I have always been amazed at how God consistently and often surprisingly fulfills the promise of Isaiah 55: As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)
As a preacher, I have realized that I don’t know all of God’s purposes for His words that I deliver in any given message. Nor do I need to know. I deliver the message, and the Holy Spirit distributes the truths to each hearer as only He can. People often ask me, “How did you know I needed to hear that? Are you some kind of mind-reader?” The truth is I’m just not that smart or original. But God can make His word hit its mark on every listener open to hearing from Him. It happened in an unintended way one Sunday when I preached at Journey Christian Church.
After one of the Sunday worship gatherings, I was approached by a guy whom I hadn’t seen in a while. I knew he had been struggling with depression and was in a dark place for an extended period. He said to me with all seriousness, “Are you a mind-reader?” I assured him that I was not. He said, “Then God spoke to me today during your message.” I’m always humbled and grateful whenever someone says that to me, and I never take it for granted.
But I also like to hear specifically what God said to people through me. He said, “It was the part where Jesus told the formerly demon-possessed man he had just healed that he couldn’t come with him, but instead, he told him to return to his family and community and tell them what the Lord had done for him. That’s when God spoke.”
He then told me these sobering words: “I wanted to end my life. I wanted so badly to go be with Jesus right now. But God said to me, ‘No. You can’t come with me right now. You go back to your family. You stay here for now.’ That’s exactly what I needed to hear,” he said, with eyes brightened in a way I hadn’t seen for some time in him.
I was struck again at how the Spirit of God can take even an “oh-by-the-way” comment based on His words and use it to change someone’s life, and I never even saw it coming! The statement he was talking about wasn’t even the main focus of that Sunday’s message. It was a peripheral observation—at least, I intended it to be. But God had a bigger purpose for me saying that; He knew His words would not return to Him empty and void, even though the one who shared His words was clueless—which is often the case!