“…take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak” (Mark 13:11)
When I was about 13, I picked up a guitar for the first time. To say that I picked it up quickly was an understatement. I could listen to a piece of music and almost see in my mind how to reproduce that sound on the guitar. It gave me the ability to do what some of my friends only dreamed of doing, or could only do with endless hours of hard work.
But it wasn’t all fun. The problem with that innate ability, is that it didn’t force me to work hard, and when my natural gifts hit a ceiling, I wasn’t motivated to practice as much, or to even learn the basics. Even though I understood a good bit about music from years of previous study on another instrument, I understood almost nothing about the instrument that I really wanted to play. Never was this as disheartening as when, later in life, my children asked me to teach them how to play guitar. I could play it, but I couldn’t teach it, because I had never studied it.
It doesn’t matter what natural talents or abilities we have, eventually, the talent will run out, and we’ll have to work hard to develop our abilities further, to address our weaknesses, and to overcome our challenges. I have found this to be true with most anything I have done, including preaching.
But there are some in our world who can seemingly excuse themselves from the hard work of study, and sermon development and preparation, claiming to channel the Spirit of God when they preach. In other words, they have no need for the development and refinement of the skill of preaching because (supposedly) the Spirit does all the work.
If someone were to ask me if my preaching was guided by the Holy Spirit, there is a sense in which the answer to that would be “Yes.” However, there is a sense in which the answer to that is “No.” It just depends on exactly what you mean by the term, “guided.”
If you mean that I make little or no preparation before my lesson; if you mean that I kind of wait around for God to “lay something on my heart”; if you mean that I just “turn loose” when I hit the pulpit and wait to see what the Spirit puts in my mouth (and I turn out to be as surprised as you at some of the things that come out) then the answer is “No.”
I am not guided by the Spirit, like that.
If you mean that the Spirit has provided all necessary truth by way of Revelation and Inspiration through the sacred Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3), and that I have acquired the Spirit’s Word through diligent and prayerful study of the same (Romans 10:17), then “Yes.”
I am guided by the Spirit, like that, as this is how the Spirit leads anyone today.
I have heard numerous preachers claim that what is coming out of their mouths comes straight from the Holy Spirit. This implies some kind of miraculous working of the Spirit that overtakes some part of their consciousness, and they essentially have little or no control – like a tree bending in the wind. Is this possible?
Some take this statement from Jesus as substantiation for such:
“But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Matthew 10:19-20, KJV).
When Jesus said this, he wasn’t discouraging preachers of all time not to study in preparation for their lessons. Rather, he was addressing the particular possibility of these preachers facing legal repercussions when they began preaching the gospel of the coming kingdom. They were promised if that happened that they would be miraculously aided by the Spirit when they were called into question for his sake (Matthew 10:17-18). This was NOT a promise for all preachers of all time. In this same context, Jesus also restricted them from preaching to anyone but Jews (cf. Matthew 10:5-6). Is that directive for all preachers today, too?
He sent specific men on a specific mission and gave them very specific promises, none of which are valid for us today. To the contrary, preachers today MUST “take thought beforehand,” or we’ll be blown around by a spirit for sure, just not a Holy one.