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Sermon illustrations

Weakness

The Ascension of Christ: Weakness in Strength

 Frederick Farrar, in examining paintings depicting scenes from the life of Christ, first suggests that the ascension would be better left unpainted. But pondering why artistic renderings of the ascension fail adequately to represent the event leads Farrar to the heart of the matter. He concludes that the main thought in the ascension ‘is that Christ has forever taken into the Godhead the form of the Manhood’. This thought so thrills Farrar that he appends to his commentary this enigmatic but triumphant fragment of a poem:

Tis the weakness in strength that I cry for! my flesh that I seek

In the Godhead! I seek and I find it! Oh Saul, it shall be

A Face like my face that receives thee; a Man like to me

Thou shalt love, and be loved by for ever; a Hand like this hand

Shall throw open the gate of new Life to thee! See the Christ stand!

Gerrit Scott Dawson, Jesus Ascended: The Meaning of Christ’s Continuing Incarnation, T&T Clark 2004.

Playing with Chemistry Sets

On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.

Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk, Harper Perennial.

The Shoemaker’s Awl

An old shoemaker’s awl is on prominent display in the French Academy of Science. That awl fell from the shoemaker’s table one day and put out the eye of his 9-year-old son. Soon, the child became blind in both eyes and had to attend a school for the blind. At this school, the child learned to read by handling large, carved, wooden blocks.

When the shoemaker’s son grew up, he thought of a new way for the blind to read. It involved punching tiny dots onto paper, and Louis Braille devised this new method using the same awl that had blinded him in his youth.

When Patricia Houch Sprinkle told that story in Guideposts in 1978, she suggested that there would be a falling awl in each of our lives. She added, “When it strikes, some of us ask, ‘Why did God allow this to happen?’ Others ask, ‘How will God use it?’”

A Grace-Filled Life

The Strong & the Weak

Every other religion and philosophy says you have to do something to connect to God; but Christianity says no, Jesus Christ came to do for you what you couldn’t do for yourself. Every other religion says here are the answers to the big questions, but Christianity says Jesus is the answer to them all. So many systems of thought appeal to strong, successful people, because they play directly into their belief that if you are strong and hardworking enough, you will prevail.

But Christianity is not just for the strong; it’s for everyone, especially for people who admit that, where it really counts, they’re weak. It is for people who have the particular kind of strength to admit that their flaws are not superficial, their heart is deeply disordered, and that they are incapable of rectifying themselves. It is for those who can see that they need a savior, that they need Jesus Christ dying on the cross, to put them right with God.

Timothy Keller, Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions (New York: Penguin Books, 2016), Kindle Electronic Version, Locations 311-317.

The Way God Enjoys Getting Things Done

Years ago, when I took that fateful dive into shallow water and broke my neck, never did I think that God was honing me for leadership. All I could do was retch at the thought of sitting down for the rest of my life without use of my hands or legs. But slowly over time, God began opening doors and expanding my sphere of influence. I became a leader by default. And no one was more amazed than I. Yet that’s also the way things happen in the Bible.

A Christian’s suffering is always filled with surprise packages. God delights in handpicking people for leadership who are either stumbling bumblers or simply weak and ill equipped. It’s what he did with Gideon. Right after God told Gideon that he was to go up against the Midianites, God whittled his army down to a mere three hundred. Anyone will tell you, that’s no way to win a war. Yet when Gideon crushed the Midianites, everyone knew that God had done it. Sorry to disappoint you, world. It’s just the way God enjoys getting things done.

Taken from Joni Eareckson Tada, in Scott Sauls, From Weakness to Strength: 8 Vulnerabilities That Can Bring Out the Best in Your Leadership, David C Cook.

Two Gods on My Side

The Athenian general and politician Themistocles eventually alienated a large number of Greek City-States that came under their rule in the late 6thand early 5thcenturies B.C. With his fleet of ships anchored off a small island, he sent a message to one such vassal state, saying he had two powerful gods on each side of him that would compel them to pay up-Persuasion and Force. The leaders of the small island sent back a message that said they had two equally powerful gods on their side-Poverty and Despair…

Stuart Strachan Jr.

“What is God Looking For?”

Pastor John Piper warns of attempting to “do great things for God”:

The difference between Uncle Sam and Jesus Christ is that Uncle Sam won’t enlist you unless you are healthy and Jesus won’t enlist you unless you are sick. What is God looking for in the world? Assistants? No. The gospel is not a help wanted ad. It is a help available ad. God is not looking for people to work for him but people who let him work mightily in and through them.

John Piper, Brothers We Are Not Professionals p. 39.

See also illustrations on Fear, Insecurity,  Power, Vulnerability

Still Looking for inspiration?

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

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