Here is a word of counsel for young men who have their eye on the ministry. If you take my advice, you will not make your sermons from random texts, but will preach straight through a book of the Bible. I believe that what this country needs is the Word of God. There is no book that will draw people in like the Bible. One of the professors at a university in Chicago gave some lectures on the book of Job, and there was no building large enough to hold the people. If the Bible has a chance to speak for itself, it will interest the people. I am sick and tired of moral essays. It would take about a ton of them to convert a child five years old.
Give the people the Word of God. Some men only use the Bible as a book of texts. They get a text and away they go. They start out by reading a verse or two from the Bible, and then they start talking about their own topics and never get around to preaching what God’s Word says. They talk about astronomy and geology, add some news or entertainment, and next Sunday they go on in the same way, and then they wonder why it is that people do not read their Bibles.
I used to think Charles Spurgeon was about as good a preacher as I ever knew, but I would rather hear him explain the Scriptures than listen to all his sermons. Why is it that Dr. John Hall has had his congregation so long? He opens his Bible and expounds. How was it that Andrew Bonar kept his audience in Glasgow? He had a weak voice and people could hardly hear him, yet thirteen hundred people would file into his church twice every Sunday. Many of them took notes, and they would go home and send his sermons all over the world. It was Dr. Bonar’s custom to lead his congregation through the study of the Bible, book by book. There was not a part of the Bible in which he could not find Christ. I preached five months in Glasgow, and there was not a district in the city in which I did not find the influence of that man.
It a good thing for a minister to have the reputation of feeding his people. A man once made an artificial bee, which was so like a real bee that he challenged another man to tell the difference. It buzzed just like the live bee, and it looked the same. The other man said, “You put an artificial bee and a real bee down there, and I will tell you the difference pretty quickly.” He then put a drop of honey on the ground and the live bee went for the honey. It is just so with us. There are a lot of people who profess to be Christians, but they are artificial and they don’t know when you give them honey. The real bees go for honey every time. People can get along without your theories and opinions. Thus saith the Lord – that is what we need. Give them the Word of God.
Merely reading the Bible is not what God wants. Again and again we are exhorted to “search.” “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11 NKJV). “So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8)
We must study the Bible thoroughly and hunt through it, as it were, for some great truth. If a friend were to see me searching around a building and were to come up and say, “Moody, what are you looking for? Have you lost something?” and I answered, “No, I haven’t lost anything. I’m not looking for anything in particular,” I suppose he would just leave me alone and think me very foolish. But if I were to say, “Yes, I have lost a dollar,” then I might expect him to help me find it. Read the Bible, my friends, as if you were seeking for something of value. It is a good deal better to take a single chapter and spend a week on it than to read the Bible at random for a week.
“My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will understand the fear of the LORD,
And find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:1-5).
D.L. Moody was the “Billy Graham” of the last half of the 1800s, preaching to large crowds in both the U.S.A and England. He was a prolific author and also founded what is now called the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. This post is adapted and condensed from his writings.