Part 1 was published last week, you can read it here.
Nearly every Christian will have an opportunity to speak for God in one situation or another. Even those without a special calling to the professional ministry will be asked to give a talk to a congregation or a youth group, or to teach the Bible or give devotions before a group. We all ought to know how to prepare to speak for God. …
1. Realize that, with God’s help, you can do it! …
2. Don’t be afraid. …
3. Feed upon the Word. …
4. Get alone with the Lord until His hand comes upon you.
Read carefully in Ezekiel 3:12–14 about what happened next to the prophet. He had another amazing experience with the Spirit of God. He says that God’s Spirit “took me up” and then “took me away,” and “the hand of the Lord was strong upon me.” When the Spirit moved him away to Tel-abib, Ezekiel says, “I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit.” God had done something in the prophet’s heart that must happen to anyone before he can speak effectively for God. The Lord brought Ezekiel to the place in his heart and mind where he felt the same about the message as God felt about it! God was angry with His rebellious people. The message was to be one of warning. It was to be full of “lamentations, and mourning, and woe” (2:10). Now Ezekiel could feel the wickedness of the people’s rebellion and the justice of God’s punishment upon them.
When a speaker comes before a group sure that he has a message from God to deliver, and if that speaker feels strongly about that message and about getting it across the way God wants it delivered, he or she will be a good and effective messenger. Whatever you do, before you speak, stay alone with God in prayer until the hand of the Lord comes upon you in regard to delivering God’s message. Prepare your notes, but prepare your heart also.
5. Sit where they sit.
Ezekiel seemed ready to speak to the people, but he was not. Verse 15 of chapter 3 tells us about something else that must happen before we are ready to speak for God. “Then I came to them of the captivity at Tel-abib, that dwelt by the river of Chebar, and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days.”
These people at Tel-abib were the ones who were to hear Ezekiel preach first. Before he was ready to deliver a message, the prophet needed to sit where his audience sat. Compassion is a vital element in effective speaking. Know where your listeners are. Know why they are there. Get an idea what it will be like for them to hear your message. Yes, these were bad people. God had called them rebels, transgressors, impudent, and hardhearted. But Ezekiel was made of flesh too and was subject, as we all are, to their temptations and weaknesses. If he “sat where they sat” for seven days, he would learn something he needed to know before he addressed them in the name of the Lord. The prophet was “astonished” by what he learned in those vital days. The heat of his spirit was balanced with the compassion of his heart.
Sometimes when I am to talk in a children’s meeting, I go early and walk into the room on my knees, not in a posture of prayer, but as a way of seeing the room and the podium from the viewpoint of a little child. Sometimes on a Sunday morning, before anyone has arrived at the church, I will sit on the back row to reflect upon what it will be like to be where some of my congregation will be as they hear me preach. Never speak out of zeal unchecked by compassion. Meditate on the state of your hearers and put yourself in their place for a while.
6. Realize your responsibility.
Ezekiel 3:16–21 presents us with the awful responsibility of representing God and speaking for Him. You have probably read these verses before, but it would be good for you to read them again. The man who speaks for God is a “watchman,” according to this passage, and he has a great responsibility to the people he is supposed to protect. If a watchman on the wall of a city sees danger coming, he must sound a warning. The Lord’s watchman is told, “Hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.”
When we find in God’s Word matters that people around us should know, it is our duty to tell them. Since sinners are condemned to hell unless they turn to Christ, we who know this are duty-bound to warn them! The one who speaks for God must stand before people with a powerful sense of the responsibility on his shoulders. The destiny of souls and the direction of lives are at stake. He must not refrain his lips out of fear of offense. The speaker who follows Ezekiel’s example will be effective. God will make you an effective bearer of His message if you will prepare properly to speak for Him.
Dr. Richard Flanders is now an evangelist and was formerly pastor of Juniata Baptist Church in Vassar, Michigan.
(Originally published in FrontLine • March/April 1999. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)