Sermon illustrations


Developing Deep Roots

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I made the long drive from San Antonio, Texas, to Pasadena, California, where we now reside. We passed through hundreds of miles of southwestern desert, most of which was filled with dry soil, colorful rocks, and scraggy shrubs. Every now and then, however, we’d see ribbons of bright green trees flourishing in the midst of the desert.

What was their secret? Inevitably, those trees grew next to a water source, even a seasonal one. Their roots grew deep into the nearby soil, which allowed them to survive in a harsh climate and even to bear fruit.

I want to be like those trees. I want to be fruitful in life, making a difference for God’s kingdom in everything I do. But I know there will be hard times, times of turmoil, stress, and suffering. In these times, I want to be a “tree” whose leaves do not wither. Even if I’m not bearing much fruit at the moment, I want to be remain vital. I expect you feel similarly about your own life. You want to be a “tree” in the mode of Psalm 1.

How can we be such “trees”? By letting our roots grow deeply into God’s living water. And how can we do this? By delighting in God’s truth and meditating upon it. The more we allow the biblical words of life to fill our minds and hearts, the more we are anchored to God’s revelation, the more we draw sustenance from God’s perspective and promises, the more we will be bear ample fruit in good times and hang in there during hard times.

Taken from Mark D. Roberts, Life for Leaders, a Devotional Resource of the DePree Leadership Center at Fuller Theological Seminary

Drifting in the Ocean

If you’ve ever spent time in the ocean, whether it be swimming, body-surfing, boogie-boarding—you know how easy it is to drift. One minute your family is right in front of you on the beach, the next minute you look up they are nowhere to be found. 

Biblical writers wrote about drifting because it is in some ways as easy to do in life as it is in the ocean. We start in one place, but eventually we end up in another. What is required is a harbor, a place we can return to again and again.

Stuart Strachan Jr.

Fruit Comes at the End

In the growth cycle of fruit-bearing plants, fruit comes at the very end. The cycle starts with a seed being planted in the ground. When watered, the seed will break open and begin to put down roots. That root system will continue to grow as the seed forms a shoot and eventually breaks through the surface of the soil into air and sunlight.

Both the plant and its root system will keep growing until the plant is strong and mature enough to bear fruit. Significantly, in order for a plant to survive, much less bear fruit, its root system has to take up more space underground than the plant takes up above ground. When you look up at one of those immense redwoods in the Avenue of the Giants, for example, you’re actually standing on root systems that are wider than those trees are tall. This is the principle of foundations. A foundation always has to be bigger than the thing it is supporting.

Banning Liebscher, Rooted: The Hidden Places Where God Develops You, WaterBrook, 2016.

A Saint Like Us

For the most part, when we think of saints or heroes of the faith, we think of people who are altogether different than we are. They seem to embody a quality of communion with God that is impossible for the rest of us. On closer inspection, we find that most great “saints” are ordinary people who, in the midst of daily living, discover and interact with the reality of God’s presence.

One man like this was Nicholas Herman. His life seemed much like our own. Nicolas had a number of jobs in his life, starting out in the military and then in the transportation industry. After that, he found work in the food service industry, serving as a short-order cook and bottle-washer.

Eventually Nicholas became deeply discouraged by his life. He spent a lot of time, like us, thinking about himself. “Am I saved” was a particular question that burrowed deep into his soul. He struggled deeply with worry, until one day when everything changed. On that day, he was looking at a tree, not the most thrilling exercise, but something occurred to him: what makes a tree flourish is not its self-reliance, but it’s rootedness in something other than and deeper than itself.

With this in mind, Nick began an experiment to have a habitual, silent, secret conversation of the soul with God. Today we know Nick as Brother Lawrence, whose book, The Practice of the Presence of God has become a spiritual classic, continuing to beckon readers to a deeper, more intimate relationship with God 300 years after it was first written.

Stuart Strachan Jr.

See also Illustrations on Abiding in Christ, Commitment, Faithfulness, Foundations, Home, Place