If I have one strength in my teaching it would have to be the application of Scripture. For the life of me, I don’t know why that’s true. It might just be a habit of my life that I can’t let the text rest until it’s been applied. But I appreciate others telling me that it’s one of my strengths. I think it can be yours, too.
For this blog entry on application, I want to get very practical. Let me share with you in three short lists what I have found to be helpful in the process of drawing application from the Bible.
Where Application Begins
Let’s start with the negative, and let’s make it personal. What if I fail to apply the Scriptures?
- The truth will not invade areas of my life that need attention.
- I will substitute an emotional experience for a willful decision. Haven’t you had that happen? A few tears, but the truth is soon forgotten.
- I will rationalize according to the areas of my prejudice or preference.
How to Craft a Sermon Illustration
Remember James’s illustration of the mirror in James 1:22–25? Application is the essential response to hearing the Word. Here are some steps I walk through to help facilitate that in my preaching.
- I write down general principles that relate to me and to others. These are timeless truths that come straight from the passage I’m preaching.
- I search for specific areas of weakness. I think of life in categories: my world at the church, in social settings, with children, with a mate, with older people, my emotional life, my intellectual life, my leisure, and my pressures—you get the idea. I run the principles through those categories. Then I think about how this specifically applies to an area of life that needs attention.
- I also look for specific areas of affirmation. I try to think about how the principles can encourage others. I picture people in all walks of life: the single, the married, the divorced, the broken, the troubled, the sick, the recovering, the happy, the fulfilled, the successful, the older, the younger, the teenager—and on and on. I apply my principles as if I’m standing in their shoes.
- I spell out specific methods of correction.
3 Helpful Rules of Application
Finally, let me suggest three rules that I find extremely helpful when crafting a point of application.
- It needs to be brief enough to be remembered.
- It needs to be clear enough to be written down.
- It needs to be realistic enough to be achieved.
If you’ll run your applications through the grid of these rules, I think you’ll find that it helps the truth stick. It’s not a formula that replaces prayer. It’s simply a tool that makes us better at our craft. I have employed it for years and have seen that God has blessed it—and used it to change lives.
And that’s our goal in preaching, isn’t it?