These words taken from Paul's writings in 2 Timothy 4:2 challenge his son in the ministry to not let a moment occur that he was not able to preach the word to those who stood in need of the word of God. Peter's writings in 1 Peter 3:15 declare we are to be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

As a young preacher I was instructed by my father in the ministry to always carry three sermons with you at all times: One in your briefcase, one in your Bible and one in your heart. He told me that you may just show up to church as a guest visitor and the pastor will ask you while in the study to preach that day. You have time to get your briefcase and review. Then there would be times that the pastor will wait till you are in the pulpit and the worship service has started that they will ask you to bring the word. You don't have time to go get your briefcase but you have your Bible. And he warned there just might be that time when after the sermonic selection has been sung the pastor will get up and announce to the waiting congregation that the Lord laid on his heart that you have a Word from the Lord on that day. There is now no time for prep work or review. It is time to stand and speak what thus sayeth the Lord.

In this day when good preaching about Jesus Christ is at a premium, it seems unlikely that any of these scenarios would take place. As a pastor having been taught the importance of preparation well in advance of the coming Sunday assignment, it seems like there is little likelihood of shelving what I have been toiling with the Lord with all week in favor of someone else. Especially if that person is unknown to me personally or the congregation collectively.

However as a visiting minister I can testify that this has happened to me on more than one occasion and in each scenario my pastor has taught me about. As a younger minister you get used to being challenged by the some of the older ministers who just want to see what "this young whippersnapper can do" so to speak. As a vice moderator, moderator, state president, national board member, covenant partner, etc. you get used to host pastors giving you the pulpit sometimes in sincerity and sometimes to curry favor for themselves. As a seasoned pastor you get used to friends just being friends and swapping the pulpits back and forth freely while you silently praise God for your elevation to such a position.

But when you have nothing to offer...no other opportunity to give another, no position or assignment to help them climb their perceived ladder of ministry spoils and success. When you cannot reciprocate the kindness shown to you and they not only stand you up but they invite you back. When you have nothing more than a thank you from the bottom of your heart, do you truly appreciate when those doors open for you? When you are simply glad to be in the service one more time and God says let him/.her minister to my people today?

No matter the scenario we must recognize God's hand in every situation that allows us to stand for His glory. As servants we must understand that since we were called by Him to do His work He knows where He needs us to be, when He needs us to be there and what His people need when you get there. All we have to do is be ready. Sometimes we look so much at what man does for us and to us that we don't see God's hand for us and with us.

As I write this I wonder how many preachers still truly prepare like this? Always ready even when not scheduled to preach? Always ready even when the calendar is empty? Always ready not to give what one friend of mine calls a "May Pop" sermon. but to rightly divide the word of truth? To be ready just in case God says in that moment that you are not here visiting on accident or coincidence but this is a divine assignment to minister to my people? If we take seriously our calling to be God's servants then we should always be ready to minister effectively to His people. God deserves nothing less than that.

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