Perhaps the most memorable sermon I've heard was preached by Professor Waldemar Degner. That was back in the mid-sixties when I was a student at Concordia College in Milwaukee. Fifty years ago? It must have been a good sermon to stick with me so long, and indeed it was. Dr. Degner preached the word “nevertheless” deep down into my heart.
He spoke on Luke chapter five. Fisherman Peter had spent the night on the Sea of Galilee but caught nothing. Jesus told him to go out and try once more. “Why?” Peter must have thought; after all, he did this for a living, but because he had heard talk about this Jesus and His miracles, Peter agreed. “Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.” (Luke 5:5; King James Version)
The Bible is filled with promises that God is good to you. Sometimes, sadly for you, the evidence suggests that is not true. Try as we might to both succeed and be godly in our work, we all have times when we think God has forgotten us. There even come times when we think God is against us. “We have toiled all the night,” tried as hard as we could, and have nothing to show. No improvement in our lives and we’re running out of hope. “Nevertheless, at thy word” I will persevere. Because it’s Your word, Jesus, I will hang onto Your promises of good to me. “Nevertheless.”
One reason why Dr. Degner’s sermon was so memorable is because he repeated the word “nevertheless” many times. Sometimes we imagine preaching is a mysterious, spiritual event, and yes, it is an occasion for the unseen Spirit of God to work on our spirits. But preaching is also a simple physical transaction. The preacher speaks, the air carries the words, they physically enter our ears, and the Spirit puts them in our hearts. “Repetition is the mother of learning.” Repeat “nevertheless” over and over today. Sink it down into your heart so that it is at the ready to give you hope. Your hope is in the promise, “In the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58b)