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Sermon illustrations

Comfort

Be of Good Comfort

Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley were two men burned at the stake for their faith in Oxford in 1555.  According to sources, as the flames leapt up, Latimer was heard to say calmly, “Be of good comfort, Mr. Ridley, and play the man! We shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace, in England, as I trust never shall be put out.”

Adapted by Stuart R Strachan Jr.

The Bible a Great Comfort

For seven years, Terry Anderson was held as a hostage of Shiite Muslim fundamentalists. The former reporter for the Associated Press had been taken captive and held as a political prisoner, and for seven terrible years, he was moved from location to location, hidden successfully, and sentenced to horrible loneliness. Before he was taken as a hostage, Anderson had given much thought to matters of faith. But in prison, he was allowed to have a Bible.

“Constantly over the years, I found consolation and counsel in the Bible I was given in the first few weeks,” he wrote, after his ordeal ended. “Not other world, ‘this is just a test’ kind of consolation, but comfort from the real, immediate voices of people who had suffered greatly, and in ways that seemed so close to what I was going through. I read the Bible more than 50 times, cover to cover, in those first few years.”

Andy Cook

Comfort Through Lament

On June 22, 2007, a hit-and-run incident left Daniel McConchie paralyzed from the waist down. McConchie states, “God has not healed my affliction, but he has taught me the power of lamenting to him about it.” God be present. It is through lament that Christians demonstrate their faith that God is present. Listen to a lament Daniel McConchie wrote a year after the accident:

Oh Lord, my God! Why do you wait to show up?

I cried out to you when trouble struck.

I asked for your restoration.

I know that you heard me. I know that you answered.

Yet nothing—nothing of meaning happens again today.

Infinitesimal changes dog my days.

I am hounded by the prayers of the fickle

Looking to me to prove their faith.

Wearily I drag on

Tiring of the waste, hating the horror,

The pain, the suffering, the never-ending trial.

The endless story drags on, and on, and on.

When will the clouds break?

When will the night cease?

When will the tunnel end?

When will you smile again?

What a two-edged sword your voice is!

You speak. And then wait?

You give hope. And then vanish into the mist?

Have you forgotten me? Have more important things arrested your attention?

Hope turns black. This evil I have seen.

Nightly my dreams show me restored,

And in the morning I am broken again

Cursed to relive the horror of suffering’s first day.

Please slay me! Blot my name from the ranks of the living!

For in the grave can I finally rest.

My wife can have her dreams again;

My children a father who can provide as I should.

I wasted my youth. I dismissed the joys I should have embraced. Now I am a mere spectator pretending to be consequential while others take my place.

A position I threw away one fateful day.

How long? How long must I wait here in the middle?

Between healing and hell,

Between heaven and horror,

I am unable to move … unable to see … lost in eternal confusion.

My demons torment me

Batting me about like a toy, I spin and crash in endless cycle.

I no longer know which way is up,

Which way is right, which way to go.

Which way is the path to life?

Is it up an unclimbable mountain?

Or on a path tread by all but me

And the others who are broken like I?

Surely it is impossible for me alone to find and impossible for me to transverse.

Alone I am finished,

Dust left for the broom.

Who am I that God should remember me?

My only salvation is that he should not forget his image, Or let his word be broken.

He is faithful to us because he is faithful to himself.

There is nothing I can do,

In no way can I help. I sit in the ruins and wait,

And take comfort in those who lie in the ashes with me.

But one day, by his promise, I will stand;

Restored as his message of hope is fulfilled.

The Lord will turn this horror into a fading dream,

And I will honor his name forever.

Quoted by Steven Marsh

The Difference between Avoiding Pain and Seeking Comfort?

What’s the difference between avoiding pain and seeking appropriate comfort? I have a friend who says, “The first episode of my favorite TV show is soothing. But if I’m watching the fifth episode in a row, I know I’ve crossed the line into numbing.” Another friend comments, “A glass of red wine at the end of a long day is comforting. But if I’m pouring my third or fourth glass, I’ve slid into escape.” Soothing activities like a warm bath, a heartfelt talk with a friend, or a solitary walk don’t usually become compulsive the way our escapes do.

The difference between comfort and avoidance is, ultimately, something you will only know for yourself. What are the things you most often go to for comfort and escape? What would you consider limiting or giving up for a time to make space to mourn?

Taken from The Ninefold Path of Jesus: Hidden Wisdom of the Beatitudes by Mark Scandrette Copyright (c) 2021 by Mark Scandrette. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

 

Getting Out of the Boat

[Peter getting out of the boat to walk on water] is about extreme discipleship.

…Your boat is whatever represents safety and security to you apart from God himself.  Your boat is whatever you are tempted to put your trust in, especially when life gets a little stormy.  Your boat is whatever keeps you so comfortable that you don’t want to give it up even if it’s keeping you from joining Jesus on the waves.  Your boat is whatever pulls you away from the high adventure of extreme discipleship.

John Ortberg, If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001).

Heaven Getting Their Signals Crossed?

Pastor Mark Batterson shares about his lifelong (to this point) struggle with asthma and a healing prayer session that changed his life:

Right before my freshman year of high school, I was hospitalized for a severe asthma attack that landed me in the intensive care unit. It was one of a dozen such hospitalizations during my younger years. When I was released from Edward’s Hospital a week later, Pastor Paul McGarvey and a prayer team from Calvary Church in Naperville, Illinois, came over to our house, laid hands on me, and prayed that God would heal my asthma.

God answered that prayer for healing but not in the way I expected. When I woke up the next morning, I still had asthma, but all the warts on my feet had mysteriously disappeared. I’m not kidding! At first I wondered if God had made a mistake. Maybe the signals between here and heaven were mixed. I couldn’t help but wonder if someone somewhere was breathing great but still had warts on his or her feet. I was a little confused, but that’s when I heard the still small voice. It wasn’t an audible voice; it was Spirit to spirit. And it was loud and clear: Mark, I just wanted you to know that I’m able!

Mark Batterson, Whisper, The Crown Publishing Group.

The Hedge of Protection: Slow Growing, Easily Jumped, Not Nearly Enough Protection for these Crazy Times

I think the uber-popular Christian prayer request for a “hedge of protection” is in the Bible, but I’m not sure. It sounds like something David would have written in the book of Psalms. He is very poetic and our most Bono-like writer. But a friend of mine once revealed that he’s always found that to be an inadequate security measure. As a child, when his mother would pray that he would have a hedge of protection or a hedge of angels around him, he would think, “Anyone can jump a hedge. How hard is that? Forget the hedge of angels; I’m praying for a dome of angels.”

At first I laughed at that story, but the more that I thought about it, the more it made sense. These are troubling times, and I’ve never seen a hedge and thought, “That thick collection of bushes is both terrifying and impenetrable.” Maybe instead of praying for a hedge of protection, we should pray for:

  • A Beaded Curtain of Wasps
  • A Trampoline Moat of Lions
  • A Rugby Scrum of Angels

Jon Acuff, Stuff Christians Like, Zondervan.

The Love of God Wrapped About Him

The sense of Presence! I have spoken of it as stealing on one unawares. It is recorded of John Wilhelm Rowntree that as he left a great physician’s office, where he had just been told that his advancing blindness could not be stayed, he stood by some railings for a few moments to collect himself when he “suddenly felt the love of God wrap him about as though a visible presence enfolded him and a joy filled him such as he had never known before.”

An amazing timeliness of the Invading Love, as the Everlasting stole about him in his sorrow. I cannot report such a timeliness of visitation, but only unpredictable arrivals and fading-out. But without doubt it is given to many of richer experience to find the comfort of the Eternal is watchfully given at their crises in time.

Thomas Kelly, A Testament of Devotion, Harper & Bros., 1941.

The Shepherd’s Staff

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 provides helpful context to “rod” and staff” mentioned in Psalm 23:

The Hebrew word here translated “rod” (shbt) has a long history. Its meanings include rod, scepter and weapon. It does not refer to a “walking stick.” Rather it is the shepherd’s primary offensive weapon for protecting the flock from enemies, be they wild animals or human thieves. The instrument itself is about two and a half feet long with a mace-like end into which heavy pieces of iron are often embedded. It becomes a formidable weapon.

…The shepherd’s staff is not for defending the flock from any external threat, but for caring for the sheep as he leads them daily in search of food, drink, tranquility and rest. These two instruments are a pair. The first (the rod) is used to protect the flock from external threats. The second (the staff) serves to gently assist the flock in its daily grazing. The sight of these two instruments comfort the sheep.

Taken from The Good Shepherd: A Thousand-Year Journey from Psalm 23 to the New Testament by Kenneth E. Bailey, Copyright (c) 2014, pp.50, 53 by Kenneth E. Bailey. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

What Matters Supremely

What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it- that He knows me. I am graven on the palms of His hands. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him because He first knew me, and theirs is no moment when His eye is off me, His attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when His care falters.

This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort… in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love is utterly realistic; based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me.

J.I. Packer, Knowing God, InterVarsity Press, 1993, 41-42.

Wherever Help is Needed

While written well over a century ago, this excerpt (from the great Princeton theologian) B.B. Warfield’s sermon “imitating the Incarnation continues to inspire the kind of life Christ calls us to:

Christ was led by His love for others into the world, to forget Himself in the needs of others, to sacrifice self once for all upon the altar of sympathy. Self-sacrifice brought Christ into the world. And self-sacrifice will lead us, His followers, not away from but into the midst of men. Wherever men suffer, there will we be to comfort. Wherever men strive, there will we be to help. Wherever men fail, there will we be to uplift. Wherever men succeed, there will we be to rejoice. Self-sacrifice means not indifference to our times and our fellows: it means absorption in them. It means forgetfulness of self in others.

It means entering into every man’s hopes and fears, longings and despairs: it means manysidedness of spirit, multiform activity, multiplicity of sympathies. It means richness of development. It means not that we should live one life, but a thousand lives—binding ourselves to a thousand souls by the filaments of so loving a sympathy that their lives become ours. It means that all the experiences of men shall smite our souls and shall beat and batter these stubborn hearts of ours into fitness for their heavenly home. It is, after all, then, the path to the highest possible development, by which alone we can be made truly men.

Benjamin B. Warfield, “Imitating the Incarnation” (sermon), in The Person and Work of Christ, ed. Samuel Craig (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1950), 574–75.

Still Looking for inspiration?

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

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