Out of the Overflow
Concerning God’s word, every human being is like an empty glass or a dry sponge. God wants us to fill ourselves with His word (cf. Eze. 3:1-3) to the point where we are both overflowing and saturated with it. Saturation is where the very best preaching and teaching comes from. Jeremiah explains saturation this way: “Your word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not contain” (Jer. 20:9). Jeremiah appreciated the value of God’s word so much that he could do nothing other than continue to preach it.
Saturation is a condition that is reached when a Christian has spent so much time in the word that he or she is brimming over with it. When a preacher or teacher is overflowing with the word of God from intense personal study, applications will be fresh, information will be accurate, and lives will be changed to the glory of God. It is always better for the teacher or preacher to have something to say, than to have to say something!
But make no mistake: saturating oneself with the word of God is no easy task. It requires the kind of attitude Jesus had: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Saturating oneself requires the mindset of Jeremiah: “Your words were found and I did eat them; Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart” (Jer. 15:16). In our busy lives, we often marginalize the word of God in pursuit of “more pressing” needs. Consequently, it seems that few Christians today really know what Jeremiah and Jesus knew about effective preaching and teaching. The best way to change people’s lives is to first allow your own life to be changed through daily study, meditation, and repentance into God’s will (cf. Psalm 1:1-4).
If you’ve ever heard a preacher or teacher who communicates God’s truth out of the overflow of his or her diligent study, your life has undoubtedly been enriched. To be sure, the Gospel does not depend on us for its power (cf. Rom. 1:16). Paul said that some were preaching Christ out of envy and strife rather than out of the overflow (Phil. 1:15-16), and yet Paul still rejoiced that Christ was preached. Life-changing truth does not depend on the motives, abilities, or eloquence of its speaker to be effective, but it is also true that people are more likely to be affected by God’s word when the one speaking it has already responded personally to that same truth. We’re simply more likely to believe the teacher who sincerely appreciates the inherent value of what he or she is teaching! Because of this, Paul exhorted the young minister Timothy to meditate and study God’s word, “that your progress may be evident to all” (1 Tim. 4:15). The change God’s word continually made in Timothy’s life was to serve as an example of his sincerity, love, and faith among the people he was trying to teach (cf. 1 Tim. 4:12).
Saturation in the word of God is accomplished by diligently making God’s word a priority in our lives (Ps. 119:103). When a teacher’s cup has been filled in study, he is better able to refresh God’s people by teaching out of the overflow. When a Christian’s life has been changed by God’s word, he is ready to take that word to a lost and dying world (Matt. 28:18-20).
In a world that’s largely indifferent to real Christianity, will we answer the call to be sincerely changed by God’s word (Ps. 119:11)? Will we diligently study so that each of us may truly be saturated with God’s word? —JB