Sermon illustrations


A Basic Set of Wants

In his excellent study of the famous Biblical passage on shepherds, (The Good Shepherd: A Thousand Year Journey from Psalm 23 to the New Testament), scholar Ken Bailey describes the nature of David’s requests in the 23rd psalm:

The psalmist [in Psalm 23] has a very basic set of wants that the shepherd provides for his sheep. That list includes food, drink, tranquility, rescue when lost, freedom from the fear of evil and death, a sense of being surrounded by the grace of the Lord, and a permanent dwelling place in the house of God.

An ever-rising mountain of material possessions is not on the list. There is no hint of any need for power or control. An externally generated set of compulsive desires and the need to be constantly entertained are also absent. The sheep knows that only with the shepherd’s help can they secure the above limited list of basic wants.

Taken from The Good Shepherd: A Thousand-Year Journey from Psalm 23 to the New Testament by Kenneth E. Bailey, Copyright (c) 2014, p.39 by Kenneth E. Bailey. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

“It Said One Word”

A man walks into a pet store and says, “I want a talking parrot.” The clerk says, “Yes sir, I have two birds that talk. This large green parrot here is quite a talker.” He taps on the cage, and the bird says, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” “It knows the entire Bible by heart. This red one here is young but he’s learning.” He prompts, “Polly want a cracker.” The bird repeats, “Polly want a cracker.”

The man says, “I’ll take the younger one if you can teach me how to make it talk.” “Sure I can teach you,” says the pet store owner. He sits down with the man and spends hours teaching him how to train the parrot. Then he puts the bird in the cage, takes the man’s money, and sends him home to start the training regimen. After a week, the man comes back into the store very irritated. “That bird you sold me doesn’t talk.” “It doesn’t?

Did you follow my instructions?” asks the clerk. “Yep, to the letter,” replies the man. “Well, maybe that bird is lonely. Tell you what. I’ll sell you this little mirror here and you put it in the cage. That bird will see its reflection and start talking right away.” The man does as he was told. Three days later, he was back. “I’m thinking of asking for my money back. That bird won’t talk.” The shop owner ponders a bit and says, “I’ll bet that bird is bored. He needs some toys. Here, take this bell. No charge.

Put it in the bird’s cage. It’ll start talking once it has something to do.” In a week, the man comes back angrier than ever. He storms in carrying a shoebox. “That bird you sold me died.” He opens the shoebox, and there is his poor little dead parrot. “I demand my money back.” The shop owner is horrified! “I’m so sorry, I don’t know what happened. But tell me … did the bird ever even try to talk?” “Well,” says the man, “it did say one word, right before it died.” “What did it say?” the clerk inquires. The man replies, “It said: ‘Fo-o-o-o-od.’

Annette Simmons, Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins: How to Use Your Own Stories to Communicate with Power and Impact (pp. 9-11). AMACOM.  

Needs Can Be Good

Needs are not bad. If God is sovereign and the “first good” comes before sin invades the world, then why did God wait to create the woman until later? In my mind, there can be only one rationale: God desired Adam to have a deep recognition of his own needs.

It is one thing to have a need. It is another thing to come to recognize and deeply appreciate that need and be humble enough to have it fulfilled. It is only when we have a need and recognize it that we can confess our dependence on God and be thankful for God’s gracious hand. Humility is essentially that: recognizing our own needs and our ultimate inability to fulfill them by ourselves.

A.J. Swoboda, Subversive Sabbath: The Surprising Power of Rest in a Nonstop World, Baker Publishing Group, 2018, Kindle Location 475.

Scarcity: The Great Lie

For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is “I didn’t get enough sleep.” The next one is “I don’t have enough time.” Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying about what we don’t have enough of.…

Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds are racing with a litany of what we didn’t get, or didn’t get done, that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to that reverie of lack.…This internal condition of scarcity, this mind-set of scarcity, lives at the very heart of our jealousies, our greed, our prejudice, and our arguments with life.…

The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life, W W. Norton and Company, 2003,  p. 44.

You Can’t Completely Satisfy Me and that’s Okay

Years ago Wendy and I were out to dinner and she observed that something was different about our marriage in recent years, something good. She asked me if I had any insight into what it was. After reflecting a bit I said with a smile, “Yeah, I think I know what it is. I think I’ve been realizing deep in my heart that you can’t satisfy me.” She got a big smile on her face and said, “Yeah, that’s it. And I’ve been realizing the same thing—you can’t satisfy me either.” I imagine anyone overhearing us in the restaurant would have thought we were about to get divorced, but to us that realization was cause for joy and celebration. We had never felt closer and freer in our love.

Christopher West, Fill These Hearts: God, Sex, and the Universal Longing.

Your Biggest Need

What is it that you need most? No, it’s not that girl or that new car that you’ve had your eyes on. It’s not that promotion you’ve worked so hard for or that vacation you’ve dreamed of. No, it’s not the perseverance to lose the weight you know you need to lose or the discipline to climb your way out of debt.

It’s not a closer circle of friends or a solid church to attend. It’s not freedom from physical sickness or restoration to your estranged family. It’s not freedom from addiction, fear, depression, or worry. All of these things are very important in their own way, but they don’t represent your biggest need. There is one thing that every human being desperately needs, whether he knows it or not. This needs gets to the heart of who you are and the heart of what God designed you to be and to do. Your biggest need (and mine) is a fully restored relationship with God.

Taken from New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp, © 2014. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

What Christ Does

Christ never promises peace in the sense of no more struggle and suffering. Instead, he helps us to struggle and suffer as he did, in love, for one another. Christ does not give us security in the sense of something in this world, some cause, some principle, some value, which is forever. Instead, he tells us that there is nothing in this world that is forever, all flesh is grass.

He does not promise us unlonely lives. His own life speaks loud of how, in a world where there is little love, love is always lonely. Instead of all these, the answer that he gives, I think, is himself. If we go to him for anything else, he may send us away empty or he may not. But if we go to him for himself, I believe that we go away always with this deepest of all our hungers filled.

Frederick Buechner, Listening to Your Life: Daily Meditations with Frederick Buechner, Harper One, 1992.

See also Illustrations on DesireHappiness, The HeartPoverty 

Still Looking for inspiration?

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

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