The other week I preached a sermon that I thought made perfect sense to me. I had worked on it all week. Explained my points to multiple people. Prayed about it extensively.
But it just didn’t seem to connect like I wanted it to. I went home that night and began replaying it in my mind. What I could have done differently. A different outline I could have used. Was it practical enough? Clear enough?
Self-evaluation is an invaluable tool. But if you do it long enough, you can start to feel like, “Man, am I even a good preacher any more? Have I used up all my good stuff? Is there something wrong with my relationship with God? Am I out of His favor?”
And all these thoughts can take you down to a place where you’re so busy thinking about your past performance that you’re incapable of facing your future opportunities.
Sometimes it’s good to review. Especially if the shortcomings of one performance are just the latest in a series of systemic failures.
But a lot of times, the best thing you can do is move on. Get back to work and start writing your next sermon.
Or if you’re in another line of work, get back to doing whatever it is you do. If you’re a teacher and your lesson bombed on Friday, God’s favor has not abandoned you. He has still called you to teach. Go back today and get back to teaching. If you’re a parent and you blew it this weekend and yelled at your kids for no reason, God’s favor has not abandoned you. He still wants to equip you to raise children who will change the world. Apologize and get back to parenting.
In the famous encounter between God and Elijah on Mt. Horeb, most people never make it past the observation that God spoke to him in a gentle whisper. But there is more to the story. The gentle whisper actually said something: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Not exactly the profound piece of encouragement you’re expecting. But it’s exactly what Elijah needed. He had run away from Jezebel out of fear and come to the conclusion that it was all over. The prophets of God, including himself, were finished. Elijah probably wanted more than a simple question about why he had run away after an apparent defeat. But all that God whispered was all that he really needed: You’re alive. Now get back to doing what you’re supposed to be doing.
There is a place for evaluation. But the best thing you can do sometimes when you’re feeling down about your past performance is to live to do it another day. Get started on your next thing. Sometimes that’s your best remedy.
If you feel your efforts have come up short lately, write another sermon. Make a new presentation. Reach out to your wife and children in new ways.
Whatever you do, let’s all get back to work.
Artist and photographer Jeremy Cowart takes us on an amazing creative journey to see the face of Christ.