We learn in today’s Bible reading in Acts 20 that Paul was not just a little bit longwinded.
I’m sure that Paul wanted to convey everything he needed to before heading out from Troas to Miletus. This might be the last time that he will be able to address these people. So he preached from around dinnertime until midnight. (Acts 20:7).
Around midnight, a young man named Eutychus fell asleep and fell out of the third story window he was sitting in. He was picked up dead. However, Paul went downstairs, embraced him and said that Eutychus was not dead.
Paul goes back upstairs and preaches for another several hours until dawn. All-in-all, I’m guessing that Paul preached for about twelve hours! That’s a long time! I don’t know that I have ever heard a sermon, much less anything else, last anywhere near that long!
My sermons used to be a little shorter than they are now. Perhaps I’m a little more comfortable with preaching. Occasionally I’ll preach until a little after Noon (It’s not always my fault; I don’t start preaching at the same time every week). I am very grateful to our church for never complaining! And no one has ever tapped their watch to nonverbally tell me to wrap it up. But maybe, I need to bring up Acts 20 if anyone ever complains that my sermon went a little long!
I admit, I have yawned a few times during some sermons (maybe even my own!). And I have seen a few yawns while I’m preaching. But no one has ever fallen out of a window while I was preaching. I haven’t lost one (yet!).
All joking aside, as a preacher, it’s comforting to know that even Paul didn’t keep all of his audience all of the time. And I can appreciate Paul’s desire to say everything God had given him to say.
Recently on a Facebook group for pastors, a newbie asked, “How long should a sermon be?” I responded, “How long should a person’s legs be? A sermon should be as long as it needs to be to accomplish all that God wants it to accomplish.” I never time my sermons until I’m editing the message’s audio file for posting to the Internet. I’m often surprised to see how many minutes are removed when the software cuts all of the pauses down to 1 1/2 seconds!
Admittedly, some of us preach too long and could stand to take out an illustration or two. Some of us could stand to add a few. But we should all be given the freedom to preach all of the message that God has given to us. I believe we can do this and be good stewards of people’s time. I often remind myself that the people I’m speaking to could be at any number of other places and every week, I try to express my gratitude for the freedom to say everything God has given to me.
Do you have problems staying awake during a sermon? Maybe you need to look at your sleep patterns. Maybe you need to hit the sack a little earlier on Saturday Night. Maybe you need to change up your breakfast. I’m not throwing stones! Like I said, I have yawned during more than a few sermons. And I have even dozed off a few times, too. But God’s Word is important. It is our life. And it’s worth doing everything we can to stay awake and alert to hear it proclaimed so that we can apply it to our lives.