"I'm trying to find a church and a preacher who won't be too tough on me."
The dear lady honestly expressed her desire to avoid spiritual challenge as we considered her possible attendance at one of our services. I couldn't help but smile in response. We're all tempted to want coddling rather than exhortation.
"I understand how you feel, "Ma'am," I said. "However, the truth of the matter is that we need preachers and teachers to step on our toes a bit if they are to be of real benefit to us."
"Preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (II Timothy 4:2).
The faithful communicator of God's truth illuminates, encourages, and challenges, as led and enabled by the Holy Spirit. He serves as a lamp of Divine light, revealing the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thereby, hope presents itself to human hearts, that is, the assurance that Christ is whatever we need Him to be concerning redemption and the living of a godly life of faithfulness and peace. Such light and encouragement then calls us to the crossroad of decision. Will we trust and submit ourselves to the Lord Jesus, experiencing the redeeming consequences thereof? Or will we disbelieve and reject Him? The genuine preacher or teacher does not fail to warn us of the dire result that ensues when we turn away from the Lord rather than unto Him. "To be carnally minded is death" (Romans 8:6).
Of course, God's called servants walk to their pulpits with bruised feet themselves, as it were. Their study and preparation to speak means that their own toes have felt the pressure of warning and exhortation. Thus, they do not deliver their challenge in "holier than thou" arrogance or self importance. They rather illuminate, encourage, and challenge in the humility of heart that frequently elicits the request, "Search me, o God, and know myheart. Try me and know mythoughts" (Psalm 139:23; emphasis added). Indeed, let us not waste our time or jeopardize our walk with the Lord by exposing ourselves to any communicator who does not exhort, but who does not also give clear indication that he has himself been the subject of his Master's exhortation.
"Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears."(Acts 20:28-31)