A Dose of Humility from a Friend


As a young preacher, I knew when I preached a good sermon: adequate preparation, good timing for needs in the congregation, the presentation went well, nods of heads-focused attention, specific comments from several who found the lesson helpful.

On other occasions, I knew the sermon was not excellent: not as much preparation, exhaustion when I delivered, confusion at some point in the sermon, lack of attention from those listening. I didn’t feel good about the whole process.

And yet, often an individual would come to me after the sermon, which I thought was a disaster, telling me how helpful some point was to him. It gave a perspective he’d never thought of before. I helped a person have hope for something bothering him.

This sequence happened several times.

A group was discussing this one night after services in Madisonville, Kentucky.

I shared my observations:

I know when I’ve preached a good sermon.

I know some sermons are not as good. I’m disappointed in myself and the way the sermon turned out. Yet, after about every one of those I thought was bad, one or two people will tell me how helpful it was.

After considering my comments, I realized how I came across. “I’m a good preacher and know when I preach a good sermon. There are times when I think I’ve preached a bad sermon. Most of the time when I think I’ve preached a bad sermon, someone tells me it was helpful to them. Therefore, I guess I’m a good preacher all the time.”

Other preachers told me they’ve had similar responses.

On the night when this group was talking, a friend, Jane Washington, said, “Jerrie, Did it ever occur to you that sometimes you’re so bad we think if we didn’t encourage you, you might quit?”.

My reply, “No. I’d never thought about it that way. But I promise you. I will think about it many times in the future.” I’ve kept my promise to Jane.

I needed the dose of humility.

This exchange expresses the thought of Proverbs 24:17:

I’m thankful for friends who assist me in knocking off the rough edges to make me sharper.

A dose of humility is good for treating arrogance — whether intended or not.

Thank you, Jane. I still remember and appreciate the sharpening after more than forty-five years.

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Jerrie Barber
Disciple of Jesus, husband, grandfather, preacher, barefoot runner, ventriloquist

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