Prior to preaching for the first time, my pastor gave me some advice which I call “The Three C’s” –
1. Be clear.
2. Be concise.
3. Be consistent.
He advised me to keep these points in mind every time I sit down to prepare a sermon. Additionally, these points should also be in the back of my mind as I am standing before God’s people delivering His word.
Over the past few months, as I have had further opportunities to preach, I’ve kept this advice close to me, and in doing so, I’ve come to realize that it’s not only in a preaching or ministerial context that these questions apply. These concepts can also be applied to my day to day activities, and ultimately, to my life in general.
1. Am I Clear?
Ambiguity breeds confusion – it is a friend of no one. It is important that those around me understand where I am coming from. At least, I think it’s important. Whether it’s verbal or non-verbal communication – clarity is important. I’m sure we’ve all seen cases in which a message was communicated, but it was so unclear that the desired results were way off the mark.
So, I take this thought process into my interaction with the major relationships in my life, i.e. my bride and my children. I am myself – am I clear regarding how I feel about God? How I feel about our family? How I feel about them? Am I doing our dating anything that would cause them to question my love for them or my desire to see their relationship with Christ continue to develop and grow? When further with day to day interaction – do I give them my time and attention when they need or want it, or do I give it when it is convenient for me? And really, similar questions can apply to the other relationships in my life, i.e. extended family, friends, people I meet throughout the day, etc.
2. Am I Concise?
“Stop talking me to death!” was a phrase some friends and I adopted when I was a teen. This phrase was our way of telling someone that they were doing too much talking; the listener was being “killed” with all the unnecessary talking being done. Admittedly, I find myself still using the phrase sometimes. Albeit, more in a joking manner than not.
But, I have to examine myself in light of this second point; am I guilty of doing the same to others? Do I unnecessarily drag on a conversation past the point of interest? Do I wear out my welcome when I visit with people? Do people find it a delight or a chore to talk with me? I can’t stand wasting my own time, so I try to be extra cautious when it come to other people’s time. When you really think about it, the long and short of it is this: we all get the same 168 hours each week. I don’t want to take up more time that someone is willing to give me. Everyone’s time is valuable – I don’t want to waste it. In return, I believe that I am showing people that I value the time that they did give me.
3. Am I Consistent?
One of my many desires is to be unwavering in what I believe – especially when in hard times. I’m sure we’ve all met people who confused us regarding their stance on a topic. They were pretty indecisive when it came time to “choose a side” on an issue. People who stake claim in this camp breed confusion in everyone with whom they associate.
So again, I have to do some self examination – am I guilty of the same thing? Do my family, friends, and even co-workers know where I stand with my worldview, or do I jump to the side of convenience when my convictions are tested? Do I hesitate voicing my views because I know they might be in the minority? It is in the times of struggle and strife that our beliefs are tested, and in that testing, we truly realize where we stand on the things that matter. So I feel strongly enough about something to “fall on my sword” about it? Regardless of the subject matter, and regardless of the environment or audience – do I maintain the same principles and standards? Even further, am I the same person at home as I am in public? These things are important.
Am I Successful?
No – I’m not. Sitting here right now, I can’t tell you that I’ve been clear, concise, and consistent in everything I’ve done. I know that I haven’t been clear, concise, and consistent in everything I’ve said. I’d be lying if I claimed to have been. Without naming all the factors that contribute to my inability to success in my efforts, the underlying reason in all the factors is sin (Romans 3:23). However, I’m thankful I serve a God who is clear, concise, and consistent – always has been and always will be!
Am I Committed?
All of this is well and good, but it means nothing if I am not committed to living this way. If I don’t actively pursue God and trust Him to strengthen me as I strive to live these guidelines, then what am I telling the world I am trying to reach with the gospel?
What am I telling my family?
What am I telling my friends?
I’m telling them that they can go alone and be alright. I’m telling them that, in and of themselves, they can make sense of their life and live it trusting in their own power. But, that’s not what God says.
When we want to be clear about who we are, God speaks to us in Galatians 1:10. When we want to be concise in what we say, God speaks to us in Proverbs 10:19. When we want to be consistent in our actions, God speaks to us in 1 Corinthians 15:58.
I pray you’ll seek God in guiding you, just as I seek Him in guiding me, to be committed to a life of being clear, concise, and consistent. Let’s trust in, and lean on, Him and His everlasting word. I believe it is possible, but only with the grace He provides to allow it to happen.
Grace and Peace,