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Sermon illustrations

Trust

Clarity vs. Trust

When John Kavanaugh, who was a noted and famous ethicist, went to Calcutta, he was seeking Mother Teresa … and more. He went for three months to work at “the house of the dying” to find out how best he could spend the rest of his life.

When he met Mother Teresa, he asked her to pray for him. “What do you want me to pray for?” she replied. He then uttered the request he had carried thousands of miles: “Clarity. Pray that I have clarity.”

“No,” Mother Teresa answered, “I will not do that.” When he asked her why, she said, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.” When Kavanaugh said that she always seemed to have clarity, the very kind of clarity he was looking for, Mother Teresa laughed and said: “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”

Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust.

The Connection between Trust and Happiness

Ruut Veenhoven, the Dutch sociologist known as the “godfather of happiness research,” maintains the World Database of Happiness. And when he looked at all the countries of the world in terms of happiness, Moldova came up dead last. What garnered this little-known former Soviet republic such a dubious distinction? The Moldovans simply don’t trust one another.

It has reached epic proportions, so much so that it stifles cooperation in almost every area of Moldovan life. Writer Eric Weiner notes that so many students bribe teachers for passing grades that Moldovans won’t go to doctors who are younger than age thirty-five, assuming they purchased their medical degrees. Weiner sums up the Moldovan attitude with a single sentence: “Not my problem.” Getting people to act collectively for the benefit of the group seems impossible. Nobody wants to do anything that benefits others.

Lack of trust has turned Moldova into a black hole of selfishness. The usual response to Mom saying “What if everyone did that?” is to say, quite simply, “Well, everyone doesn’t.” But that’s not really true, is it? We all know a company or a department that slid downhill due to selfishness. Research agrees: bad behavior is infectious. It spreads. Soon you won’t be the only one scheming.

Eric Barker, Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong.

Holding on to Earth

There once lived a peasant in Crete who deeply loved his life. He enjoyed tilling the soil, feeling the warm sun on his naked back as he worked the fields, and feeling the soil under his feet. He loved the planting, the harvesting, and the very smell of nature. He loved his wife and his family and his friends, and he enjoyed being with them. Eating together, drinking wine, talking, and making love. And he loved especially Crete, his, beautiful island! The earth, the sky, the sea, it was his! This was his home.

One day he sensed that death was near. What he feared was not what lay beyond, for he knew God’s goodness and had lived a good life. No, he feared leaving Crete, his wife, his children, his friends, his home, and his land. Thus, as he prepared to die, he grasped in his right hand a few grains of soil from his beloved Crete and he told his loved ones to bury him with it.

He died, awoke, and found himself at heaven’s gates, the soil still in his hand, and heaven’s gate firmly barred against him. Eventually St Peter emerged through the gates and spoke to him: ‘You’ve lived a good life, and we’ve a place for you inside, but you cannot enter unless you drop that handful of soil. You cannot enter as you are now!’ The man was reluctant to drop the soil and protested: ‘Why? Why must I let go of this soil? Indeed, I cannot! What ever is inside those gates I have no knowledge of. But this soil, I know . . . it’s my life, my work, my wife and kids, it’s what I know and love, it’s Crete! Why should I let it go for something I know nothing about?’

Peter answered: ‘When you get to heaven you will know why. It’s too difficult to explain. I am asking you to trust, trust that God can give you something better than a few grains of soil.’ But the man refused. In the end, silent and seemingly defeated, Peter left him, closing the large gates behind.

Several minutes later, the gates opened a second time and this time, from them, emerged a young child. She did not try to coax the man into letting go of the soil in his hand. She simply took his hand and, as she did, it opened and the soil of Crete spilled to the ground. She then led him through the gates. A shock awaited him as he entered heaven . . . ………….there, before him, lay all of Crete!

John Shea

Follow the Bubbles

When I graduated from college I was given one of the greatest opportunities of my young life. A group of my friends were told that if we were able to purchase a flight to the Cayman Islands, we would essentially be given free room and board in one of a couple different oceanfront properties owned by one of our friends’ family.

Needless to say I found a way to purchase the plane ticket. A few of us decided during the trip that we ought to get scuba certified while we were down there. The Cayman Islands have some of the best scuba diving in the world. After completing our classes, we were invited by our teacher to go on a night dive.

Now, when we were told about this, to me it sounded like a great adventure. The instructor told us we would use underwater flashlights, and I was sure with all the great modern technology that we would be able to see just fine.

So, it turns out, not so much. Right as we entered the water I was alarmed to find out that I could see barely anything at all, and what I could see was only a foot or so directly where the flashlight was shining.

My discomfort only intensified as we descended along a coral shelf, and I found myself disoriented, and unsure exactly which way was up. Now I want you to picture being essentially blind underwater with a relatively limited amount of air for you to breathe.

You have begun to question which way is up, and you are swimming along a coral shelf that makes it such that you cannot just swim in what you assume is up, though again, you’re not quite sure, because, after all, your disoriented by the darkness.

At this point I was in complete freak-out mode. While we were part of a group, there were multiple groups diving, so I was unsure if I was even in the right group.

Now, eventually, we made it back to shore, I didn’t die as I was fairly sure was going to be the case…and we even saw an octopus.

But recently I learned something about night diving.

That is, there is always a way to know which way is up. And the way to do that is to feel your bubbles…that may sound strange…but when you are diving your breaths produce bubbles, and so long as you can feel which direction they are going, you will know which way is up. And I think there is a lesson in that…

When you can’t trust your senses, when you can’t even trust your judgment, you can always trust the bubbles to get you back to the top.

And isn’t life like that some times. We get disoriented. We end up on a path that we didn’t anticipate and at times we can even feel lost. But just as a night diver can trust in the bubbles, we too can trust that God will take care of us when everything seems dark and uncertain.

Stuart Strachan Jr.

Is Anyone Up There?

There’s an old story about a man who falls off a cliff.  He’s going to die, but he throws out a hand and miraculously catches a branch:

“Is anyone up there?”

“Yes.”

“Who are you?”

“I am God, and I am going to save you.”

“Wonderful.  What should I do?”

“Let go of the branch.”

(Pause.)  “Is anybody else up there?”

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

“Sliding Door” Moments

What I’ve found through research is that trust is built in very small moments, which I call “sliding door” moments, after the movie Sliding Doors. In any interaction, there is a possibility of connecting with your partner or turning away from your partner. Let me give you an example of that from my own relationship. One night, I really wanted to finish a mystery novel. I thought I knew who the killer was, but I was anxious to find out. At one point in the night, I put the novel on my bedside and walked into the bathroom. As I passed the mirror, I saw my wife’s face in the reflection, and she looked sad, brushing her hair.

There was a sliding door moment. I had a choice. I could sneak out of the bathroom and think, I don’t want to deal with her sadness tonight; I want to read my novel. But instead, because I’m a sensitive researcher of relationships, I decided to go into the bathroom. I took the brush from her hair and asked, “What’s the matter, baby?” And she told me why she was sad. Now, at that moment, I was building trust; I was there for her. I was connecting with her rather than choosing to think only about what I wanted. These are the moments, we’ve discovered, that build trust. One such moment is not that important, but if you’re always choosing to turn away, then trust erodes in a relationship—very gradually, very slowly.

“Greater Good”: John Gottman on Trust and Betrayal. October 28, 2011. 

Trusting in God’s Good Gifts

God wants to feed his people. In keeping the one tree from them, God protected Adam and Eve. When they broke table fellowship with God, they suspected that God was withholding something good, that this “good” would make them like God. … Just like in Eden, it’s hard to trust that God isn’t going to hold back the good things, the best things: that reaching out and taking what God is offering is really the best.

Rachel Marie Stone, Eat with Joy, InterVarsity Press, 2013.

Trusting your Gut

Sometimes we are given the advice to trust our guts when we make important decisions. Unfortunately, our guts are full of questionable advice. Consider the Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory, a truly delicious dessert—and one that clocks in at 1,540 calories, which is the equivalent of three McDonald’s double cheeseburgers plus a pack of Skittles.

This is something that you are supposed to eat after you are finished with your real meal. The Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake is exactly the kind of thing that our guts get excited about. Yet no one would mistake this guidance for wisdom. Certainly no one has ever thoughtfully plotted out a meal plan and concluded, I gotta add more cheesecake.

Chip and Dan Heath. Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, The Crown Publishing Group.

Trust in Pastors is (Way) Down

In my lifetime, the classic image of the devoted parish pastor who could be trusted to rightly preach the word, diligently care for souls, and wisely lead the church has shifted dramatically. With major scandals in both Protestant and Catholic churches, trust in clergy is down significantly over the last twenty years.

Clergy trust has “dropped steadily since 2009, down from a high of 67 percent in 1985, the pollster reported. Pastors are now seen as less trustworthy than judges (43%), day care providers (46%), police officers (56%), pharmacists (62%), medical doctors (65%), grade school teachers (66%), military officers (71%), and nurses (82%).

Taken from When Narcissism Comes to Church by Chuck DeGroat Copyright (c) 2020 by Chuck DeGroat. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Wholly Trusting

In The Chimes, the second of Charles Dickens five Christmas stories, nine-year old Lillian Fern, orphaned and under the guardianship of her father’s brother Will, is taken in for the night by Tobias (Trotty) Veck and his adult daughter, Meg. In Lillian’s thirst for a mother, for a friend, for a home, she runs to Meg without reservation,

“Trotty, in a breathless state, set the child down before his daughter in the middle of the floor. The little visitor looked once at Meg; and doubting nothing in that face, and trusting everything that she saw there; ran into her arms.”

Comment: What about us? Are we any different than Lillian in our need? May we, in similar fashion, run into Jesus’ arms having looked upon his trustworthy countenance, wearied, worried, and withered travelers that we are. 

Introduction and Comment by Scott Bullock, Source material taken from Charles Dickens, The Chimes, p. 329 (Kindle Edition)

See also Illustrations on BeliefsTrustWorldview

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