Most preachers I know have had the experience of sermons that they felt were absolutely incredible, falling absolutely flat. And other sermons for which we are ill prepared or not feeling well and have to say, "God, please use this in some way." are the ones that result in people coming up weeping afterwards speaking of how God has spoken to them. I always just saw it as an irony of God.
But Dallas Willard gives a much broader perspective on it in an article where he writes about preaching out of a satisfaction with Christ.
Preachers who are not finding satisfaction in Christ are likely to demonstrate that with overexertion and overpreparation for speaking, and with no peace about what they do after they do it. If we have not come to the place of resting in God, we will go back and think, Oh, if I’d done this, or Oh, I didn’t do that.
When you come to the place where you are drinking deeply from God and trusting him to act with you, there is peace about what you have communicated.
One of my great joys came when I got up from a chair to walk to the podium and the Lord said to me, "Now remember, it’s what I do with the Word between your lips and their hearts that matters." That is a tremendous lesson. If you do not trust God to do that, then he will let you do what you’re going to do, and it’s not going to come to much. But once you turn it loose and recognize we are always inadequate but our inadequacy is not the issue, you are able to lay that burden down. Then the satisfaction you have in Christ spills over into everything you do. A Cup Running Over | PreachingToday.com
This really speaks to my soul, especially the first sentence: Preachers who are not finding satisfaction in Christ are likely to demonstrate that with overexertion and overpreparation for speaking, and with no peace about what they do after they do it.
If it is all up to me, then I must work extremely hard and over analyze how I have "performed". This is not an excuse for sloth. But it IS a realization that after we have done the hard work of preparing, that we must release the work to Christ.
Yesterday was one of those days. It had been quite a busy week and VERY short on sermon prep time. The week ended with a Fri-Sat elders-staff planning retreat . The retreat was fine, but I only had the rudiments of a sermon outline ready. (It was on Acts 1:15-20 and Peter’s comments about Judas before they selected Matthias). I was physically sick at the retreat (physically & emotionally) and came home and collapsed. I DID work on the sermon some on Saturday night, but came to the Lord before preaching it…and God used it in a mighty way. I think there was a great deal of God-work between my mouth and their ears. That is absolutely no excuse for inadequate preparation. But there is a confidence in Christ, that HE is the one working if I will lay down the burden of having to make it MY work. Thank you Lord.