Sermon illustrations


Defining Patience

The Greek word used here (1 Cor. 13:4) for patience is a descriptive one. It figuratively means “taking a long time to boil.” Think about a pot of boiling water. What factors determine the speed at which it boils? The size of the stove? No. The pot? The utensil may have an influence, but the primary factor is the intensity of the flame. Water boils quickly when the flam is high. It boils slowly when the flame is low. Patience ‘keeps the burner down.”

Max Lucado, A Love Worth Giving, W Publishing Group.


I’m sitting at a traffic light in my neighborhood, waiting for the red light to turn. I’m trying to be relaxed and unhurried about my life. Before I have a chance to respond to the light that has just turned green, the person behind me is already on his horn. It happens often enough that my wife and I have given this experience a name—gronk.

It is a contraction of green and honk, and it represents the nanosecond of time between the fresh green light in front of us and the angry horn blasting behind us. It is an inflammation of impatience. It is an utter lack of simple kindness. It is chronic and epidemic. And, bottom line, it is unloving.

Maybe this sounds to you like whining. I’m tempted to react: “Hey, gronker! What in the world is so important that my slow reaction time is such an offense to you? Do you have an appointment with the president? Are you trying to get your injured child to the hospital?” (I would understand a good solid gronk in this last case.) Probably not. Instead, that gronk is likely just a habit rooted in the belief that time is money and that hurry, therefore, is always profitable. If hurry gets in the way of love, does hurry go or does love go?

Taken from An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest by Alan Fadling Copyright (c) 2013 by Alan Fadling. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Love for the Long Haul

Patience is love for the long haul; it is bearing up under difficult circumstances, without giving up or giving in to bitterness. Patience means working when gratification is delayed. It means taking what life offers—even if it means suffering—without lashing out. And when you’re in a situation that you’re troubled over or when there’s a delay or pressure on you or something’s not happening that you want to happen, there’s always a temptation to come to the end of your patience. You may well have lost your patience before you’re even aware of it.

Tim Keller, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus (New York: Dutton, 2011, p.59.

The Love Song

Richard Foster wrote once of a father walking through a mall with his two-year-old son. The child was cranky; he kept whining and wriggling and complaining.  The father struggled to remain patient.

…[The father] scooped up his little two-year-old grumbler, held him tight to his chest, and began to sing an impromptu love son.  None of the words rhymed.  He sang it off-key, but as best as he could, he shared his heart: “I love you. I’m so glad you’re my boy. You make me laugh.” From store to store the father kept going, words not rhyming, notes off-key.  His son relaxed, captivated by this strange and wonderful song.

Finally, when they had finished, the dad went to the car, buckled his son in the car seat, and his son raised his arms and lifted up his head.  “Sing it to me again, Daddy.  Sing it to me again.”

Taken from John Ortberg, Love Beyond Reason (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998).

Making Pearls out of Irritations

Most of us are aware of the fact that pearls come from oysters, but do you know how they are formed? It all begins with an irritation. Some foreign particle, for example, a piece of sand, works its way into the shell of the oyster. The oyster can’t push the sand out of the oyster, because it’s too big.

So what does the oyster do? The oyster finds this unwanted outsider bothersome, and so it responds by trying to cover it up by emitting a small secretion. And that’s just the beginning. The oyster continues to send out secretion after secretion in the hopes of covering that piece of sand. The bigger the particle, the more the secretions, and so eventually the bigger the pearl. 

Life is also sometimes like that. The bigger the irritation, the greater the value. What irritates us is also often what requires our attention, because there’s probably something God wants to do with it.

Stuart Strachan Jr.

Patience and Parking Spots

Have you ever felt like some people take longer to leave a parking spot when you are waiting for them? Well, apparently you are not just imagining it…Three separate studies have demonstrated that this is a real phenomenon.

Why? People seem to feel like they “own” the parking spot and thus take even longer when they know someone is waiting to take their parking spot:

Three studies showed that drivers leaving a public parking space are territorial even when such behavior is contrary to their goal of leaving. In Study 1 (observations of 200 departing cars), intruded-upon drivers took longer to leave than non intruded-upon drivers. In Study 2, an experiment involving 240 drivers in which level of intrusion and status of intruder were manipulated, drivers took longer to leave when another car was present and when the intruder honked.

Males left significantly sooner when intruded upon by a higher rather than lower status car, whereas females’ departure times did not differ as a function of the status of the car. There was evidence that distraction might explain some of this effect. In Study 3, individuals who had parked at a mall were asked about how they would react to intruders. Compared to what they believed other people would do, respondents said they would leave faster if the car were just waiting for them to leave but they would take longer to leave if the driver in the car honked at them.

Source: “Territorial Defense in Parking Lots: Retaliation Against Waiting Drivers” from Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Volume 27, Issue 9, pages 821–834, May 1997. 

Oaks of Righteousness

In his excellent book, An Unhurried Life, Alan Fadling contrasts our overly busy lives with a vision of the kingdom from Isaiah chapter 61:

Isaiah envisioned a kingdom in which those people in need of grace become, over time, solidly rooted in God’s grace, enough so as to be able to extend his grace to others. He envisioned a kingdom where we would experience favor, comfort, blessing, honor, new perspectives and deepening roots that enable us to do the rebuilding, restoring, renewing work in places, structures and persons who have long been ruined (Is 61:4). These characteristics of oaks of righteousness are the fruit of apprenticeship.

Further, we, as these oaks of righteousness planted by the Lord, put his splendor on display, a display quite different from human excitement, enthusiasm and thrills. Splendor is quieter, stronger, less hurried and more deeply rooted. Oaks take a long time to grow. A newly planted acorn can take between two and three decades to provide significant shade, and these slow-growing oaks can live more than two hundred years. One reason for their longevity is the taproot they send deep into the earth that makes them very drought-resistant.

Oaks are indeed solid, stable, reliable, majestic trees—but it takes them a while to get there. Do we take that same long view of growing in Christ ourselves and helping others do the same? If so, what can we do to help others become attentive and teachable apprentices to him so that one day they will shine with his splendor and flourish in the fruit of his Spirit? Whatever it is that we do, I believe it will require a less hurried, longer perspective approach than we have commonly taken.

Taken from An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest by Alan Fadling Copyright (c) 2013 by Alan Fadling. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Patience is a Hard Discipline

Patience is a hard discipline. It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of the bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict. Patience is not a waiting passivity until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later and somewhere else. Let’s be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.

Henri J. M.Nouwen, Bread for the Journey, HarperOne.

The Patient Father

There is a story about a man who stopped in the grocery store on the way home from work to pick up a couple of items for his wife. He wandered around aimlessly for a while searching out the needed groceries. As is often the case in the grocery store,
he kept passing this same shopper in almost every aisle. It was another father trying to shop with a totally uncooperative three-year-old boy in the cart.

The first time they passed, the three-year-old was asking over and over for a candy bar. Our observer couldn’t hear the entire conversation. He just heard Dad say, “Now, Billy, this won’t take long.” As they passed in the next aisle, the three-year old’s pleas had increased several octaves. Now Dad was quietly saying, “Billy, just calm down. We will
be done in a minute.”

When they passed near the dairy case, the kid was screaming uncontrollably. Dad was still keeping his cool. In a very low voice he was saying, “Billy, settle down. We are almost out of here.” The Dad and his son reached the check out counter just ahead of our observer. He still gave no evidence of loosing control. The boy was screaming and kicking. Dad was very calming saying over and over, “Billy, we will be in the car in just a minute and then everything will be OK.”

The bystander was impressed beyond words. After paying for his groceries, he hurried to catch up with this amazing example of patience and self-control just in time to hear him say again, “Billy, we’re done. It’s going to be OK.” He tapped the patient father on the shoulder and said, “Sir, I couldn’t help but watch how you handled little Billy. You were amazing.” Dad replied, “You don’t get it, do you?” I’m Billy!”

Source Unknown

Settling Accounts

The story is told of a farmer in a Midwestern state who had a strong disdain for “religious” things. As he plowed his field on Sunday morning, he would shake his fist at the church people who passed by on their way to worship. October came and the farmer had his finest crop ever–the best in the entire county.

When the harvest was complete, he placed an advertisement in the local paper which belittled the Christians for their faith in God. Near the end of his diatribe he wrote, “Faith in God must not mean much if someone like me can prosper.” The response from the Christians in the community was quiet and polite. In the next edition of the town paper, a small ad appeared. It read simply, “God doesn’t settle His accounts in October.”

William E. Brown, Making Sense of Your Faith, Victor Books.

The Virtue that Lies Beyond Heroism

God intended man to have all good, but in . . . God’s time; and therefore all disobedience, all sin, consists essentially in breaking out of time. Hence the restoration of order by the Son of God had to be the annulment of that premature snatching at knowledge, the beating down of the hand outstretched toward eternity, the repentant return from a false, swift transfer of eternity to a true, slow confinement in time. . . . Patience [is] the basic constituent of Christianity . . . the power to wait, to persevere, to hold out, to endure to the end, not to transcend one’s own limitations, not to force issues by playing the hero or the titan, but to practice the virtue that lies beyond heroism, the meekness of the lamb which is led.

Hans Urs von Balthasar, A Theology of History (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1994), 36-37.

See also Illustrations on BusynessSelf-ControlWaiting