Sermon illustrations


Alfred Nobel’s Big Turn

Do any of you know the name of the inventor of dynamite? It might sound familiar once you hear it, it’s Alfred Nobel. In 1867, Nobel, Alfred Nobel, who was a Swedish chemist invented a new high explosive which he named “dynamite.”

He believed that his invention would make war so horrible that it would never happen again because it would become so awful, so terrible, that no on in their right mind would be willing to inflict that kind of terror somebody else…surprisingly, he was wrong…perhaps if we was a good Presbyterian, with a thorough understanding of human depravity, he wouldn’t have made that mistake, but I digress.

Instead of ending wars, dynamite made them more devastating and wide-ranging than it had ever been before. He was horrified, but also had no idea what to do. He also, it has to be sad, made a fortune from it’s sale.

And then something interesting happened. One morning, around the turn of the century, he awoke to read, and get this, his own obituary, it read:

“Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, who died yesterday, devised a way for more people to be killed in a war than ever before. He died a very rich man.”

You see, Alfred Nobel had passed away the previous night but the next morning his ghost was able to read the newspaper…okay, that’s not what happened.

The newspaper had made a mistake Alfred’s older brother was the one who died. But, as you could probably imagine, the obituary had a profound effect on him.

He realized he didn’t want to be known primarily as the person who developed the most effective killing machine of his generation and amassed a fortune doing it…that sounds more like the villain to a story than the protagonist right?

So what did Alfred Nobel do…well, he founded the Nobel Prize—an award for scientists and writers who foster peace. Nobel said, “Every man ought to have the chance to correct his epitaph in midstream and write a new one.”

What had happened? Alfred Nobel was given a chance to make a change. He was given the chance to make a big turn, repentance in his life. To choose forces of good over evil, and ultimately, when he did pass away, he would be known not just for creating dynamite, but for creating the most well-known peace prize in the entire world.

Stuart Strachan Jr.

The Conscience Fund

Did you know that ever since 1811 (when someone who had defrauded the government anonymously sent $5 to Washington D.C.) the U.S. Treasury has operated a Conscience Fund? Since that time almost $3.5 million has been received from guilt-ridden citizens.

Chuck Swindoll, The Quest For Character

I Couldn’t in Good Conscience…

The British poet Thomas Campbell, attending a horse race with some friends, bet one of them  (Thomas Wilson)  £50 that the horse Yellow Cap, would come in first place. After the race ended, Campbell, thinking his horse had lost the race, turned to his friend Wilson and said, “I owe you fifty pounds; but really, when I reflect that you are a professor of moral philosophy, and that betting is a sort of gambling only fit for blacklegs, I cannot bring my conscience to pay the bet.”  “I very much approve of your principles,” replied Wilson, “and I mean to act upon them. In point of fact, Yellow Cap has won the race, and, but for conscience, I ought to pay you the fifty pounds. But you will excuse me.”

Stuart R Strachan Jr. 

If I Still Can’t Sleep

A shoplifter wrote to a department store, saying, “I’ve just become a Christian, and I can’t sleep at night because I feel guilty. So here’s $100 that I owe you.” He signed his name then added a little PS: “If I still can’t sleep, I’ll send you the rest.”

Bill White, Taken from 1001 Illustrations that Connect, Zondervan. 

Miserable Elvis

Like many others who find themselves in the spotlight, Elvis Presley struggled with his fame, as well as the many temptations that befell him during his time as an iconic musician. In 1958, following an Easter Service at the First Assembly of God, Elvis told Rev. James Hamill, “Pastor, I’m the most miserable young man you’ve ever seen. I’ve got all the money I’ll ever need to spend. I’ve got millions of fans. I’ve got friends. But I’m doing what you taught me not to do, and I’m not doing the things you taught me to do.”

Stuart Strachan Jr. Source Material from Godvine.com

The Secret to Success Selling Girl Scout Cookies

There was a Girl Scout who had sold thousands of boxes of Girl Scout cookies and began to get publicity for all those boxes sold. Someone asked her, “How were you able to be so successful selling so many cookies?” 

“Oh it’s actually quite easy. You just have to look people right in the eye and make them feel guilty. Works every time.”

Stuart Strachan Jr., Original Source Unknown

Wear it As Long As You Can

George Fox (1624-1691) was the founder of the Quakers, a Christian movement, in seventeenth-century century England.

Two of the great Quaker contributions are their teaching on pacifism (refusal to use violence) and equality (abolishing class distinction). William Penn (1644-1718) grew up in the upper class and had the best education available.

At the age of twenty-three, Penn became a Quaker, and soon after everything began to change. It was common in Penn’s day to wear a sword, which was not intended to harm anyone one but was a sign that the wearer belonged to the upper class. After becoming a Quaker, Penn struggled with whether he should wear the sword. After all, it was a symbol of war as well as class distinction-two two things Quakers stood squarely against.

So Penn went to Fox, his mentor, to seek guidance on the matter. “May I continue to wear the sword?” he asked Fox. I would have expected Fox to say, “No, you must get rid of it. Turn it into a plowshare and never wear anything like it again.” Instead, George Fox offered a response that is a touchstone for me in the area of Christian living. He said, “Wear it as long as you can, William, wear it as long as you can.”

Fox was laying out an important principle in the Christian life. When it comes to our practices and behavior, we need to avoid making rules and laws, and trust the leading of the Spirit. Fox did not say, “Don’t wear it,” nor did he say, “It’s all right to wear it.” He trusted that Penn would make the right decision in time. Had Fox given him a command, he would have robbed Penn of the opportunity to listen to the Holy Spirit, and he would have put in place a rigid standard, which almost always leads to later problems.

Taken from The Good and Beautiful Community: Following the Spirit, Extending Grace, Demonstrating Love by James Bryan Smith, Copyright (c) 2010 by James Bryan Smith. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com 


See also Illustrations on Guilt, Responsibility


Still Looking for inspiration?

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

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