When Hard Hearts Need Hard Words of Truth
by Terry W. Benton
The preacher was all alone in his stand for truth and right because the assembly had become so worldly, and now he was the "troubler in Israel". He was so discouraged that he decided to quit preaching. He was miserable when preaching the truth because no one wanted or appreciated the truth. He was despised and rejected. But, though he had been miserable preaching the truth, he also knew he would be miserable in relation to God if he compromised truth for the sake of peace. This moved him to the decision to quit preaching altogether. But, because the truth is so needed and so important, and most of all, so powerfully embedded in his heart, it became a fire burning in his heart and conscience, and he found himself now miserable for not preaching that truth that could save souls. The man that was miserable, because the assembly had become too liberal and worldly and did not desire truth, was Jeremiah. The man that found he could not refrain from preaching is also Jeremiah. His struggles are the struggles of the conscientious preacher found scattered here and there across this land.
I remember from childhood hearing brother Hickman make the comment that "a man should not preach if he can keep from it". What he meant was that only conscientious, convicted, passionate, sincere men should preach the gospel. There are too many men peddling an empty, compromising message that does not challenge sin and is all too ready to tickle ears for the sake of popularity. If it is not an overwhelming conviction and drive within you, you will likely compromise it under pressure of losing your income or your popularity among people you think more highly of than you do the word of God.
Conscientious preaching is likely THE most stressful occupation in the world. No conscientious preacher is ever paid what his message is actually worth. It is quite often the case that the conscientious preacher is looking for ways to address sin in the congregation because he passionately wants to save souls from death and keep down the leaven of sin in the congregation, and others are undermining his efforts behind his back, and set themselves to try to make him miserable until he decides either to leave or to quit addressing real sin. Some preachers should not be preaching because their message is always positive (peace, peace, when there is no peace) and never addresses the real needs of the church.
Jeremiah challenges us to go back to the covenant, ask for the old paths. The assembly needs to not only desire that kind of preaching, but we need to demand no less. Preaching is the Holy Spirit's way of "convicting the world of sin" and to bring a worldly church like Corinth back to the standard. May God raise us up some more men like Jeremiah who are willing to "root out", "pull down", "destroy", so that some real "building" and "planting" can take place in this age of the worldly "church of Christ". May God raise up conscientious members who want the old paths and will take nothing less than sound, sin-exposing, and true salvation-offering gospel preaching. I heard a 93-year-old brother tell me that he is concerned about the way churches are drifting today. With tears in his eyes, he said he has seen once sound congregations in the drift away from the old paths. I've seen it too, and I know the feeling of Jeremiah when the majority in a congregation will count you as the troubler if you do not keep quiet and ignore the sins of worldliness that brethren intend to continue without remedy.
It seems that many places need hard words of truth in order to penetrate the level of hardness of heart that has taken hostage whole congregations and has made the leaders worthless shepherds who can no longer protect the flock. Consider this, and examine yourselves whether you be in the faith, or whether we have settled on playing church. Who will preach all the truth without compromise today? I hope there are 7000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal, but sometimes it seems that the majority of church members are willing to compromise God's word too easily and turn their heads when real sin issues need to be addressed, and too many preachers are willing to preach empty lessons of no substance that ever addresses the sinful hearts leavening the church.
Preach the word, all of it. Preach it to save your soul and those who hear you. God will judge us by the entirety of His word. Souls within and without need the truth desperately. Let us rise to the challenges before us with conviction. Love for God and for our souls and the souls of others demand it.