Sermon illustrations


Einstein’s Phone Number

A reporter interviewed Albert Einstein for an article he was writing. At the end of the interview, the reporter asked if he could have Einstein’s phone number to call if he had further questions. “Certainly,” Einstein replied. He proceeded to pick up the phone directory, looked up his phone number, wrote it on a slip of paper, and handed it to the reporter. 

Dumbfounded, the reporter said, “You are considered to be the smartest man in the world, and you can’t remember your own phone number?” “No,” Einstein answered. “Why should I memorize something I can so easily get from a book?”

Keith Roberts, Article: “Einstein’s Phone Number”

The Enemy of the Good

You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside. The enemy of the “best” is often the “good.”

Steven Covey, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

God’s Business

If we want to turn in the direction of what is life giving, we are going to have to let go of Winter. “’Let go’ of the dark, which you wrap yourself in like a straitjacket, and let in the light. Stop trying to protect, to rescue, to judge, to manage the lives around you – your children’s lives, the lives of your husband, your wife, your partner, your friends – because that is just what you are powerless to do. Remember that the lives of other people are not your business. They are their business. They are God’s business because they all have God whether they use the word God or not. Even your own life is not your business. It is also God’s business. Leave it to God. It is an astonishing thought. It can become a life-transforming thought.”

Frederick Beuchner

How to Make a Sacrifice

How do you define what it means to “make a sacrifice?” We say we sacrifice for our family, or sacrifice for our careers. We speak of Jesus sacrificing himself so that we can experience eternal life. Augustine of Hippo, the great North African bishop, defined sacrifice as “the surrender of something of value for the sake of something else.” Which begs the question, what are we willing to sacrifice, and
for whom or what?

Every day we make decisions based on our priorities, and those priorities sacrifice one thing for another thing. Sadly, we often fall
into habits, where we no longer can recognize our selfish, self-centered priorities. If sacrifice is, as Augustine once said, “the surrender of something of value for the sake of something else,” then what are you surrendering for the sake of Christ and his Kingdom?

Stuart Strachan Jr.

How Tithing Could Change the World

If only those who professed to be “strong” or “very strong” Christians would tithe, Dr. Ron Sider estimates there would be an extra 46 billion dollars a year to do kingdom work. Just as an example:

  • 150,000 new indigenous missionaries.
  • 5 million more micro loans to poor entrepreneurs.
  • The food, clothing and shelter for all 6,500,000 current refugees in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
  • All the money for a global campaign to prevent and treat malaria.

Investment Priorities

The same week the global economy shrank by $7 trillion, Zimbabwe’s inflation rate hit a record 231 million percent. In other words, if you had saved $1 million Zimbabwean dollars by Monday, on Tuesday it was worth $158. This sobering fact leads me to pray and ask God’s help in taking my eyes off my own problems.

In order to look with compassion on the truly desperate. What a testimony it would be if, in the coming year, Christians resolved to increase their giving to build houses for the poor, combat AIDS in Africa, and announce kingdom values to a decadent, celebrity driven culture. Such a response defies all logic and common sense — unless, of course, we take Jesus seriously.

Philip Yancey, “A Surefire Investment”

A Life Re-Defined by The Spirit of God

In his excellent book on worship, The Dangerous Act of Worship, pastor and president of Fuller Seminary Mark Labberton shares a story of the transformation of one of his former congregants:

Ben was a very successful man. His professional life flourished. His family life was challenging, as a parent of several teenagers. For him, Christian faith was a distant and disconnected reality. But he began to have conversations about it with his wife and later with me.

One Sunday I was surprised but pleased to see him in the worship service. As he approached me at the door afterward, his eyes began to fill with tears. He explained that while visiting Washington, D.C, for a professional conference, he had gone to visit the National Cathedral. He slipped into an empty side chapel and sat down for some quiet time and reflection.

There, unexpected and unsought, God’s Spirit simply came upon him. Ben became a new person. The awe and wonder of grace and truth beyond his own mind, his own questions, his own needs, simply met him and changed him. It was as though his life was utterly redefined, and it has been ever since.

Taken from The Dangerous Act of Worship by Mark Labberton. Copyright (c) 2007 by Mark Labberton. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com


Priorities and Nibbling Away at Life

The biggest issue in life is priorities.

You don’t have to be religious to know that. We all acknowledge it every day, dozens of times a day. It is the essence of life for us list-makers; we draw up the list of the things we plan to do, then start numbering them in order of priority. Those whose budget is stretched to the limits stack up their bills according to the priority rule, “Which creditor will be most heartless?” For some it gets no more existential than a box of chocolates: Do I eat the creams first. Or the caramels?

Most of us manage our priorities reasonably well at these levels. Interestingly enough, we also do pretty well at the frightening extremities of life.

If our house catches fire, for instance, we’ll probably decide quickly and incisively about what to carry out and what to leave behind. But life itself is a more complicated call. Renowned preacher and author George Buttrick came one day upon a farmer who had just retrieved a lost sheep. When Buttrick asked how sheep wander away, the farmer answered, ‘They just nibble themselves lost,” They go, he explained, from one tuft of grass to another, until at last they’ve lost their way. And that, of course, is what happens with life. Unless we purposely establish a structure of priorities, we will nibble away at each inconsequential tuft of decision until life is gone, and we have little idea of what has happened to it.

J. Ellsworth Kalas, The Ten Commandments From the Backside, Abingdon Press, 2013.

The Treasure of a Lifetime

A first-century Hebrew walks alone on a hot afternoon, staff in hand. His shoulders are stooped, his tunic stained with sweat. But he doesn’t stop to rest. He has pressing business in the city. He veers off the road into a field, seeking a shortcut. The owner won’t mind—travelers are permitted this courtesy. The field is uneven. To keep his balance he thrusts his staff into the dirt. Thunk. The staff strikes something hard. He stops, wipes his brow, and pokes again. Thunk. Something’s under there, and it’s not a rock.

The weary traveler’s curiosity wins out. He jabs at the ground. Something reflects a sliver of sunlight. He drops to his knees and starts digging. Five minutes later, he’s uncovered a case fringed in gold. By the looks of it, it’s been there for decades. Hands shaking and heart racing, he pries off the lock and opens the lid. Gold coins! Jewelry! Precious stones! A treasure more valuable than anything he’s ever imagined. Some wealthy man must have buried the treasure and died suddenly, its secret location dying with him.

There’s no homestead nearby. Surely the current landowner has no clue this ancient treasure is here. The traveler buries the chest and marks the spot. He turns to head home—only now he’s not plodding. He’s skipping like a child and smiling broadly. What a find! Unbelievable! I’ve got to have that treasure! But I can’t just take it. By law, whoever buys a field assumes ownership of all that’s in it. But how can I afford to buy it? I’ll sell my farm…and crops…all my tools…my prize oxen.

Yes, if I sell everything, that should be enough! From the moment of his discovery, the traveler’s life changes. The treasure captures his imagination. It’s his reference point, his new center of gravity. The traveler takes every new step with this treasure in mind. He experiences a radical paradigm shift. This story is captured by Jesus in a single verse: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” (Matthew 13:44).

Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle, Revised and Updated: Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving, Multnomah, 2017.

See also Illustrations on Comparison 

Still Looking for inspiration?

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

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