Who do you most rely on for speaking God’s truth into your mind and heart?
Is it a loyal, but honest, accountability partner? A dedicated pastor who studies diligently for every sermon he delivers? A best-selling author who feeds your soul through his or her incisive writing about God’s Word?
As vital as these resources are to your spiritual health, they aren’t the most important communicators of God’s truth. To find out who that is, read today’s post.
The pastor’s six year old boy, nestled in his lap on Sunday afternoon, said,
“Daddy, when you first come out to preach every Sunday, I see you sit there and bow your head. What are you doing that for?”
“I am praying,” his father answered. “I am asking the Lord to give me a good sermon.”
The boy frowned and then said, “Well…why don’t He?”
That young dad told that story himself, confirming the adage that “he who learns to laugh at himself will never cease to be entertained.”
Value of Biblical Sermons
Anyone who is serious about following Christ salutes the value of sound biblical preaching. Good preaching points listeners to the provision for sin on Jesus’ cross, facilitates godly choices and enhances love for the Savior. But in my personal pilgrimage as a depression-prone Christian, I’m convinced of one key truth pertaining to the power of biblical sermons. It is a conviction that permeates my heart, soul and mind. It is the most life-changing concept I I’ve experienced this side of the cross.
The most significant messages you will ever hear aren’t the ones faithfully delivered in your church’s pulpit, nor the ones you hear online offered by well-known preachers. The most sin-defeating, hope-instilling, faith-sustaining, soul-nourishing, ministry-motivating sermons you will ever hear are the ones you preach to yourself!
What Is “Preaching To Yourself?”
“Preaching to yourself” is the assertive act of combating discouragement, temptation, and any other harmful thought pattern with the truth of God’s Word. It is giving a biblically informed rebuttal to erroneous or distorted thinking, including the lies that Satan whispers to us. What and how a Christ-follower thinks, how he “talks to himself,” and whether or not he refutes misconceptions and false conclusions is a significant factor affecting spiritual vitality and usefulness to God.
I derive this concept directly from God’s Word.
One of the sons of Korah talked back to depression by pointing himself to a brighter future stemming from faith in God: “Why are you in despair, O my soul, and why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence” (Psalm 42:5).
In a psalm prompted by an experience of treachery and opposition, 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, my stronghold, I shall not be shaken” (Psalm 62:5-6).
In Psalm 73:26, Asaph, after acknowledging his own weakness and failure, reminded himself that God is a source of strength: “My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Though many psalms were written as prayers to God, or songs to sing during corporate worship, the samples I gave show three different authors “preaching to themselves.” In their time of need, they focused on God: who He is, what He has done, and what he has pledged to do for His people. We, too, can fight despondency, temptations and negative thoughts that roil around in our minds by reminding ourselves of the promises and truths in Scripture.
I’ve memorized scores of Bible texts over the years, not because I’m spiritual, but because I’m not. I’m extremely needy both emotionally and spiritually. Hiding God’s Word in my heart allows me to retrieve His truth at the moment I need it, giving the Holy Spirit fuel to work with in my mind.
Rich Bible Texts for Preaching to Yourself
Here are a few of the texts I’ve memorized over the years. I briefly mention the area of need, and give texts that offer truth that speaks to that need and refutes negative self-talk that may accompany the felt need. When should you preach to yourself?
- You don’t feel God’s presence: Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 28:20; John 14:16; Hebrews 13:5
- You don’t believe you can keep overcoming a particular temptation: 1 John 4:4; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:3
- You are experiencing uncertainty or delay: Psalm 27:13-14; Psalm 62:5-8
- You are in a dark depressive episode: Micah 7:8; Psalm 54:4
- You tell yourself that things are hopeless: Lamentations 3:22-25; Romans 15:13
- You are fearful or threatened by things like terrorism or pandemics: Psalm 46:1-2, 10; Psalm 56:3-4
- You doubt God’s goodness: Nahum 1:7; Isaiah 30:18
- Satan whispers that God is angry at you over past sins: Romans 5:1-2; Romans 8:1; 1 John 2:1-2
- The burden you are bearing is about to break you: Psalm 55:22; Psalm 68:19; Matthew 11:28-30
- You are browbeating yourself over weakness or mistakes: Psalm 73:25-26; 1 Corinthians 1:26-29; 2 Corinthians 4:7
- Your heart is broken and you aren’t sure that God cares: Psalm 30:5; Psalm 34:18-19; Psalm 147:3; Zephaniah 3:17
- You tell yourself that you can’t succeed in a task or ministry to which God has called you: 1 Corinthians 15:58; 2 Corinthians 3:5-6
- You look at the frightening world situation and start doubting if God is actually in control: Ephesians 1:11; Psalm 103:19
- You are retired, you feel unsettled, even scared of what the future may hold. Psalm 71:9, 17-21
God’s Word is the fuel that faith needs in order to function in our fallen world. “So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
Memorizing God’s Word, then preaching it to yourself, isn’t a panacea that eliminates pain, spiritual warfare or neediness. Yet its truth will strengthen you and result in more victories that you would otherwise experience.
If any of the previous areas of need describes your current experience, will you set aside unhurried time to examine the related verses and, in addition to talking to the Lord, preach to yourself about those truths?
Resources on Preaching to Yourself
My initial acquaintance with the idea of preaching to myself came from a chapter on despondency in John Piper’s book, Future Grace (Multnomah Books). The chapter titled “Faith In Future Grace vs. Despondency” was worth many times what I paid for the book. Piper expanded on Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ 1965 book, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures. Lloyd-Jones emphasized the need for what he called “biblical self-talk.”
Another book, released in 1980, promotes emotional and spiritual health through right thinking. William Backus and Marie Chapian wrote Telling Yourself the Truth: Finding Your Way Out of Depression, Anxiety, Fear, Anger, and Other Common Problems by Applying the Principles of Misbelief Therapy (Bethany House). Brisk sales of their book over four decades shows how much their insights resonate with people.
In several blogs over the years I have illustrated in detail how preaching God’s Word to myself sustained me during depressive episodes. Here is one from 2018 that shows my reliance on preaching to myself.