Sermon illustrations


Dependence on God

The Central and Inevitable Fact of Human Existence

Writer Thomas Wolfe (1900–1938), after years of seeking happiness, articulated his gloomy assessment of life: The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, peculiar to myself and to a few other solitary men, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence . . . and that morning—bright, shining morning with its promise of new beginnings—will never come upon the earth again as it did once.

From a biblical perspective, the loneliness Wolfe described is the result of being separated from God. His assessment is penetrating, but it fails to acknowledge the open arms of Christ.

Like all of us, Wolfe desperately needed Jesus, but coming to him requires confession and submission. Without the miraculous intervention of God, our default is to choose our imaginary self-sufficiency over dependence on God . . . which requires humility…

Psychiatrist Paul D. Meier writes, I have had millionaire businessmen come to my office and tell me they have big houses, yachts, condominiums . . . , nice children, a beautiful mistress, an unsuspecting wife, secure corporate positions—and suicidal tendencies. They have everything this world has to offer except one thing—inner peace and joy. They come to my office as a last resort, begging me to help them conquer the urge to kill themselves.

Randy Alcorn, Happiness, Tyndale House, 2015.

Dependence on God

I turn to John Wyatt [cf. p. 103: professor of ethics and perinatology at University College Hospital in London] for an eloquent expression of the priority of dependence: “God’s design for our life is that we should be dependent.”

We come into this world totally dependent on the love, care and protection of others.  We go through a phase in life when other people depend on us.  And most of us will go out of this world totally dependent on the love and care of others.

And this is not an evil, destructive reality.  It is part of the design, part of the physical nature that God has given us. I sometimes hear old people, including Christian people who should know better, say, “I don’t want to be a burden to anyone else.  I’m happy to carry on living so long as I can look after myself, but as soon as I become a burden I would rather die.”

But this is wrong.  We are all designed to be a burden to others.  You are designed to be a burden to me and I am designed to be a burden to you.  And the life of the family, including the life of the local church family, should be one of “mutual burdensomeness.”  “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

Christ himself takes on the dignity of dependence.  He is born a baby, totally dependent on the care of his mother.  He needs to be fed, he needs his bottom to be wiped, he needs to be proper up when he rolls over.  And yet he never loses his divine dignity.

And at the end, on the cross, he again becomes totally dependent, limbs pierced and stretched, unable to move.  So in the person of Christ we learn that dependence does not, cannot, deprive a person of their dignity, of their supreme worth.  And if dependence was appropriate for the God of the universe, it is certainly appropriate for us.

Taken from The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of Our Calling by John R. W. Stott Copyright (c) 2010 by John R. W. Stott. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Elijah Experiencing the Crucifixion of Ministry

In his important book, The Crucifixion of Ministry, seminary professor Andrew Purves sees a paradigm in Elijah’s ministry:

For many years I have taken Elijah’s story in 1 Kings 19 as a paradigm. Elijah has just pulled off a dramatic and successful confrontation with the prophets of Baal. But as soon as Jezebel finds out about it, Elijah takes off into the wilderness. He succumbs to fear and flight.

His ministry is in shambles.

He hides in a cave, reminding us of the depressed state of the discouraged minister. God tells him to go out onto the mountain. After the pyrotechnics of wind, earthquake and fire comes “a sound of sheer silence” (1 Kings 19:12). The unexplainable voice of God commands him to do the unthinkable: “Go, return” (1 Kings 19:15). Elijah experienced the crucifixion of ministry. Henceforth for Elijah ministry was possible only on the basis of the Word of God.

Taken from The Crucifixion of Ministry by Andrew Purves Copyright (c) 2007 by Andrew Purves. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

The One Thing Going For Us

As for Christians, well, we really have just one thing going for us. We have publicly declared… that we are desperately in need of Another to give us his righteousness, to complete us, to live in us. We have publicly and flagrantly abandoned the project of self-justification that is at the heart of every person’s compulsion to manage perceptions…

This means telling the world-before the world does its own investigative journalism—that we’re not as bad as they think sometimes. We’re worse…If we’re being honest about our own beauty and brokenness, the beautiful broken One will make himself known to our neighbors.

Andy Crouch, Afterword, in unChristian (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), p.230.

Where All the Provision is Stored

Alexander Maclaren writes about the importance of recognizing our dependence on God for all we have:

Up to the very edge we are driven before He puts out His hand to help us. It is best for us that we should be brought to desperation, to say, “My foot slips” and then, just as our toes feel the ice, help comes and His mercy holds us up. At the last moment—never before it, never until we have discovered how much we need it, and never too late—comes the Helper.

If we want to get our needs supplied, our weakness strengthened, and wisdom to dispel our perplexity, we must be where all the provision is stored. If a man chooses to sit outside the provision shop, he may starve on its threshold. If a woman will not go into the bank, her pockets will remain empty though there may be bursting vaults to which she has a right. If we will not ascend the hill of the Lord and stand in His holy place by simple faith, God’s amplest provision will be nothing to us, and we will be empty in the midst of affluence.

Adapted from Alexander Maclaren, The God of the Amen (New York, Kessinger Publishing); cited by Steve Halliday & William Travis, in How Great Thou Art (Sisters, Ore.: Multnomah, 1999), p.301.

See Also Illustrations on Abiding in Christ, ObedienceTrust