Vol.XVI No.XII Pg.1
February 1980

If I Had But One Sermon ...

Robert F. Turner

One Saturday night in the dim past some unknown preacher strove desperately for a sermon idea. He tore his hair and beat the desk with his fist, and said, "Oh, if I had but one sermon to preach tomorrow — if I had..." Then, he "saw the light" and next day he presented a masterful oration on fleeting time and opportunity, on the vital themes that would be preached if this sermon were his last.

And since then, thousands of sermons have sprung from this imagined situation. I have built a few of my own on this theme — usually emphasizing man's lost condition, the redemption in Christ, and closing with, "If this were your last opportunity to obey, what then?" It will lather!

But in recent years I have re-examined this subject. The great final sermon, from the preacher's viewpoint, may present a summation of his finest thoughts, emphasizing the very heart of the gospel of Christ, and yet fail to make the application most needed by those who are hearing their last sermon. Now my question becomes, If I Have But One Sermon To Preach — will I strive for a preacher masterpiece, or will I go for the lost souls that are before me?

The finest sermon is not necessarily the most pleasant to hear, or the most complimented. If I am covetous, mistreating my brethren, allowing the cares of this world to overshadow my service to God; the truly great sermon for me is one that makes me see my ungodly ways and brings me to repentance. The preacher has done me no favor if he is content to tickle my ears when he might have saved my soul. Nor has he done the job his noble calling demands of him.

This is not to say browbeating or harangue make the best sermons. The best is that which meets the spiritual and eternal needs of the hearers. Nathan's masterpiece was a simple parable that ended, "Thou art the man" (2 Sam. 12:7)

If you have but one sermon for me, seek me where I am; and find me with a message that touches my heart and causes me to say, "I will arise, and go to my Father..." (Lu. 15:18)