Thursday, June 14, 2018

A Lesson I Learned From An Older Preacher: Timing Is Everything

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Proverbs 25:11 "As golden apples in settings of silver is a word spoken in the right circumstances".  


When I was beginning God's call on my life to pastor, an older preacher gave me the following gem of wisdom:

"God's truth is not only true, but timely".  

Whenever we turn to the book of Job, we see the need for this principle in the various speeches delivered by Job's so-called "friends". Whenever you consider the speech of one of these "friends", Elihu (Job 31-37), there are some great truths for sure. The problem with Elihu's speech was the timing. Truth delivered at the wrong time has the same net effect as error delivered at the right time. I have not always exercised due-diligence in avoiding the first of these traps and have labored to avoid the latter. The latter error is intentional, whereas ill-timed delivery of the truth is negligence.

Both ill-timed truth and right-timed error hinder, rather than help the hearer. We can glean some great truths from Elihu's speech. However, the best thing we can gather is the importance of delivering God's truth in a timely fashion - whether in conversation or in preaching a sermon.

Whenever we include "timeliness" in the communication of God's truth, the message will become "timeless". Put another way, the hearer will apply it not only to their lives, but perhaps share it with others.  Too often, Christians don't speak when they need to. More often, and tragically so, Christians don't take the time to pause before speaking. Timeliness works to correct both excesses by providing two guard-rails: knowing when to speak and knowing when to listen. As Proverbs 25:11 states: "As golden apples in settings of silver is a word spoken in the right circumstances".  

Acts 13 gives us a New Testament instance of the aforementioned principles. By the time one arrives at Acts 13, the focus of Acts is shifting from Peter and the Apostles to Paul and Barnabas. God's mission was going to focus more and more on the Gentiles (i.e. people groups in the nations of the world). Paul's magnificent sermon in Acts 13:15-41 is an example of God's truth delivered in a timely fashion.  This sermon, in many ways, was fitting for launching the Gentile mission. As one reads the sermon, Paul, the preacher, builds a bridge that connects the New Testament mission of proclaiming Christ to the nations to what was anticipated in the Old Testament revelation. 

If Paul would had remained silent in this instance, he not only would had ignored what was clearly the leading of the Spirit, but the Gentile mission might had been jeopardized. God once again was teaching the art of "timeliness". For preachers, keeping in mind the principle of timeliness will make all the difference in how effectively you deliver God's word. For everyone reading this post, as you go throughout your day, ask God to teach you when to listen and when to speak. Timing is everything.  

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