It is often difficult to confirm the accuracy of a story, including this one printed in the Christian Digest and cited in a collection of stories assembled by Paul Tan. It wouldn’t surprise me to find it is accurate, but in any case the point of the story is a valid one, and I have seen it illustrated in less dramatic ways in my own life and in the speaking ministries of others. I think it also applies to our attempts to share Christ with others. Sometimes we say just the wrong words and Christ uses them, other times we feel like we’ve said it just right, but it yields no fruit. Our eloquence or lack thereof is not the point. Jesus says, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Spurgeon’s Worse Sermon
Mr. Spurgeon once preached what in his judgment was one of his poorest sermons. He stammered and floundered, and when he got through he felt that it had been a complete failure. He was greatly humiliated, and when he got home he fell on his knees and said, “Lord, God, Thou canst do something with nothing. Bless that poor sermon.”
And all through the week he uttered that prayer. He woke up in the night and prayed about it. He determined that the next Sunday he would redeem himself by preaching a great sermon. Sure enough, the next Sunday the sermon went off beautifully. At the close the people crowded about him and covered him with praise. Spurgeon went home pleased with himself, and that night he slept like a baby. But he said to himself, “I’ll watch the results of those two sermons.” What were they?
From the one that has seemed a failure he was able to trace forty-one conversions. And from that magnificent sermon he was unable to discover that a single soul was saved. The Spirit of God used the one and did not use the other. We can do nothing without the Spirit who helps our infirmities.
Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.