Faithlife Sermons


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To Illustrate









en Patterson writes in The Grand Essen­tials: "I have a the­ory about old age. ... I believe that when life has whittled us down, when joints have failed and skin has wrinkled and capillar­ies have clogged and hard­ened, what is left of us will be what we were all along, in our essence.

"Exhibit A is a distant uncle. . . . All his life he did nothing but find new ways to get rich. ... He spent his senescence very comfortably, drooling and babbling constantly about the money he had made. . . . When life whit­tled him down to his es­sence, all there was left was raw greed. That is what he had cultivated in a thou­sand little ways over a lifetime.

"Exhibit B is my wife's grandmother. . . . When she died in her mid-eight­ies, she had already been senile for several years. What did this lady talk about? The best example I can think of was when we asked her to pray before dinner. She would reach out and hold the hands of those sitting beside her, a broad, beatific smile would spread across her face, her dim eyes would fill with tears as she looked up to heaven, and her chin would quaver as she poured out her love to Je­sus. That was Edna in a nutshell. She loved Jesus and she loved people. She couldn't remember our names, but she couldn't keep her hands from pat­ting us lovingly whenever we got near her.

"When life whittled her down to her essence, all there was left was love: love for God and love for people."

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n a Japanese seashore village over a hundred years ago, an earthquake startled the villagers one autumn evening. But, being accustomed to earthquakes, they soon went back to their activities. Above the village on a high plain, an old farmer was watching from his house. He looked at the sea, and the water appeared dark and acted strangely, moving against the wind, running away from the land. The old man knew what it meant. His one thought was to warn the people in the village.

He called to his grandson, "Bring me a torch! Make haste!" In the fields behind him lay his great crop of rice. Piled in stacks ready for the market, it was worth a fortune. The old man hurried out with his torch. In a moment the dry stalks were blazing. Then the big bell pealed from the temple below: Fire!

Back from the beach, away from that strange sea, up the steep side of the cliff, came the people of the village. They were coming to try to save the crops of their rich neighbor. "He's mad!" they said.

As they reached the plain, the old man shouted back at the top of his voice, "Look!" At the edge of the horizon they saw a long, lean, dim line — a line that thickened as they gazed. That line was the sea, rising like a high wall and coming more swiftly than a kite flies. Then came a shock, heavier than thunder. The great swell struck the shore with a weight that sent a shudder through the hills and tore their homes to matchsticks. It drew back, roaring. Then it struck again, and again, and yet again. Once more it struck and ebbed; then it returned to its place.

On the plain no word was spoken. Then the voice of the old man was heard, saying gently, "That is why I set fire to the rice." He stood among them almost as poor as the poorest, for his wealth was gone — but he had saved 400 lives by the sacrifice.

— Lafcadio Hearn adapted from Christian Living



ilm maker Walt Disney was ruthless in cutting anything that got in the way of a story's pacing. Ward Kimball, one of the animators for Snow White, recalls working 240 days on a 4Vi-minute se­quence in which the dwarfs made soup for Snow White and almost destroyed the kitchen in the pro­cess. Disney thought it was funny, but he decided the scene stopped the flow of the picture, so out it went. When the film of our lives is shown, will it be as great as it might be? A lot will depend on the multi­tude of "good" things we need to eliminate to make way for the great things God wants to do through us.

— Kenneth Langley Beach Haven, New Jersey

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ooker T. Washing­ton describes meet­ing an ex-slave from Virginia in his book Up from Slavery: "I found that this man had made a contract with his master, two or three years previ­ous to the Emancipation Proclamation, to the effect that the slave was to be permitted to buy himself, by paying so much per year for his body; and while he was paying for himself, he was to be permitted to la­bour where and for whom he pleased.

"Finding that he could secure better wages in Ohio, he went there. When freedom came, he was still in debt to his master some three hundred dollars. Not­withstanding that the Emancipation Proclamation freed him from any obliga­tion to his master, this black man walked the greater portion of the distance back to where his old master lived in Virginia, and placed the last dollar, with interest, in his hands.

In talking to me about this, the man told me that he knew that he did not have to pay his debt, but that he had given his word to his master, and his word he had never broken. He felt that he could not enjoy his freedom till he had ful­filled his promise."

— Douglas E. Moore Los Angeles, California

44       LEADERSHIP/89







n December 29, 1987, a Soviet cos­monaut returned to the earth after 326 days in orbit. He was in good health, which hasn't always been the case in those rec­ord-breaking voyages. Five years earlier, touching down after 211 days in space, two cosmonauts suf­fered from dizziness, high pulse rates, and heart pal­pitations. They couldn't walk for a week, and after 30 days, they were still un­dergoing therapy for atro­phied muscles and weak­ened hearts.

At zero gravity, the mus­cles of the body begin to waste away because there is no resistance. To coun­teract this, the Soviets pre­scribed a vigorous exercise program for the cosmo­nauts. They invented the "penguin suit," a running suit laced with elastic bands. It resists every move the cosmonauts make, forcing them to ex­ert their strength. Appar­ently the regimen is working.

We often long dreamily for days without difficulty, but God knows better. The easier our life, the weaker our spiritual fiber, for strength of any kind grows only by exertion.

— Craig Brian Larson Arlington Heights, Illinois

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n Everyday Discipleship for Ordinary People, Stuart Briscoe wrote: "One of my young colleagues was officiating at the funeral of a war veteran. The dead man's military friends wished to have a part in the service at the funeral home, so they requested the pastor to lead them down to the casket, stand with them for a solemn moment of remembrance, and then lead them out through the side door. This he pro­ceeded to do, but unfortunately the effect was some­what marred when he picked the wrong door. The result was that they marched with military precision into a broom closet, in full view of the mourners, and had to beat a hasty retreat covered with confusion. "This true story illustrates a cardinal rule or two. First, if you're going to lead, make sure you know where you're going. Second, if you're going to follow, make sure that you are following someone who knows what he is doing!"



he African impala can jump to a height of over 10 feet and cover a distance of greater than 30 feet. Yet these magnificent creatures can be kept in an enclosure in any zoo with a 3-foot wall. The animals will not jump if they cannot see where their feet will fall.

Faith is the ability to trust what we cannot see, and with faith we are freed from the flimsy enclosures of life that only fear allows to entrap us.

— John Emmons Richmond, British Columbia, Canada



m Griffin writes, in Making Friends, about three kinds of London maps: the street map, the map depicting throughways, and the underground map of the subway. "Each map is accurate and cor­rect," he writes, "but each map does not give the complete picture. To see the whole, the three maps must be printed one on top of each other. However, that is often confusing, so I use only one 'layer' at a time.

"It is the same with the words used to describe the death of Jesus Christ. Each word, like redemption, reconciliation, or justification, is accurate and correct, but each word does not give the complete picture. To see the whole we need to place one 'layer' on top of the other, but that is sometimes confusing — we can­not see the trees for the whole! So we separate out each splendid concept and discover that the whole is more than the sum of its parts."

— John Ross Cranleigh, Surrey, England

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 grown man await­ing surgery in the hospital was talk­ing with his father. "Dad," he said, "I sure hope I can be home for Father's Day. I felt awful years ago when I was 10, because I never gave you a gift that year."

The father replied, "Mark, I remember that Saturday before Father's Day. I saw you in the store. I watched as you picked up the cigars and stuffed them in your pocket. I knew you had no money, and I was sad because I thought you were going to run out of the store with­out paying. But as soon as you hid the cigars, you pulled them out and put them back.

"When you stayed out playing all the next day be­cause you had no present, you probably thought I was hurt. You're wrong. When you put the cigars back and decided not to break the law, Mark, you gave me the best present I ever received."

— Mark Giorgino Haledon, New Jersey

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