The story is told of a business man who went to hear the preacher who was visiting their small town for the week. The preacher's sermon that night was on money, and he presented three major points in all.
Point #1: "Make all the money that you can."
The business man nudged his wife and said: "This is the best preaching I've ever heard! This guy knows what he is talking about; he's very smart!"
Point #2: "Save all that you can."
The business man was so excited that he whispered to his wife: "This man is a genius! He should be the President of the United States!" The preacher elaborated on this point by commending hard work and thriftiness as well as denouncing laziness and waste. The business man couldn't keep quiet, but whispered excitedly: "I've believed this all my life!"
Point #3: "Give all that you can."
"Oh my," exclaimed the business man, "Now he's gone crazy! He has quit preaching and gone to meddling."
Is this how we respond to preaching, friends? While you reflect upon that, let me ask: What makes a sermon great? Does the preacher's attire make the sermon great? How about his posture or how he articulates his words? Is it the tone of his voice that defines a great sermon? "No Stephen, although we might place value on the physical aspects of a gospel sermon being presented, those qualities are not what make the sermon great." So, what is it then? If you agree with the message, then that's what makes it a great sermon? If the preacher speaks words you appreciate and words that are in harmony with your convictions, then his message is great? "No Stephen, a sermon isn't designated as great just because I agree with it." Well, what is it then that constitutes a great sermon? Paul has the answer for us in II Timothy 4:1-5"
"I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry."
If a man preaches the truth of God's word, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and he preaches it with a spirit of tenderness and longsuffering, then his sermons are great! This is true whether he is popular or not or whether those assembled say "Amen" or not. It's true whether I find the message complimentary or infuriating. When listeners react negatively to great preaching, they aren't judging the preacher as much as they are judging themselves! He who has ears to hear, let him hear.