Sermon illustrations

Little Things

I am Done with Great Things

In one of his letters, the philosopher and psychologist William James shares a conviction regarding his focus not on big, grand things, but with the small “almost invisible” decisions:

I am done with great things and big things, great institutions and big success, and I am for those tiny, invisible molecular moral forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, yet which if you give them time, will rend the hardest monuments of man’s pride.

The Letters of William James, ed. by his son Henry James (Boston: Atlantic Monthy Press, 1920), 2:90; letter to Mrs. Henry Whitman, June 7, 1899.

The Little Things

One time, back when I was doing college ministry, I took a group of students camping. My wife came along with us. I had selected this really, really difficult hike. It was about ten miles long and almost straight up, which for me is the closest thing to heaven there is. My wife, however, whose permission I have to tell this story, was having a very different experience. She was hot, she was tired, she wasn’t having any fun, and she was sharing her feelings with me.

In fact, that day she and I had some very interesting conversations about courtesy, planning ahead, and how I was raised. Eventually one of the students said to her, “Here, let me take the heavy things out of your pack; that’ll make it easier for you to hike.” But when he opened up her pack his face fell, because there wasn’t anything heavy in it. There was some Kleenex, some toothpaste, and that was about it. But he still wanted to be polite, so he said, “Oh, I guess the problem is there are just so many little things.”

Scott Dudley, First Presbyterian Church, Bellevue.

Remaining a Little Child Of God

It is recognizing one’s nothingness, expecting everything from the good God, just as a little child expects everything from its father; it is not getting anxious about anything, not trying to make one’s fortune. . . . Being little is also not attributing to oneself the virtues that one practices, as if one believed oneself capable of achieving something, but recognizing that the good God puts this treasure into the hands of his little child for it to make use of it whenever it needs to; but it is always the good God’s treasure. Finally it is never being disheartened by one’s faults, because children often fall, but they are too little to do themselves much harm.

Taken From Simon Tugwell, The Beatitudes: Soundings in Christian Traditions, Templegate Publishers, 1980, 138.

Sam’s Encouragement

In the final pages of his great epic The Lord of the Rings, J.R R. Tolkien writes of his heroes, Sam and Frodo, and their desperate quest to reach the cursed Mount Doom to cast the ring of power, a device that held much of the dark lord Sauron’s power, into the fires and destroy it. As they came closer to the mountain, their situation grew more desperate.

They were wasting away physically, Frodo’s spirit was failing, and their quest seemed hopeless. In a key moment, Sam attempts to encourage Frodo by asking him if he remembers the taste of strawberries and cream, the sound of water, the beauties of spring in their far-off home, the Shire. This should be instructive to us. Love of small things, fidelity to small places, these are the things that matter and ultimately enable great deeds of courage.

Taken from: In Search of the Common Good: Christian Fidelity in a Fractured World by Jake Meador Copyright (c) 2019 by Jake Meador. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Three Perspectives on Work

In 1927 Bruce Barton wrote a multi-faceted parable that is believed to be based on a true story. This story is related to the work of Sir Christopher Wren, whose design of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London is considered one of the most beautiful church buildings ever constructed. The construction was necessary because of the Great Fire of 1666, in which much of London, including the original St. Paul’s church building was destroyed:

One day, while observing the construction of the cathedral, Wren decided to question the three bricklayers. “What are you doing?” to which the bricklayer replied, “I’m a bricklayer. I’m working hard laying bricks to feed my family.” The second bricklayer answered, “I’m a builder. I’m building a wall.” But the third bricklayer, who would eventually rise in rank above all the other craftsmen, when he was asked the question, “What are you doing?” replied with a gleam in his eye, “I’m a cathedral builder. I get to play a small part in building the greatest kingdom of all, the kingdom of God.”

Original Source Unknown, Stuart Strachan Jr.

What I Can Do

Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909), an American Unitarian minister and writer, who lived and worked in Boston, Massachusetts, and inspired many by his story Ten Times One Is Ten:

I’m only one,

but I am one.

I can’t do everything,

but I can do something.

What I can do,

I ought to do.

And what I ought to do,

by the grace of God

I will do.

Taken from The Living Church: Convictions of a Lifelong Pastor by John R. W. Stott Copyright (c) 2007 by John R. W. Stott. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

See also Actions, Good Works, Habits, Routines

Still Looking for inspiration?

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

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