4 Reasons to “Preach to yourself”

What a privilege I’ve had to hear, in person, renown preachers: W. A. Criswell, John Stott, Stephen Olford, Stuart Briscoe, John MacArthur, Jr., Charles Swindoll, Erwin Lutzer, John Piper, Bruce Wilkerson, and George Murray, to name a few.  But the value of their messages pale in comparison to the ones I preach to myself.

“Preaching to Yourself” is the assertive act of combating discouragement, temptation, or harmful thought patterns with the truth of Scripture.  It’s giving a biblically-informed rebuttal to erroneous or distorted thinking.  It’s when we’re proactive in “talking back” to the false messages that we (or Satan) tell ourselves.

Here are four reasons every Christian should learn this strategic response to unbiblical thinking:

1.      It’s practiced by the Psalmists.  Though many psalms are prayers to God, sometimes the writers are literally talking to themselves about God and their own circumstances.  One psalmist talked back to depression by pointing himself to a brighter future stemming from faith in God: “Why are you in despair, O my soul? Why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence” (Ps. 42:5).  In a psalm prompted by an experience of treachery, David addressed himself concerning God’s character: “My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him.  He only is my rock and my salvation” (Ps. 62:5-6).

2.      It’s a strategy that depends on consistent study of the Bible and memorization of verses.  The more of God’s Word you store in your mind and heart, the better preacher you’ll be.  When you initially experience the benefit of “preaching to yourself,” your desire for Scripture memorization will increase.  Anything that fuels your time in God’s Word will expedite your spiritual growth and ministry usefulness.

3.      This strategy of adjusting your thought process by “telling yourself the truth” is a biblical approach.  According to Stuart Briscoe, “Spiritual experience begins in the mind.”  He cited Romans 12:2, where Paul insisted that we’re transformed “by the renewing of your mind.”  R. C. Sproul wrote, “You can have theology in your head without it being in your heart, but it can’t get into your heart unless it’s first in your head.”

4.      My own experience illustrates the efficacy of preaching to yourself.  During a prolonged episode of depression, as I walked to class at Columbia International University, an inner voice taunted me: If God wanted you to teach today, He’d give you the heart for it.  Cancel your class and go home.  He isn’t with you today.  When is the last time you felt His presence, anyway?

God’s Spirit reminded me of promises of His presence, such as Isaiah 41:10: “Do not fear, for I am with you…I will strengthen you, surely I will help you.”  Hebrews 13:5 also surfaced in my mind: “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.”  I mentally talked back: “No, I don’t feel God’s presence today.  But His Word insists He’s with me, and these promises are far more reliable than my feelings!!”

Quoting Scripture didn’t magically eradicate my depressive episode.  But the truth of His presence did sustain me to the point that I taught the class that day with passion.  Preaching to myself enabled me to take the next step through the darkness instead of yielding to unbelief.

For a more extensive treatment of this topic, go to www.terrydpowell.com.  Click on RESOURCES, go to section “Insights to Cultivate Resiliency in Ministry,” and find “Preaching To Yourself.”  It’s the introductory chapter of my book, Serve Strong: Biblical Encouragement To Sustain God’s Servants.