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Sermon illustrations

Perseverance

Becoming a King

When you purchase a game of checkers, you’ll notice that on the top of each piece is the insignia of a crown. That is because each checker was created to become a king. Once it is crowned because it has successfully made it to the other side of the board, it will have the right and authority to maneuver and function at a much higher level than it could prior to being crowned.

The reality is, however, that most individual checkers will not successfully make it to the other end of the board to be crowned, because the opposition will jump them and knock them out of the game. Whether a checker achieves its created goal of being crowned as a king is fully determined by the moves that are made underneath the hand of the one controlling it.

Tony Evans, Kingdom Men Rising: A Call to Growth and Greater Influence, Bethany House Publishers, 2021.

The Glory Being Revealed To Us

In Romans 8:18, Paul describes the future of those who persevere in the faith: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” in The Lord of the Rings: J.R.R. Tolkein provides a stirring image of this glory at the death of the great king Aragorn (that is, after his life-long struggle against the evil forces in Middle Earth, and his own personal demons):

Then a great beauty was revealed in him, so that all who after came there looked on him in wonder; for they saw that the grace of his youth, and the valour of his manhood, and the wisdom and majesty of his age were blended together. And long there he lay, an image of the Kings of Men in glory undimmed before the breaking of the world.

The idea here is that the same thing will happen to those who place their faith in Jesus Christ. We are, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “no mere mortals.”

Stuart Strachan Jr. , Source material from J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King: Being the Third Part of the Lord of the Rings (New York: Ballantine, 1955), 378.

Remember it Ends

I saw a live podcast a few weeks ago, and the host, actor Dax Shepherd, gave the audience a couple minutes to ask questions. One young woman in the front row asked him, “How do you get through the hard times in life?” Dax didn’t even pause. He looked her right in the eyes and said, “Just remember it always ends.

You never get on a roller coaster and think, This is so fun, I will be here forever. The best things end, and so do the worst things. This will end.”1 I thought that was a profound and very tangible example for when we forget that the bad days don’t last forever and that the good days don’t last forever either.

Annie F. Downs, That Sounds Fun: The Joys of Being an Amateur, the Power of Falling in Love, and Why You Need a Hobby, Revell, 2021.

Keeping a Good [hu]man Down

Martin Luther King, Jr. was right: We can overcome, despite adversity, the trend toward mediocrity, and the temptation to rationalize our weaknesses. You simply cannot keep a good person down.

Cripple him, and you have a Sir Walter Scott. Lock him in a prison cell, and you have a John Bunyan.

Bury him in the snows of Valley Forge, and you have a George Washington.

Raise him in abject poverty, and you have an Abraham Lincoln.

Strike him down with infantile paralysis, and he becomes a Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Burn him so severely that the doctors say he’ll never walk again, and you have a Glenn Cunningham—who set the world’s one-mile record in 1934.

Deafen him and you have a Ludwig van Beethoven.

Have him or her bom black in a society filled with racial Have him or her born black in a society filled with racial discrimination, and you have a Booker T. Washington, a Marian Anderson, a George Washington Carver, or a Martin Luther King, Jr.

Call him a slow learner, “retarded,” and write him off as uneducable, and you have an Albert Einstein.

Quoted in Ted W. Engstrom, The Pursuit of Excellence (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1982)

A Rough Start to Ministry

Pastor Craig Groeschel shares the true story of his “less than promising” career as a pastor. It should serve as a reminder that rejection and criticism are never final, unless we allow them to be:

Only weeks after putting my faith in Jesus, I tried to teach my first Bible study to a group of young guys in a little church in Ada, Oklahoma. Afterward the leader of the youth group said, “Well, I guess teaching the Bible is not your gift, is it?” Three years later I finally got up the nerve to try teaching the Bible again, after being asked to preach my first sermon.

After the service, as I stood at the door saying goodbye to church members, an older gentleman looked at me with a raised brow and remarked, “Nice try.” Nice try?! The next lady in line asked if I had any other skills besides being a preacher and then made a weak attempt to encourage me to keep my options open. Seriously, that really happened.

I had to fight off the temptation to run and hide in the church baptistry. And yes, full immersion! Despite yet another setback, still believing God’s call, I continued my journey toward full-time vocational ministry by going to seminary following college and marriage.

About halfway through seminary, the day finally came when I stood before a group of spiritual leaders as a candidate for ordination in our denominational church. With the entire committee looking on, the spokesperson explained to me, “We’ve chosen not to ordain you. You don’t have the gift-mix we see in most pastors. In fact, we are not sure you are called to be a pastor. But feel free to try again next year. But for now, it’s a no.”

Craig Groeschel, Winning the War in Your Mind, Zondervan, 2021.

See also Illustrations on Adversity, Challenges, Endurance, Resilience