I have a theory. I cannot prove it. It is this: If a sermon is preached with supernatural power and people watch it later on YouTube, read the sermon in print or hear it via a recording, the anointing will likely be secondhand. There is no substitute for being present for the immediate anointing.
A couple from America went to England to hear the great George Whitefield (1714-1770) preach. They reported that it was a very hard crossing of the Atlantic. They went through three thunderstorms, one of them so terrible they thought they would die. But they finally landed safely in Southhampton. They made their way to London the next day and inquired whether Rev. Whitefield would be preaching that Sunday. Yes. Though tired from their journey, they went to the tabernacle in Tottenham Road to hear him. They said Whitefield seemed to ramble as he began. They sensed that maybe he too was tired for some reason. But during his sermon, something happened. A sense of God set in that changed everything. When Whitefield finished, they were completely rested. Their exhaustion was completely gone. They said they would have gladly crossed 10 seas to be there that day.
On another occasion, someone went up to Whitefield after he finished preaching to ask if they could print his sermon. He replied, "Yes, as long as you get in the thunder and lightning."
"The thunder and lightning." How to get that across through print, a recording or video? Possible? Maybe. But I'm not so sure. I remember reading a book of Whitefield's sermons. They were dull. Boring. I was surprised. I would not have bothered to keep reading had I not known they were his!
All of us who preach or teach surely pray for a greater anointing. It is what I desire more than anything. I am not entirely sure whether my desire is spiritual or natural. All I know is I want it more than I want anything else in the world. And yet the anointing comes by degrees. My preaching over the years has had a measure of anointing, but rarely what I dream of.
Two times—only twice—in my ministry of nearly 64 years have I had the anointing I have dreamed of. I first sensed this anointing in Bimini, Bahamas, on a Sunday evening. That morning I had preached in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for Dr. D. James Kennedy at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. It was a liturgical service. I preached in Jim Kennedy's ornate gown and gave an old sermon that was well-received—but no thunder and lightning.
That afternoon, I flew to Bimini, arriving in time to preach for Bonefish Sam Ellis. The legendary fishing guide turned to preaching in his old age and asked me to speak in his church. As we knelt during the service, I asked the Lord what I should preach on. All of a sudden, a sense of God came on me. Utterly supernatural. Hebrews 13:8 came to my mind: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever."
In what sense is He the same? I asked the Lord. "He looks the same," it came to me. Jesus was as real to me as if He appeared physically before my very eyes.
In my Reeboks and short sleeves, I preached how the prints of the nails in Jesus' hands will be there for all eternity (John 20:27). For some 20 minutes, we were lifted into the heavenlies. Indescribable! I could not help but ask, "Why, Lord, didn't you do this this morning when I spoke to 2,000 movers and shakers from all over the USA?"
Why? You tell me. But I have a theory.
One other time—only once in Westminster Chapel in 25 years—did I have a near equivalent of my Bimini anointing. I was preaching on Philippians 1:12: "But I want you to know, brothers, that the things which happened to me have resulted in advancing the gospel." Never before had I soared as I did that morning. When I sat down after that sermon, I thought: Well now, I have had unction at last—the real thing.
Only that one other time had I been so overcome with the realization that I experienced what I have dreamed of. And I wasn't the only one who thought this. The whole congregation felt it. The place was electric. Everyone was talking about it.
Two hours later, a deacon came to me with a sober look on his face.
"I hate to have to tell you this, but your sermon this morning was not recorded," he said. "The man who does the recordings was sick and forgot to call in."
I was devastated. Why was it not recorded? You tell me. But I have a theory.
"Not to worry", said another deacon. "Aren't you preaching in Bromley this week? Just repeat that sermon, and they will record it."
But when I preached it again, there was nothing of the power I had the previous Sunday.
Why? You tell me. My own theory is the anointing is a sovereign work of God. You cannot work it up or make it happen. It is for those He chooses to experience it. The rest get a secondhand anointing.
R.T. Kendall is an evangelist, preacher and teacher. He now has over 60 books in print, including the latest, Whatever Happened to the Gospel? (Charisma House). He was the senior minister at London's Westminster Chapel from 1977 to 2002. He has earned multiple degrees, including a Doctor of Philosophy from Oxford University and a Doctor of Divinity from Trevecca Nazarene University.
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