“What do you do when the preaching of the Word no longer impacts you as it once did?”

That’s the question I was asked by an earnest young man recently who appears to be sincerely seeking the Lord.

Many of us can identify with the question as we’ve been there ourselves. We remember the impact sermons made on us in the past – deep impressions, piercing convictions, powerful drawings – but now we feel like cold lifeless statues as we listen to the same preachers preaching similar sermons. What’s gone wrong? This will vary for different people, but let me suggest a few possibilities.

1. Tiredness
The main cause for unprofitable hearing of the Word is fatigue, even exhaustion. We work too long and too hard throughout the week. We sit down and sit still for the first time on Sunday morning, and surprise, surprise, our eyelids begin to feel like lead, and our bodies start sliding down the pew. An extra hour of sleep each night can revive our souls.

2. Distraction
Saturday afternoon and evening are a good time for tying up the loose ends of the week and preparing for Monday. If we don’t do it on Saturday, we’ll be doing it on Sunday in church.

3. Indiscipline
If we are not reading our Bible and praying in a regular disciplined way throughout the week, we can’t really expect to be spiritually tuned in and sensitive on Sunday.

4. Sin
As unrepented sin forms a barrier between us and God, we need to make sure that there’s nothing major in our life that is blocking God’s blessing.

5. The Preacher
it may be that the preacher is preaching a series of sermons on a book or subject that doesn’t fit your spiritual needs at the moment. Although this tests our patience, taking a more long-term view can mitigate our frustration. No, you don’t need these truths/this series so much right now, but you can store it up in your mind and heart for when you will need it in the future. Maybe we can also mortify our selfishness by praying, “Lord I’m not getting anything from these sermons, but I’m thankful others are and I pray for your blessing upon them.”

6. Sovereignty
God may be testing our faith by allowing us to experience a period of coldness under the Word. Will we walk by faith even when there are no feelings to help us along?  Will we listen, trust, and obey, even when we’re not being inspired and moved by the preaching?

7. Humbling
God can also use such periods to humble our hearts and show us how much hardness remains within us. “I’m listening to the most beautiful truths and it leaves me stone cold. The preacher is pouring his whole heart into this and I can’t even be sure I have a heart.” Such painful experiences reveal how much sanctifying work remains to be done in our hearts.

8. Encouragement
The fact that we are upset about our spiritual coldness is a reassuring sign. If we are unmoved about being unmoved, unconcerned about our lack of concern, that would indeed be worrying. However, the very fact that we feel this, and grieve over this, should encourage us that God has worked in out hearts. We can remember sitting under the Word without an ounce of spiritual life and it didn’t bother us in the least.  That it bothers us now, and makes us pray for a changed heart, reveals a heart that has been sovereignly changed.

What do you do when the Word leaves you cold?