Sermon illustrations


Christopher Parkening’s Search For Happiness and Purpose

Considered perhaps the greatest guitarist alive, Christopher Parkening appeared to have it all. Signed to an international recording deal as a teenager, Parkening traveled across the world playing beautiful music. But by the age of 30, having achieved all the musical success he could ever imagine, Parkening felt empty. He was tired of touring and wanted to take a break from the rigors associated  . Parkening ultimately decided to move to Montana and took up fly-fishing as a hobby.

Soon Parkening was not only one of the greatest guitarists in the world, but also a world-class fly fisherman, with all the money and time he could ever want. And yet, despite all his success, his life was empty.

He wrote: “If you arrive at a point in your life where you have everything that you’ve ever wanted and thought would make you happy and it still doesn’t, then you start questioning things. It’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”

At this point, Parkening began to wonder if anything could fulfill the deep longings of his heart. Around this time, while visiting friends, Parkening attended church. During the service, Parkening was struck by 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

He explains, “I realized there were only two things I knew how to do: fly fish for trout and play the guitar. Well, I am playing the guitar today absolutely by the grace of God. . . . I have a joy, a peace, and a deep-down fulfillment in my life I never had before. My life has purpose. . . . I’ve learned first-hand the true secret of genuine happiness.” Now Parkening teaches classical guitar to students at Pepperdine University, albeit with a different perspective and lease on life.

Stuart Strachan Jr, Source Material from Janet Bartholomew, Does God Care? (Bloomington, IN: Xlibris Corporation, 2000), 153–54.

Longing and Desire in the Great Christian Spiritual Teachers

Many of the greatest Christian spiritual teachers and mystics such as Augustine, Julian of Norwich, Ignatius Loyola, or some of the seventeenth-century Anglican spiritual writers focus on the language of “desire,” longing, yearning, as the fundamental key to our spiritual growth. All of these teachers, however, also note that while desire is a God-given energy that drives us onwards on the spiritual journey, our deepest desire needs to be carefully distinguished from our immediate wants or attractions.

From this perception grew the Christian tradition of discernment as the basis for choosing well. All great spiritual traditions seek to identify an object of desire worthy of our human potential and that draws us beyond the superficial or the self-absorbed. The object of our deepest desire, however, which we name as God or the Absolute, is necessarily beyond what can be definitively described, possessed, or controlled. In that sense, the word “desire” expresses a movement ever onward towards an indefinable future.

Philip Sheldrake, Befriending Our Desires, Liturgical Press, 2016.

One-in-a-Million Talk

One of the most quotable movies of all time was released in 1994. It featured a rising comedic genius from Canada, paired with another highly successful actor, as well as a considerable ensemble cast that helped raise the work to one of the greatest films in comedy ever produced. 

You know what movie I’m referring to right? Dumb and Dumber, which was at its heart a love story, but unfortunately for its protagonist, Loyd Christmas, an unrequited love story. Lloyd Christmas, played by Jim Carrey, and Harry Dunne, played by Jeff Daniels, go on an epic road-trip to try and win over Mary Swanson (Lauren Holly) as his romantic interest; they finally arrive in Aspen, where Mary is currently on a ski vacation.

Loyd finally works up the courage and asks her the question on every lovestruck person’s mind: “what are the chances of a girl like me and a guy like you getting together?” Her response would have been seen as an outright rejection by most, but not the serial optimist Lloyd: “I don’t know, one in a million.” Cue the long pause, and then the punch-line… “So you’re saying there’s a chance!!!!!” Later, when Mary rejects Loyd more finally, his response is classic, “What was all that one-in-a-million talk?” 

Stuart Strachan Jr., Source content from Farrelly, Bobby, and Peter Farrelly. Dumb and Dumber. New Line Cinema, 1994.

The Secret Formula for Writing a Bestselling Book

I recently found, hidden in plain sight, the secret formula for writing a bestselling book. Yes, you read that right. My discovery created a surge of power that I could hardly handle. It felt like learning the winning lottery numbers before the tickets had even been sold. Everything in my life was about to change. Okay, I might’ve overstated a bit. It’s bad form to begin with a lie, so I confess that I didn’t actually find the secret sauce of publishing. But what I did discover is that many of the bestselling books have three things in common—three characteristics that undoubtedly help them climb bestseller lists and empty our wallets.

Because I love books, I’m going to share my findings with you—just in case you want to write a bestseller one day. First, use provocative language in your title—swearing is best. I could give some examples, but you get the idea. Second, write a self-help book. People seem to like learning about themselves and finding ways to make themselves better. Go figure! Third, include something about “the good life” in your title or subtitle.

Those three words grouped together, in that order, seem to have a magical power. After all, isn’t that what we all want? The good life. If the good life could be turned into a product, everyone would want a piece of it. Nothing would be more profitable. Can you imagine selling such a thing? “Get your good life and find everything humankind has wanted since the beginning of time. Adam missed it. Plato couldn’t find it. Nietzsche tried his best to give it words. The good life slipped through their fingers, but today you can have yours for a deal of a price!”

Addison D. Bevere, Saints: Becoming More Than “Christians,” Revell, 2020. 

A World That Cannot Satisfy

Gregg Easterbrook wrote about this in a 2003 book called The Progress Paradox. Easterbrook’s subtitle was How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse. He describes how affluent we have become—​​​better food, better healthcare, better education, better communication, better climate control, better entertainment, better transportation—​​​all of that.

Yet, when sociologists do their surveys, and people in America indicate where they fall on the satisfaction scale, they are only “slightly satisfied.” Easterbrook has many explanations for this paradox—​​​a condition some have termed affluenza—​​​but the fundamental problem is that this fallen world cannot satisfy anyone. What we really need, and what we are really looking for, whether we know it or not, is a relationship with the living God. David expressed it well when he said, My soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Ps. 63:1)

Taken from Phillip Graham Ryken in Coming Home edited by D.A. Carson, © 2017, p.131. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.



See also Illustrations on Desperation, Desire, Hope, Needs

Still Looking for inspiration?

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

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