Sermon illustrations

Destructive Behavior

The Advantage of Addicts

The advantage (if you can call it that) that addicts have is that they have their identifiable addictions. Whether you are an alcoholic, a drug addict, a compulsive gambler, or an uncontrollable overeater, you know what you are fighting. But if you are a woman who makes poor love choices, a serial philanderer, someone who sabotages friendships in the workplace by gossiping, someone whose go-to emotion is fear, or someone whose neediness drives people away, there is a good chance you have remained blissfully unaware of your addiction until significant damage has been done.

The saddest wake-up call of all is the news that your actions have brought damaging turbulence into your daily life and more often than not the lives of others. Most likely, none of you are lacking for concerned friends or family members who are more than willing to act as human billboards reminding you of where you fall short. You screw up, the wife points out why, you turn to her with a look of intense gratitude and say, “Thank God you were there, Cindy. I never noticed. THAT won’t happen again!” Meanwhile, back in real life, we know that seldom happens. More often than not, the repeated complaints of partners, lovers, and friends only drive us deeper into our cave of “Honor thy cravings; screw the rest of the world.”

Addiction is a powerful foe.

So it may be an unwelcome revelation, but awakening to the fact that the fly in the ointment is you is the beginning of change. The truth is at your door, and with it, the possibility of a new beginning.

Paul Williams & Tracey Jackson, Gratitude and Trust, Penguin Publishing Group, 2014, p.6.

The Destruction Fear can Leave In Its Wake

Herod symbolizes the terrible destruction that fearful people can leave in their wake if their fear is unacknowledged, if they have power but can only use it in furtive, pathetic, and futile attempts at self-preservation. Herod’s fear is like a mighty wind; it cannot be seen, but its effects dominate the landscape.

Kathleen Norris, Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, Riverhead Books, 1999.

The Pride of the Titanic

I know most of us have probably heard enough stories about the Titanic, but it does stand as an amazing monument to the famous saying, slightly altered, “pride goes before the fall/destruction.” (Proverbs 16:18)

Did you know that the Titanic took 12,000 men two years to build? When it set sail from Belfast, North Ireland, it was the largest sailing vessel ever made. It was also, of course, considered unsinkable. The Captain of the ship even went on record as saying, “Even God himself cannot sink this ship.” 

Famous last words, wouldn’t you say? And that is of course because the Titanic did sink, because that very same captain would not change course as they crashed into icebergs in the Atlantic. So many lives lost simply because of pride. Think of all the other ways lives are lost, or damaged, because we are too proud to change our minds or our behaviors.

Stuart Strachan Jr.

The Self-Destruction of Executives

In his highly insightful work, Inside Job, Stephen W. Smith shares the sobering truth of what happens to many leaders when they climb the “ladder of success”:

The ground at the foot of the ladder of success is littered with the names, faces and stories of leaders who self-destructed on the way up. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know their names and faces. You’ve seen them interviewed by nightly news anchors, you’ve read the scandalous articles online, and you’ve possibly thought,

But that could never happen to me. According to the Harvard Business Review, two out of five new CEOs fail in their first eighteen months on the job. It appears that the major reason for the failure has nothing to do with competence or knowledge or experience, but rather with hubris and ego. In other words, they thought, But that could never happen to me.

Taken from Inside Job by Stephen W. Smith (c) 2009 by Stephen W. Smith. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Spiritual Formation Essential to Human Existence

In their excellent book Invitation to a Journey, M. Robert Mulholland and Ruth Haley Barton describe the foundation of life as being spiritual in nature. This means we are constantly be “formed” spiritually, whether for good or evil:

We fail to realize that the process of spiritual shaping is a primal reality of human existence. Everyone is in a process of spiritual formation! Every thought we hold, every decision we make, every action we take, every emotion we allow to shape our behavior, every response we make to the world around us, every relationship we enter into, every reaction we have toward the things that surround us and impinge upon our lives—all of these things, little by little, are shaping us into some kind of being. We are being shaped into either the wholeness of the image of Christ or a horribly destructive caricature of that image, destructive not only to ourselves but also to others, for we inflict our brokenness upon them.

This wholeness or destructiveness radically conditions our relationship with God, ourselves and others, as well as our involvement in the dehumanizing structures and dynamics of the broken world around us. We become either agents of God’s healing and liberating grace, or carriers of the sickness of the world. The direction of our spiritual growth infuses all we do with intimations of either life or death.

Taken from: Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation by M. Robert Mulholland and Ruth Haley Barton. Copyright (c) 2016 by M. Robert Mulholland and Ruth Haley Barton. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com



See also Illustrations on Addiction, BlindnessBrokennessBurnoutDesperation, EvilSin