In 2 Timothy, Paul is at the end of his life and knows that his time is about up, so he writes a letter to his spiritual son Timothy. Paul tells Timothy that there is coming a time that people will no longer want to hear true sound doctrine preached but rather will want to have something easy and self-pleasing preached to them. In chapter four, Paul instructs Timothy to “preach the word: be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2).
In the instruction, we have to notice that of the three things that Paul says good preaching should entail, two of them are meant to challenge us and the way we live. The preached word should cause us to look at ourselves and see where we can improve our lives for the kingdom. If you go to church Sunday after Sunday and leave feeling good about yourself, you need to find another place to go to church. Because the word of God is not being preached, or at least it is not being preached fully. No matter how well we are living out our faith, there are times that we need correcting or at least challenged to do better. As humans, we get into ruts, we allow things to slip at times, and we need the word of God to correct us and reprove us. At times, the preached and taught word will challenge our thinking, and it will challenge our lifestyle. The word of God will challenge how we are in relationships and how we are serving the kingdom. To never be challenged would mean that we live a perfect life, and I have only heard of one who lived a perfect life.
Think about yourself and who you are, and tell me you live in such a way that you should never feel conviction. You should never be reproved or challenged. Go ahead. I will wait. Yet so many go to church week after week, and all they hear is how to be successful and how Jesus loves them and how great they are. You leave feeling good or maybe even encouraged, and though there are times that the word does mean to encourage us, there are just as many if not more times than the word needs to correct us. When was the last time you heard a message that made you see the need you had to change? When is the last time that you felt that you needed to go to the altar and get things right with God because, during the preaching of the word, the Spirit brought out something you were doing or not doing? When was the last time that you realized that you were not as close to God as you thought you were because of something that the preacher said? I know we do not like to feel these things, but the truth is that only when we feel conviction can we take steps to allow God to refine us and bring us forth as gold.
Preaching is not supposed to make you feel good all the time, but it is supposed to make you holy and more like Jesus. So, make sure that where you go preaches the whole word of God, messages that uplift you, messages that challenge you, and yes, messages that correct you. Then you will be getting all that the word has, and you will find that you are growing spiritually rather than just feeling good about yourself.