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Sermon illustrations

Circumstances

Circumstances or God’s Faithfulness

On a daily basis we’re faced with two simple choices. We can either listen to ourselves and our constantly changing feelings about our circumstances, or we can talk to ourselves about the unchanging truth of who God is and what He’s accomplished for us at the cross through His Son Jesus. If you’re anything like me, there’s a good chance you do a lot of listening to yourself every day.

Not long ago, in the final stages of preparing my sermon to preach at church the next morning, I knocked a mug of hot coffee directly onto the keyboard of my laptop computer. The machine gasped out a mournful “ffffttt!” and the screen went blank. In an instant of clumsiness, I’d destroyed my computer, vaporized my sermon notes, and added hours to my preparation time. Frozen in disbelief, I stared dumbfounded at the empty screen.

The keyboard took on the look of a small tropical swamp, its keys poking out of the steaming coffee like lily pads. I wish I could say I trusted God in that moment. Nope. Instead I let out an angry, bloodcurdling “Nooooooo!!” Then I picked my chair a few inches up off the floor and slammed it back down.

C.J. Mahaney, Living the Cross Centered Life, The Crown Publishing Group.

The Problem with Simplicity

In his excellent little book, A Testament of Devotion, written almost a hundred years ago, Thomas Kelly describes the true heart of the problem related to the complexity of our lives:

Let me first suggest that we are giving a false explanation of the complexity of our lives. We blame it upon the complex environment. Our complex living, we say, is due to the complex world we live in, with its radios and autos, which give us more stimulation per square hour than used to be given per square day to our grandmothers.

This explanation by the outward order leads us to turn wistfully, in some moments, to thoughts of a quiet South Sea Island existence, or to the horse and buggy days of our great grandparents, who went, jingle bells, jingle bells, over the crisp and ringing snow to spend the day with their grandparents on the farm.

Let me assure you, I have tried the life of the South Seas for a year, the long, lingering leisure of a tropic world. And I found that Americans carry into the tropics their same mad-cap, feverish life which we know on the mainland. Complexity of our program cannot be blamed upon complexity of our environment, much as we should like to think so.

Nor will simplification of life follow simplification of environment, I must confess that I chafed terribly, that year in Hawaii, because in some respects the environment seemed too simple.

We Western peoples are apt to think our great problems are external, environmental. We are not skilled in the inner life, where the real roots of our problem lie.

Thomas Kelly, A Testament of Devotion, Harper & Bros., 1941.

See What Happens

Do you ever feel as if God is far from you? Be assured, He is steadfastly near. Do not be disheartened because you don’t see Him in your circumstances. I saw an illustration of this during a photography excursion I took to the Matterhorn in Switzerland. When I got to the great mountain, I was greeted by a snowstorm that unforgivingly persisted for three days.

The blanket of snow was so thick, I never even saw the foot of the mountain. On my last night there, I shared my disappointment with the Lord. The next day, I awoke at 5:20 a.m. and looked out my window. The storm had been swept away, and there was the Matterhorn in all her glory, with a halo of moonlight crowning her. It was as if God said, “See what happens when you wait for Me.”

Charles F. Stanley, God’s Purpose for Your Life: 365 Devotions, Thomas Nelson, 2020.

Surface Winds and Deep Ocean Currents

In the frigid waters around Greenland are countless icebergs, some little and some gigantic. If you’d observe them carefully, you’d notice that sometimes the small ice floes move in one direction while their massive counterparts flow in another. The explanation is simple. Surface winds drive the little ones, whereas the huge masses of ice are carried along by deep ocean currents.

When we face trials and tragedies, it’s helpful to see our lives as being subject to two forces–surface winds and ocean currents. The winds represent everything changeable, unpredictable, and distressing. But operating simultaneously with these gusts and gales is another force that’s even more powerful. It is the sure movement of God’s wise and sovereign purposes, the deep flow of His unchanging love.

Source Unknown

There is an Ebb and a Flow

Dear Lord,

Today I thought of the words of Vincent Van Gogh. It is true that there is an ebb and flow but the sea remains the sea. You, oh God, are the sea. Although I experience many ups and downs in my emotions and often feel great shifts and changes in my inner life, You remain the same.

Your sameness is not the sameness of a rock, but the sameness of a faithful lover. I am sustained and to Your love I am always called back. My only real temptation is to doubt Your love, to think of myself as beyond Your love, to remove myself from the healing radiance of Your love. To do these things is to move into the darkness of despair.

Oh Lord, sea of love and goodness, let me knot fear too much the storms of winds of my daily life. And, let me know that there is ebb and flow, but that the sea remains the sea. Amen.

Chuck Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, p 242.

Stress: A Value Neutral Concept

Although we use the word stress in a negative connotation, it actually is a value-neutral concept. In the medical sense, stress is the body’s response to any change required of it or any demand imposed upon it. Such a definition is contrary to the popular thinking that defines stress as an unpleasant circumstance, such as tax time or a screaming baby. Stress is not the circumstance; it is our response to the circumstance. It is not “out there” but rather “in here.”

Richard A Swenson, M.D. A Minute of Margin: Restoring Balance to Busy Lives – 180 Daily Reflections (Pilgrimage Growth Guide). NavPress, 2003, Kindle Location 2520.

Tides and Currents

I found that tides and currents do not determine destination. That is what rudders and engines and sails are for. While you don’t dare ignore the tides and currents, you also never get anywhere if you let them dictate your direction. When you can, you make them serve you. When you can’t go with the currents, you learn to cut across them as best you can, but always with your destination in mind.”

Russ Metcalfe

What is Vision?

Vision is the ability to see God’s presence, to perceive God’s power, to focus on God’s plan In spite of the obstacles….Vision is the ability to see above and beyond the majority. Vision is perception—reading the presence and power of God into one’s circumstances.

I sometimes think of vision as looking at life through the lens of God’s eyes, seeing situations as He sees them. Too often we see things not as they are, but as we are. Think about that. Vision has to do with looking at life with a divine perspective, reading the scene with God in clear focus. Whoever wants to live differently in “the system” must correct his or her vision.

Chuck Swindoll, Living Above the Level of Mediocrity

See also Illustrations on Concern, Life

Still Looking for inspiration?

Consider checking out our quotes page on Circumstances. Don’t forget, sometimes a great quote is an illustration in itself!

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