Once the Holy Spirit ministers to the preacher’s heart, the distress is transformed; instead of cautioning him, it now compels him. The fear of the Lord not only causes dread but, as Proverbs tells us, “In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence (Proverbs 14:30).” This assurance in God is where the preacher finds great delight. He now has complete confidence, not in himself, but in the God who laid him prostrate before His holiness, then brought him to his feet by the power of the Spirit and His word.
No preacher worth his weight enters the pulpit without some distress. There is a heaviness to delivering the word of God that is unlike anything else. Even if the preacher is naturally jovial, the man moved by the Spirit of God will tremble under the gravity of what he is doing.
I do not hold the office of pastor, but I do preach occasionally, and I teach the Bible regularly. Though I do not know the entire burden these pastors carry, I do know, in part, that preaching is often accompanied by a sense of woe that weakens them to their very core.
What causes this? It is the holiness of God. To stand in the pulpit and represent God to His people is a weight and responsibility that can only properly be done in the power of the Holy Spirit. To stand there in the power of the flesh or to trust in our theological knowledge and oratory skills is a sin.
Preaching, when done correctly, almost always begins with anguish. The greatest preachers will always ask, “Who am I to stand and proclaim Your word?” They know they meet the qualifications of pastor or elder as laid out in the scriptures and know God has called them to this, but they also know they need the word of God as much as any person in the congregation. Their sinfulness reminds them their lives depend upon the gospel they declare just as much as anyone to whom they will preach.
This acknowledgment of need is the only foundation for a great sermon. The pastor will often find himself studying the word of God until the passage he is covering begins to feed his soul.