Sermon illustrations


Adjusting our Vision

When my grandparents were in their eighties, their television developed a fault that made the screen permanently bright green. It was good for viewing garden shows or nature programs, but it was pretty disconcerting the rest of the time. Being a thrifty Scotsman, my grandfather never got it fixed!

Although it’s tempting to caricature culture’s influence on us in this way, its effects tend to be more subtle. Culture gradually adjusts our vision, rather than completely changing it. When you cover one eye, for instance, you still can see everything clearly, but your depth perception is compromised. Basically, you no longer see in 3-D.

Our cultural context works in a similar way. It is a lens through which we view life, shading and adjusting how we see things. And yet, because we tend to look through  it rather than at  it, we are often unaware that this cultural lens is affecting our vision at all. Modern culture has this sort of influence on our way of seeing life. If Christian vision involves seeing with two eyes—one divine and the other human—modern culture covers one eye so that we begin to see only from the human perspective.

Jonathan Grant, Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hypersexualized Age, 2015, Brazos Press.

The Central Vision

The central vision of world history in the Bible is that all of creation is one, every creature in community with every other, living in harmony and security toward the joy and well-being of every other creature. In the community of faith in Israel, this vision is expressed in the affirmation that Abraham is father of all Israel and every person is his child (see Genesis 15:5; Isaiah 41:8; 51:2).

Israel has a vision of all people drawn into community around the will of its God (Isaiah 2:2-4). In the New Testament, the church has a parallel vision of all persons being drawn under the lordship and fellowship of Jesus (Matthew 28:16-20; John 12:32) and therefore into a single community (Acts 2:1-11)- As if those visions were not sweeping enough, the most staggering expression of the vision is that all persons are children of a single family, members of a single tribe, heirs of a single hope, and bearers of a single destiny, namely, the care and management of all God’s creation.

Taken from “Living Toward a Vision” by Walter Brueggemann, in Christian Peace and Nonviolence, A Documentary History, Ed. Michael G. Long, Orbis Books.

Let us Trust Our Own Moments of Vision

I remember once near Interlaken waiting for days to see the Jungfrau which was hidden in mists. People told me it was there, and I should have been a fool to doubt their word, for those who told me lived there and they knew. Then one day the mists were gone, and the whole mountain stood revealed. Next day the mists were back, but now I had seen, and knew myself that It was true…Let us trust our own moments of vision: what matter if there are days when the mists come down and the face of God is hidden? We have seen, and we know for ever that this is real, so real that by it we can live and die.

James S. Stewart, “Beyond Disillusionment to Faith,” in Best Sermons, 1962, ed. G. Paul Butler (Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand Co., 1962), 24.

Our Lives are about Seeing

In his excellent book, Recapturing the Wonder: Transcendent Faith in a Disenchanted World, Mike Cosper questions the desacralizing (removal of the holy) nature of secular life. Life is divested of mystery, wonder, and holiness. In this excerpt, Cosper describes the importance of sight, or vision:

Our lives are very much about seeing. We talk about seeing opportunities or seeing a way forward. We train ourselves to see in certain ways, too, to see potential in an empty canvas or a blank page or in the raw ingredients of a meal. Athletes train to see the trajectory of a fastball or an opening in pass coverage. Once you’ve learned to see the world in certain ways, you don’t have to think about it any more. It becomes automatic.

Taken from Recapturing the Wonder: Transcendent Faith in a Disenchanted World by Mike Cosper. Copyright (c) 2017, pp.25-26. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

The Parable of the Two Servants

In this modern day parable, Alan Fadling describes a king and his two servants. Each of the servants desires to do the will of the king, but they approach their work very differently:

One of the servants, for fear of not pleasing his master, rose early each day to hurry along to do all the things that he believed the king wanted done. He didn’t want to bother the king with questions about what that work was. Instead, he hurried from project to project from early morning until late at night. The other servant, also eager to please his master, would rise early as well, but he took a few moments to go to the king, ask him about his wishes for the day and find out just what it was he desired to be done. Only after such a consultation did this servant step into the work of his day.

…The busy servant may have gotten a lot done by the time the inquiring servant even started his work, but which of them was doing the will of the master and pleasing him? Genuine productivity is not about getting as much done for God as we can manage. It is doing the good work God actually has for us in a given day. Genuine productivity is learning that we are more than servants, that we are beloved sons and daughters invited into the good kingdom work of our heavenly Father. That being the case, how might God be inviting you to wait for his specific direction?

Taken from An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest by Alan Fadling Copyright (c) 2013 by Alan Fadling. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Starting with Why (Makes all the Difference)

Teams with a vision also perform better. Abraham Maslow is well known as one of the most significant psychologists of the last century. His research into high-performing teams found that the most striking characteristic of these teams was shared vision and purpose. In his excellent book Start with Why, Simon Sinek shows that vision is why the Wright brothers succeeding in being the first to build an airplane that could fly. It is a very interesting story, for there was another person who set out to build an airplane at the same time, and he was much better funded. His name was Samuel Pierpont Langley, and he was seemingly “armed with every ingredient for success.”

Langley was a professor at Harvard and senior officer at the Smithsonian.He was given a grant of $50,000 from the War Department (which is many million in today’s dollars) and assembled a team of some of the best talent of the day. Further, the press followed his every move as the nation closely followed his story. He had all the ingredients that conventional wisdom would say bring success. But Langley was not the first to pilot an airplane and, in fact, gave up his aim to do it altogether when the Wright brothers beat him to it. The Wright brothers did not have the equipping and support that Langley had. Quite the contrary. There were no government grants for their endeavor or other forms of external funding; they funded it out of their own earnings from their bicycle shop.

No one on their team was regarded as being among the great minds of the day; in fact, no one on their team even had a college education. Yet it was the less-equipped, less-noticed Wright brothers who were the first to take flight in human history—not the better-funded, more prominent Samuel Pierpont Langley. Why? Sinek tells the story in his book, but here is his conclusion: It wasn’t luck. Both the Wright brothers and Langley were highly motivated. Both had a strong work ethic. Both had keen scientific minds. They were pursuing exactly the same goal, but only the Wright brothers were able to inspire those around them and truly lead their team to develop a technology that would change the world. Only the Wright brothers started with Why.

Matt Perman, How to Get Unstuck, Zondervan, 2018, pp. 11-12.

Three Perspectives on Work

In 1927 Bruce Barton wrote a multi-faceted parable that is believed to be based on a true story. This story is related to the work of Sir Christopher Wren, whose design of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London is considered one of the most beautiful church buildings ever constructed. The construction was necessary because of the Great Fire of 1666, in which much of London, including the original St. Paul’s church building was destroyed:

One day, while observing the construction of the cathedral, Wren decided to question the three bricklayers. “What are you doing?” to which the bricklayer replied, “I’m a bricklayer. I’m working hard laying bricks to feed my family.” The second bricklayer answered, “I’m a builder. I’m building a wall.” But the third bricklayer, who would eventually rise in rank above all the other craftsmen, when he was asked the question, “What are you doing?” replied with a gleam in his eye, “I’m a cathedral builder. I get to play a small part in building the greatest kingdom of all, the kingdom of God.”

Original Source Unknown, Stuart Strachan Jr.

What is Vision?

Vision is the ability to see God’s presence, to perceive God’s power, to focus on God’s plan In spite of the obstacles….Vision is the ability to see above and beyond the majority. Vision is perception—reading the presence and power of God into one’s circumstances.

I sometimes think of vision as looking at life through the lens of God’s eyes, seeing situations as He sees them. Too often we see things not as they are, but as we are. Think about that. Vision has to do with looking at life with a divine perspective, reading the scene with God in clear focus. Whoever wants to live differently in “the system” must correct his or her vision.

Chuck Swindoll, Living Above the Level of Mediocrity, Thomas Nelson.


See also illustrations on EyesPerspectiveSightWorldview

Still Looking for inspiration?

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

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