
In this quiet hour;
Let me see Thy face, Lord,
Feel Thy touch of power.

For the words Thou speakest,
"They are life, indeed;
Living bread from heaven,
Now my spirit feed."

All to Thee is yielded,
I am not my own;
Blissful, glad surrender-
I am Thine alone.3

You see the progression there? If you’re not familiar with that hymn or you don’t recall the words to it, you may just want to go to the transcript on ReviveOurHearts.com and print out those words, perhaps take them to church with you and read the words of that prayer and make them your own this coming Lord’s Day as you prepare for public worship in your local church.

The progression here where the songwriter says, “Lord, speak. I’m expectant. I’m listening. The words you speak, they are life. They are bread. As You speak my heart is surrendered. I will listen.” That’s what we’re praying. “Lord, my heart is surrendered to whatever You say this day through Your servant in this service.”

Don’t wait for the invitation to be given if they give a public invitation in your church. Don’t wait for that invitation to be given to respond to the message. Start responding before you hear the message, before you even know what your pastor is going to say. Say, “Lord, I’m here to listen, and I’m here to obey. My heart is surrendered.”

I love that chorus we sing in some of our churches.

I’ll say yes, Lord, yes, to Your will and to Your way;
I’ll say yes, Lord, yes, I will trust You and obey.
When Your Spirit speaks to me, with my whole heart I’ll agree,
And my answer will be yes, Lord, yes.

Then, as we said earlier, don’t be a spectator. Participate fully in every part of the service. That means when it’s time to sing—sing. You may not have the world’s greatest voice. I don’t have the world’s greatest voice.

I had a great example of this in my dad. He had one of the world’s worst voices. He could not carry a tune at all. But he didn’t know or he didn’t care, I’m not sure which. I can still just—it’s been decades now since I’ve heard that voice—but I can still hear him singing as if it didn’t matter what anybody else thought. When it was time to sing, he would sing.

I look around so many churches today and I see during the singing time people just standing there. Even choruses that we know, we’re not a singing people. I’ll tell you what: A revived people are a singing people. If you want to be revived, start to sing. Participate fully in every part of the service. When it’s time to pray—pray. When it’s time to give—give.

I was in a church recently, this past Sunday in fact, when the man came up to take the offering, he said, “It’s time for the offering.” And the people started cheering. They said, “Praise the Lord!” I had never heard an offering taken like that. It was great. Those people were participating in the offering. They said that this is a part of worship. Be all there; be fully there, not spectating but participating.

Then during the sermon, this is number four if you’re trying to take notes, while the sermon is being preached open your Bible and follow along. Open your Bible and follow where the minister is reading. If he refers you to other references and you can find them quickly enough, look them up.

There’s nothing like holding that Word in your own hand, which for generations and centuries believers could not do because they did not have the printed Word. But we do. What a privilege. Mark your Bible. Look up the references while he’s speaking.

I was talking with a friend recently who was telling me about a particular denomination where she grew up. She said, “We didn’t take our Bibles to church. You didn’t need your Bible.” Well, if you’re in that kind of church, you may want to consider going to a church where you do need your Bible. But it was not customary for her.

Now she’s in a church where the Word is being taught, and she’s coming alive. She’s following along. She’s telling me things that she’s learning, things that she’s hearing. It’s great.

Remember as you’re following along in the Scripture, remember that when the Scripture speaks—God speaks. This is not just your pastor talking. This is God talking. I think that is what the Scripture talks about when it says we should tremble at the Word of the Lord.

It’s one thing to be bored by your pastor. It’s another thing to be hearing the Word of God, no matter how simply or ineloquently proclaimed, and to get bored. Listen, if God came into this room and with His voice or His physical presence and were to speak, we would listen and we would not be bored.

When your pastor reads the Word of God, God is speaking. That’s what Paul said to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 2:13. He said, “We thank God for this constantly that when you received the Word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the Word of God, which is at work in you believers.”

As you’re listening to the message in that next Sunday service think, “God is speaking to me!” Ladies, that is an awesome thing that God would speak to us. This is one of the reasons I love going to church. It’s one of the reasons I love to hear preaching.

And I’ll tell you the reason is, I think, because I know that when I’m hearing that preaching, I’m hearing God speak through His Word. That is an awesome privilege, and it’s powerful. The Word is life-changing. It’s life-giving. It’s powerful.

Number five, listen attentively to the reading and the preaching of the Word. I know these are all kind of overlapping with each other, so don’t worry too much about the numbers. But I’m focusing here on the attentiveness. As you listen to the preaching and reading of the Word, be attentive. Remember that you’re not coming to hear a pastor’s sermon. Ultimately, you’re coming to hear from God. Listen attentively.

Remember in 1 Samuel 3 when God called out to Samuel in the middle of the night. The Lord came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel! And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening’” (verse 10, paraphrased). That’s attentive; standing at attention, listening, ready to hear. Listening attentively.

Something that will help you, at least it helps me to listen attentively, is where you can (now sometimes if you’re in a huge church you can’t do this) try to make eye contact with the pastor. I mean I try to look him in the face, look him in the eyes. I express agreement and affirmation with my eyes and with my face.

Now that helps the pastor if he sees that. You ask how I know that. I’m not a pastor, but I’ve taught the Word for so many years I know the value of what I call “yes faces” in the audience, people that you look at them and you can tell they’re listening.

I mean, when you have a conversation with someone, if they’re just standing there stone-faced and they’re not moving you wonder, “Are they hearing anything I’m saying? Are they agreeing with it? Do they care?” I mean when you have a conversation with someone you engage visually, facially, with your eyes. Preaching is a conversation between the pastor and the people and the Lord. So engage visually.

Not only does it help the person who’s preaching the Word, it helps you. It helps you stay alert. It helps you stay tuned. It helps you stay focused to listen attentively.

I picked up a book as I was getting ready to come to the recording session this morning, a classic book on revival by Brian Edwards. He describes some of the characteristics of revival. He talks about how in times of revival people are so attentive to the Word of God; they listen attentively.

He quotes Robert Murray M'Cheyne, who was a great preacher during the 1800s. M'Cheyne is talking about how the people were so attentive to the Word of God. He says, “I’ve observed at such times an awful and breathless stillness pervading the assembly, each hearer bent forward in the posture of rapt attention”4 Can you just see that picture? People eager—not fidgeting, not restless; but eager, listening to the Word of God.

Jesus said in Luke 8, “Consider carefully how you listen” (verse 18, NIV). The New King James says, “Take heed how you hear.” Take care how you listen. Listen attentively. Listen carefully.

Then, listen humbly. Listen humbly to the preaching of the Word. This is so important. Don’t sit there thinking, “I already know this. I’ve heard this.” Then you tune it out. Ask the Lord to make it fresh to you. If your heart is humble, you will not be sitting there evaluating the message or how it’s delivered. You will let the message evaluate you. Big difference.

Sometimes we’re so busy critiquing the way the Word is proclaimed that we fail to evaluate the way that we’re listening and responding to the message. Could I particularly say to those of you who are moms, you have children. I just want to caution you earnestly about if they ever, ever, ever hear you critique the preaching of the Word of God. I think that is a huge mistake.

You want your children to grow up and be bored with preaching or critical of messages? Then model that to them. If you want them to grow up loving the Word of God and listening attentively and drawing from God’s Word no matter how ineloquent the preaching may be, then model this attentive, humble heart. What is God saying to me through this message? Humble listening to the Word of God.

James 1 says, “Receive with meekness, [humbly accept] the Word which is able to save your souls” (verse 21). Listen humbly.

And then number seven, take notes on the message. Again, that’s not a biblical absolute, but I think it’s a good suggestion. Jot down things that the Lord points out to you that He speaks to you about. Highlight points that the Spirit is applying to your heart and your life.

If you’ve asked Him to speak to you, assume that He is speaking to you. When He puts something on your heart that you need to deal with or you need to respond to or something you want to study further, jot it down. Then take those notes home and you can review them later and work through them.

And then finally here, don’t make your pastor a prisoner of unrealistic expectations. It’s a challenge today to be a pastor because these pastors in some of our little churches, small towns, even some of our bigger churches, they’re being inevitably compared to these spell-binding communicators on Christian radio and Christian TV. Most communicators are not national TV and radio ministers.

Your pastor does not have to be a mesmerizing communicator to be an effective man of God. You shouldn’t expect him to have to be. He shouldn’t have to be entertaining or dramatic or tell a lot of stories. You just want a man who’s a man of God who is humble, who loves the Word of God, who will open the Word of God and will make its meaning plain.

Some of those well-known preachers may be more effective communicators and may even be better preachers, but those preachers cannot carry the weight and the responsibility and the burden that your local church pastor does of shepherding your soul, of being there for you in your time of spiritual need.

I’m just reminded that the power is in the Truth, not in the messenger. Now it’s important, and I say this as a teacher of the Word, it’s important that the communicator have clean hands and a pure heart, be prepared, prayed up, and anointed with the Spirit. But I—if I thought that the effectiveness and success of Revive Our Hearts ministry was dependent on my great teaching skills, I would be discouraged and go find another career.

There are plenty of better communicators. There are people who are more entertaining. There are people who are more articulate. There are people who can teach the Word better than I can.

But God didn’t call me to be the greatest communicator on the planet. He called me to be a humble servant taking His Word and opening it up for the hearts of His people. That’s what God’s called your pastor to do and to be. The power is in the Truth, not in the packaging.

The apostle Paul . . . I wish we could hear him preach. Wouldn’t it be great to hear what his sermons sounded like? We don’t know. But there are a number of references, particularly in the book of Corinthians, that indicate that at least other people thought he was not that great a preacher. They said he wasn’t that eloquent, that maybe he stumbled over his words. We don’t know, but he was apparently plain spoken or rough spoken. There was something about him that made people criticize his delivery.

Paul knew that. He was sensitive. So he says, “I didn’t come to you with eloquent words or eloquent wisdom from man. I came to you in the power of the Holy Spirit of God and that’s what changed your lives.”

In the book I referred to a little earlier from Brian Edwards he says, “In revival, congregations do not discuss a man’s style or eloquence. In fact, they do not even debate the content. They are moved to action.”

Now, I’m not suggesting that content isn’t important. But I’m suggesting that the simplest, least eloquent preacher if he opens God’s Word and proclaims it, it can be something that absolutely transforms your life if you have a humble heart, if you’re listening attentively, if you’re letting the Lord speak to you. God will speak to you, and He will change your life.

Leslie Basham: I think a lot of listeners are going to be engaged in this week’s sermon in a whole new way thanks to the words of Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Today’s program is part of a series called How to Listen to a Sermon. Nancy’s eight points flew by pretty quickly, and you can review them by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com.

I have a list of my own. Here are three reasons you might not need to read a new book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s called Choosing Forgiveness: Your Journey to Freedom. Don’t order it if any of these apply to you.

Number one, you never interact with anybody. If you live on a desert island and have never come in contact with any other person, you might not need this book.

Number two, you may not need this book if you’re entirely perfect, and you spend all your time with perfect people.

And finally, if you’ve never been offended, hurt, or sinned against; you might not need this book.

If you’re with the rest of us who are imperfect people and deal with imperfect people all the time, I hope you’ll get a copy of Choosing Forgiveness. Nancy will help you locate areas of unresolved hurt in your heart, deal with them thoroughly, and find complete healing.

You can order Choosing Forgiveness: Your Journey to Freedom for a donation of $18 or more when you visit ReviveOurHearts.com. You can also call 1-800-569-5959.

When you contact us make sure to get some information about the Pastor’s Wife Gift Set. During Pastor’s Appreciation Month not only can you listen to sermons in a whole new way like Nancy just described, you can also surprise your pastor’s wife with an awesome gift. Again, for more information visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

How do you know that a church service has been effective? Great music? Professional quality presentation? Nancy says there’s a crucial element every church service should have, and she’ll tell us what it is tomorrow. Here’s Nancy to close our time.

Nancy: Thank You, Lord, for Your incredible Word. Thank You for pastors who proclaim it, who are studying right now to preach to us this coming Lord’s Day. I pray that You would open our ears, open our hearts. Help us to listen and to be changed by Your Truth and by Your Word.

May we not just come to church and sit and leave the same people we were. May we go out transformed by the power of Your Spirit and the power of Your Truth. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

1 George Atkins
2 Mary Lathbury. "Break Though the Bread of Life."
3 May Grimes. "Speak Lord into the Stillness."
4 Brian Edwards. Revival.

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