Ah – Um

I have heard long sermons and short sermons, loud sermons and soft sermons, but I have never heard a bad sermon.  And whenever I say that, people say, “Well, I’ve heard plenty of ‘em.”  Well, maybe you have, but I haven’t.  I’ve heard people preach their very first sermon and was blessed.  I have heard people do their first funeral sermon or wedding and was blessed.  In fact, not only have I never heard a bad sermon, I cannot remember hearing a bad devotional and I’ve heard plenty of them also.  What got me thinking in this direction is a devotional that I heard recently in a large gathering of several hundred people and the person giving the devotional who was not used to being before a group of people like that or in the setting like we were in.

When the devotional began, the only thing I understood was the opening sound, “Ah,” and every once in a while I could distinguish a different sound that was kind of “Um.”  But as far as words and phrases, I was unable to distinguish any of them.  Now it wasn’t the speaker altogether, for the sound system was not good.  The acoustics were terrible and there were people around the room who were oblivious to the devotional and were whispering, talking and ignoring, so I tried more intently to listen.  As hard as I tried, the only thing that I could pick up were additional “Ah’s” and “Um’s.”

I was encouraged as I looked around about me and saw that there were people who could not understand either what was being said, but I kept on trying.  I kept on trying to understand because the person giving the devotional was so focused and intense on trying to communicate with all of us, but I couldn’t grasp it.  I had not one clue as to what they were talking about, so how could I be blessed by a devotional that I never understood?

I was first of all blessed by the courage of the person giving the devotional.  They say that one of the greatest fears that people struggle with is the fear of public speaking.  Having done that throughout my adult life, I understand why those fears can be traumatic.  I especially remember back in the days when we had parts in Training Union and every few weeks I was assigned to give one of the parts then would have half a dozen strokes before Sunday night ever arrived.  I remember some of my first opportunities to preach and even though I had tried to prepare, I could hardly breathe.  When the time came to get up and deliver, I imagined that some of my early sermons were dominated by such expressions as, “Ah,” and “Um.”  When asked to share something in a meeting or a church service, I’ve had far more people to tell me no than to say yes and I understand why.  It can be a daunting experience, a breathtaking, brain freezing experience to get up before a group of people and simply the demonstration of courage to step up there lifted my spirits.

The second thing that blessed my heart was the countenance of the devotion giver.  While the devotional might as well have been in Russian, it seemed like to me that there was a warm, sweet countenance about the person who was doing it.  I’ve thought about that verse describing the early disciples when it says, “They took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).  Seems like to me that this person had been with Him also.

But finally, after what seemed like several dozen “Ah’s” and “Uh’s” and “Um’s,” the devotion concluded with a verse of Scripture which clearly had impacted the speaker’s life and was familiar to me and in fact, made the entire devotional meaningful to me because of the communication.  Let me encourage you as you listen to sermons and devotionals to give it your best shot and try to listen even though you may not understand.  The sound may not be sufficient, the thought process may not be coherent to you, but stay connected and listen for a word that maybe, just maybe, if your heart is open, God will drop His word into your soul and you will be blessed, encouraged, challenged and thankful.

One more thing – pray for that person who is speaking before you get there, while they are speaking, and after it is over.  Mm-hmm – God may be able to work in you.

The author can be contacted at directions@mbcb.org.

Jim Futral
Executive Director-Treasurer