When You’ve Heard the Sermon Before
by Jacob Hudgins
Preachers struggle to consistently speak words that are simultaneously fresh, helpful, relevant, and scriptural. Yet inevitably the time comes when an important previously-taught truth must be repeated. Before you groan, consider some thoughts when you’ve heard the sermon before.
Consider your need. “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you”(Phil 3:1). Hearing truth again and again is “safe for you.” Important truths need reinforcing. “Remind them”(Titus 3:1). Peter wrote to “remind you”(2 Pet 1:12), stressing that in both letters “I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember”(2 Pet 3:1-2). God tells us there are things we need to be told again and again, and we shouldn’t fight this!
Consider the audience. Perhaps you have heard the sermon before, but you were certainly not the same person you were then. But maybe, just maybe, you are not the only one listening! Perhaps there are new Christians who are “(longing) for the pure spiritual milk”(1 Pet 2:2). Perhaps there are others who should have learned but now “need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God”(Heb 5:12).
Consider the attitude. Luke writes wryly of the Athenians: “Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new”(Acts 17:21). Are we seeking novelty in preaching? Do we think the gospel needs updating? Can God only get our attention when He speaks in some new way?
At some point, attentive Christians will be largely familiar with the themes and teachings of the Bible. When they are voiced again, we should rejoice rather than complain! When you’ve heard the sermon before, praise God! His word is going forth again!