In professional sports, especially football an athlete reaches what’s called the ‘sweet spot’.
It’s that time in his career where his physical strength and ability of a young man intersects with enough years of experience and wisdom to master the game. It’s when quarterbacks can play at the highest level and influence their teams to victory. Think Brady or Rodgers.
The sweet spot. The harvest. That comes in time after much toil.
You get there after a lot of very hard work. There’s a word in greek that Paul uses to express this- κοπιάω. Transliteration: kopiaó Phonetic Spelling: (kop-ee-ah’-o).
Definition: I toil, work with effort (of bodily and mental labor alike).
I remember this word by telling myself to “Cope-EE-owl- CopE (like an) owl.”
Kopiaó is the idea that you break a sweat. You’ve worked until it drips and your body and mind have exerted at maximum intensity toward a purpose. It’s that effort in the pursuit of results that produces success. It’s your plan added to consistent effort measured by integrity that produces excellence. It’s knowing you’re weak, and your weaknesses, and your spiritual poverty and your lack of discipline, tendency to wander, chief temptations, and feeling the weariness that comes from the constant toil, and still believing by faith that God with work in you and through you as you trust in Him because He has called you and will equip you and you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.
To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me. Col 1:29
The sweet spot is what R. Kent Hughes writes about in the preface of his ‘Preaching The Word‘ commentaries, ‘A Word to Those Who Preach the Word.’ Every year I would read this essay before I began to teach the BSF study and I would often return to it when the Kopiaó had me weary from exertion. I found great encouragement, wisdom and peace in the charge of R. Kent Hughes words so I share this treasure with those who CopE (like an) owl.
Hughes writes, “There are times when I am preaching that I have especially sensed the pleasure of God. I usually become aware of it through the unnatural silence… through which my words sail like arrows. I experience a heightened eloquence, so that the cadence and volume of my voice intensify the truth I am preaching. There is nothing quite like it-the Holy Spirit filling one’s sails, the sense of His pleasure, and the awareness that something is happening among one’s hearers.
What has happened? How do we account for this sense of God’s smile?
The answer has come from the ancient rhetorical categories of logos, ethos and pathos.
Logos– God’s Word. We stand before God’s people to proclaim His Word because we have done our homework. (Kopiaó) We have exegeted the passage, mined the significance of its words in their context & applied sound hermeneutical principles in interpreting the text so that we understand what its words meant to its hearers. We have labored long until we can express in a sentence what the theme of the text is & our outline springs from the text. Then, our preparations will be such that as we preach, we will not be preaching our own thoughts about God’s Word but God’s actual Word, His logos. This is fundamental in pleasing Him.
Ethos-what you are as a person. There is a danger endemic to preaching, which is having your hands and heart cauterized by holy things. Phillip Brooks illustrates it by the analogy of a train conductor who comes to believe that he has been to the places he announces because of his long and loud heralding of them. And that is why Brooks insisted that preaching must be “bringing of truth through personality.” Though we can never perfectly embody the truth we preach, we must be subject to it, long for it, and make it as much a part of our ethos (what we are as a person) as possible. As the puritan William Ames said, “Next to the Scriptures, nothing makes a sermon more to pierce, than when it comes out of the inward affection of the heart without any affectation (design to impress).”
When a preachers ethos backs up his logos, there will be the pleasure of God.
Pathos-personal passion and conviction. David Hume, the Scottish philosopher and skeptic was once challenged as he was seen going to hear George Whitefield preach, “I thought you do not believe in the gospel.” Hume replied, “I don’t, but he does.” Just so! When a preacher believes what he preaches, there will be passion. And this belief and requisite passion will know the smile of God.
The pleasure of God is a matter of logos (the Word), ethos (what you are), and pathos (your passion). As you preach (or teach) the Word may you experience His smile- the Holy Spirit in your sails!” R. Kent Hughes
As the BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) year begins and many dear friends begin again to kopiaó as they teach, lead and attend classes all over the world in The Revelation study, I pray that you may be blessed abundantly as you strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in you to find the sweet spot and feel God’s smile.
To God be the Glory! JLK
I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me. Colossians 1: 25-29