Sermon illustrations


Doing the Presidency

In the spring of 1970, when I was twenty-nine, I learned I had won a fellowship from the American Council on Education, which would allow me to serve an administrative internship with Purdue University President Fred Hovde for the 1970 – 71 academic year. I was elated by the opportunity. Despite having only recently been awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor of electrical engineering at Purdue, I was already leaning toward a career in administration. . . .

Soon after the award was announced, I happened to bump into a colleague, Vern Newhouse, who was a highly respected senior member of the electrical engineering faculty. “So, Sample,” Newhouse said to me, “I see you’ve won some sort of administrative fellowship in the president’s office.”

“Yes, that’s true,” I said.

“And you’ll be learning how to become an administrator?”

“I suppose so.”

“And then you’ll probably want to be president of a university somewhere down the road?”

“Well, I don’t know. I guess I’ve thought about it now and then,” I said, somewhat disingenuously.

He smiled and said, “Personally, I’ve never had any ambition whatsoever to be an administrator. I am totally inept at managing things. . . . But I’ve been a careful observer of ambitious men all my life. And here, for what it’s worth, is what I’ve learned: many men want to be president, but very few want to do president.” And with that he wished me well and walked away.

Steve Sample, The Contrarian’s Guide 
to Leadership, Jossey-Bass.

An Opportunity to Bless Someone Else

Open doors in the Bible never exist just for the sake of the people offered them. They involve opportunity, but it’s the opportunity to bless someone else. An open door may be thrilling to me, but it doesn’t exist solely for my benefit. An open door is not just a picture of something good. It involves a good that we do not yet fully know. An open door does not offer a complete view of the future. An open door means opportunity, mystery, possibility—but not a guarantee.

Taken from John Ortberg, All the Places to Go . . . How Will You Know?: God Has Placed before You an Open Door.  What Will You Do?, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 

A Port as the Root of Opportunity

The root of opportunity is port, meaning the entryway by water into a city or place of business. In earlier days, when the tide and winds were right and the port opened, it allowed entry to do commerce, to visit, or to invade and conquer. But only those who recognized the opening could take advantage of the open port, or opportunity.

Taken from Stephen R. Covey “Foreword,” in Kevin Hall, Aspire: Discovering Your Purpose Through the Power of Words (New York: William Morrow, 2009), xii.

A Second Opportunity

Winston Churchill was once asked what prepared him most to speak out against Hitler and risk political suicide during the 1930s. At that time, the official British position (most notably espoused by Churchill’s predecessor Neville Chamberlain) was an appeasement of Hitler and his continual invasions of sovereign nations.

To speak against appeasement was politically risky, to say the least, and suicidal at the most.

So, what gave Churchill the courage to stand up to the political establishment and Hitler himself? Repeating a grade in elementary school, he remarked. “You mean you failed a year in grade school?” he was asked. “I never failed anything in my life.  I was given a second opportunity to get it right.”

Stuart Strachan Jr.

Sitting in the Light 

A piano sits in a room, gathering dust. It is full of the music of the masters, but in order for such strains to flow from it, fingers must strike the keys… trained fingers, representing endless hours of disciplined dedication. You do not have to practice. The piano neither requires it nor demands it. If, however, you want to draw a beautiful music from the piano, that discipline is required.… You do not have to pay the price to grow and expand intellectually.

The mind neither requires it nor demands it. If, however, you want to experience the joy of discovery and the pleasure of plowing new and fertile soil, effort is required. Light won’t automatically shine upon you nor will truth silently seep into your head by means of rocking-chair osmosis. It’s up to you. It’s your move.

Charles Swindoll, “Sitting in the Light,” Day by Day with Charles Swindoll (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 170.

Want a Nickel More than a Dollar?

There was a little girl once who asked her father for a nickel. He reached into his pocket, but he didn’t have any change. So the father pulled out his wallet, and all he had was a twenty-dollar bill. His little girl had been a good girl so he said, “Sweetie, I don’t have a nickel, but here’s a twenty-dollar bill.”

The little girl pouted and said, “But Daddy, I want a nickel.” The father tried to explain how many nickels the twenty-dollar bill represented, but she didn’t get it. Many of us are the same. We want a nickel when God wants to give us a twenty-dollar bill. We want our will so much that we miss out on God’s perfect destiny for us—one that is worth much more than twenty dollars!

Tony Evans, Detours, B&H Publishing Group.

What Business They Were In

In the late 1800’s, no business matched the financial and political dominance of the railroad. Trains dominated the transportation industry of the United States, moving both people and goods throughout the country. Then a new discovery came along – the car – and incredibly the leaders of the railroad industry did not take advantage of their unique position to participate in this transportation development.

In his book The Search for Excellence, Tom Peters points out the reason: “The railroad barons didn’t understand what business they were in.

Peters observes that “they thought they were in the train business. But, they were in fact in the transportation business. Time passed them by, as did opportunity. They couldn’t see what their real purpose was.”

Submitted by Chris Stroup, Source Material from Tom Peters, The Search For Excellence, HarperBusiness.

Yesterday I was a Dog…

Some people find themselves stuck in a rut. Without challenge or new opportunities, they begin to sound like Snoopy from the Peanuts cartoons:

“Yesterday I was a dog. Today I’m a dog. Tomorrow I’ll probably still be a dog. Sigh. There’s so little hope for advancement!”

Stuart Strachan Jr.

See also Illustrations on Change, CommitmentExperience

Still Looking for inspiration?

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

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