Preaching God’s Word To Myself
When Satan says, “God does not care!”
I see the cross: Christ’s blood stains there.
When I’m tempted by what is wrong,
God’s promises of help prove strong.
When guilt nags and I’m overwhelmed,
His Word insists, “You aren’t condemned!”
When I fear taking my last breath,
Christ asserts, “I defeated death!”
When my body throbs with piercing pain,
I remember the new one I’ll gain.
When my heart breaks and tears outpour,
He says, “One day you’ll weep no more!”
When false beliefs vie for control,
preaching God’s Word strengthens my soul.
When Satan whispers, I reply
with God’s truth, to refute the lie.
A Most Indispensable Spiritual Discipline
The poem refers to a spiritual discipline or habit that’s indispensable to my faith. I talk back to the false beliefs I tell myself and combat the lies of Satan with truths from God’s Word. I call it “preaching to myself.” Though I appreciate and desperately need the effective pulpit teaching of my pastor, I’m convinced that the most sin-defeating, hope-instilling, faith-sustaining, soul-nourishing, depression-assuaging sermons I’ll ever hear are the ones I preach to myself.
To keep making spiritual progress, you must preach to yourself often, too.
“Preaching to yourself” is the assertive act of combating discouragement, temptation and any other harmful thought patterns with the truth of God’s Word. It’s 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 he refutes misconceptions and false conclusions, affect spiritual vitality and usefulness to God.
Examples from the Bible
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 cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation” (Psalm 42:5).
In a psalm prompted by an experience of treachery and opposition, David addressed himself concerning God’s character: “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; 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 his source of strength: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Though many psalms were written as prayers to God, or lyrics 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 in what they said to themselves. They reminded themselves of who He is, what He has done and what He has pledged to do for His people. We, too, must fight discouragement, temptations and negative thoughts that roil around in our minds by continually reminding ourselves of the promises and truths in Scripture.
A prerequisite for effectively “peaching to yourself” is consistent time delving into God’s Word. Memorizing key verses or longer passages prepares you for such preaching. By sheer necessity due to my weaknesses, I’ve memorized scores of Bible texts over the years. Hiding God’s Word in my heart allows me to retrieve His truth at the precise moment I need it, giving the Holy Spirit fuel to work with in my mind.
Preaching to myself is especially necessary when I’m depressed.
Truth Versus Despondency
When I fall into the abyss of depression, that’s when false beliefs most viciously vie for my attention. I tend to tell myself lies that keep me from reveling in the gospel and which thwart motivation for ministry. I doubt God’s personal concern for me, question His goodness and don’t sense His presence. I start doubting that my teaching and writing are making any eternal impact. I know better in the cognitive realm, yet what I say I believe doesn’t always seep into the realm of emotions—not when a dark mood envelops me. When I’m despondent, the typical stressors and setbacks that everyone experiences trigger an almost endless cycle of oppressive thoughts and feelings. I’m more prone to mutter this to myself: “Why do I keep fighting against despondency? Despair always returns. I’ll never be happy again!”
To combat such hopelessness, I quote pertinent Bible verses back to God and plead with Him to instill more joy and hope within me: Here are a few texts I most often preach to myself:
Psalm 3:3 “You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head.”
Micah 7:8 “Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall, I will rise; though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me.”
Isaiah 41:10 “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
Lamentations 3:22-25 “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul; ‘therefore I have hope in Him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.”
Psalm 50:15 “And call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
In Psalm 50:15, there’s a direct grammatical link between calling on God in times of trouble, and the promise that God will receive glory through His answer. I plead, “Father, strengthen me in this time of weakness. Assuage this hopelessness so I teach and write and relate to others in a way that honors You. Though people may view me as weak, may they see You as strong and capable by how You sustain and use me.”
I tell myself that the content of those verses are either true, or a flat-out lie. Then I cry out to God, saying, “I choose to believe those verses are true. My faith may be weak and limited, yet You, the object of my faith, are strong and unlimited.”
A Realistic Perspective
I don’t want to give the impression that quoting Scripture to myself is a panacea that suddenly ends all depressive episodes. No, it’s a hard struggle, a fight! Yet my meditation on what such verses say about God and His promises instills a measure of hope that assuages the despair, and sustains me through the responsibilities of the day.
God’s Word doesn’t cure me of despondency, but its truths empower me to keep going, to believe that God will redeem the pain and work within it or through it for my good and for His glory. Truths within verses I preach to myself replace the negative, oppressive tape that has been playing in my mind. It’s a way to fight for belief when I’m on the cusp of losing heart. Preaching to myself doesn’t prevent the onset of depression as much as it helps me respond to it in a way that shortens its stay and moderates its effects.
Paul Tripp on “Preaching to Yourself”
I’ll put a wrap on this post with a summary of a podcast by Paul Tripp, titled “Preach the Gospel to Yourself.”
No one is more influential in your life than you are, because no one talks to you more than you do.
In our sin, we constantly find our responses to life in our fallen world to be disconnected from the theology that we confess. Anger, fear, panic, and discouragement stalk our hearts and whisper a false gospel that will lure our lives away from what we say we believe.
The battleground is meditation. What is it that is capturing your idle thoughts? What fear or frustration is filling your spare moments? Will you just listen to yourself, or will you start talking to yourself? No, preaching to yourself! Not letting your concerns shape you but forming your concerns by the gospel.
Preaching the gospel to ourselves is a spiritual discipline that is both proactive and reactive. It’s reactive as we encounter temptation and frustration and seek to restock in the moment, or as we reflect back on our sin and circumstances and try to evaluate them with a gospel lens. But it’s also proactive. It goes on the offense when we feed our souls in some regular rhythm before the events and tasks and disappointments of daily life begin streaming our way.
There is a difference between merely reminding ourselves of truth and preaching to ourselves the truth of the gospel. The latter is self-consciously and intentionally reminding ourselves of the person and presence and provisions of our Redeemer. But while gospel self-preaching is not the same thing as Bible reading, the connections and interdependences are profound. The Scriptures provide the inerrant material for preaching to ourselves the gospel of grace. They are the content to be taken up and applied to our lives in view of Jesus’s person and work.
My Prayer Response
Oh Father, how glad I am that my dark moods and discouraging circumstances don’t produce my theology! Who You are and all that You promised are so much more reliable than what I think or how I feel. Instead of being dependent on my experience, Your truth informs my experience. May Your Spirit keep reminding me of precious truths in Your Word. Give me a teachable, responsive spirit when I preach Your Word to myself. In the name of Jesus, the only person who fully practiced what He preached, amen.