Enjoy The Sermon Illustrations
We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about.
Charles Kingsley, Bits & Pieces, December 9, 1993, p. 16.
John W. Gardner, founding chairman of Common Cause, said it's a rare and high privilege to help people understand the difference they can make -- not only in their own lives, but also in the lives of others, simply by giving of themselves.
Gardner tells of a cheerful old man who asked the same question of just about every new acquaintance he fell into conversation with: "What have you done that you believe in and you are proud of?"
He never asked conventional questions such as "What do you do for a living?" It was always, "What have you done that you believe in and are proud of?"
It was an unsettling question for people who had built their self-esteem on their wealth or their family name or their exalted job title.
Not that the old man was a fierce interrogator. He was delighted by a woman who answered, "I'm doing a good job raising three children;" and by a cabinetmaker who said, "I believe in good workmanship and practice it;" and by a woman who said, "I started a bookstore and it's the best bookstore for miles around."
"I don't really care how they answer," said the old man. "I just want to put the thought into their minds.
"They should live their lives in such a way that they can have a good answer. Not a good answer for me, but for themselves. That's what' s important."
Dr. Dale E. Turner, MSC Health Action News, July, 1993, p. 7.
There is a relationship which makes life complete. Without that relationship, there is a void, a vacuum in life. Many people, even those who are well-known, can attest to that void.
For example, H.G. Wells, famous historian and philosopher, said at age 61: "I have no peace. All life is at the end of the tether." The poet Byron said, "My days are in yellow leaf, the flowers and fruits of life are gone, the worm and the canker, and the grief are mine alone." The literary genius Thoreau said, "Most men live lives of quiet desperation."
Ralph Barton, one of the top cartoonists of the nations, left this note pinned to his pillow before taking his own life: "I have had few difficulties, many friends, great successes; I have gone from wife to wife, from house to house, visited great countries of the world, but I am fed up with inventing devices to fill up twenty-four hours of the day."
Morning Glory, May 29, 1993.
I want the whole Christ for my Savior, the whole Bible for my book, the whole Church for my fellowship, and the whole world for my mission field.
It's very human to begin looking for something and then forget what you're looking for. Tennessee Williams tells a story of someone who forgot -- the story of Jacob Brodzky, a shy Russian Jew whose father owned a bookstore. The older Brodzky wanted his son to go to college.
The boy, on the other hand, desired nothing but to marry Lila, his childhood sweetheart -- a French girl as effusive, vital, and ambitious as he was contemplative and retiring. A couple of months after young Brodzky went to college, his father fell ill and died. The son returned home, buried his father, and married his love. Then the couple moved into the apartment above the bookstore, and Brodzky took over its management.
The life of books fit him perfectly, but it cramped her. She wanted more adventure -- and she found it, she thought, when she met an agent who praised her beautiful singing voice and enticed her to tour Europe with a vaudeville company.
Brodzky was devastated. At their parting, he reached into his pocket and handed her the key to the front door of the bookstore.
"You had better keep this," he told her, "because you will want it some day. Your love is not so much less than mine that you can get away from it. You will come back sometime, and I will be waiting."
She kissed him and left. To escape the pain he felt, Brodzky withdrew deep into his bookstore and took to reading as someone else might have taken to drink. He spoke little, did little, and could most times be found at the large desk near the rear of the shop, immersed in his books while he waited for his love to return.
Nearly 15 years after they parted, at Christmastime, she did return. But when Brodzky rose from the reading desk that had been his place of escape for all that time, he did not take the love of his life for more than an ordinary customer. "Do you want a book?" he asked.
That he didn't recognize her startled her. But she gained possession of herself and replied, "I want a book, but I've forgotten the name of it."
Then she told him a story of childhood sweethearts. A story of a newly married couple who lived in an apartment above a bookstore. A story of a young, ambitious wife who left to seek a career, who enjoyed great success but could never relinquish the key her husband gave her when they parted. She told him the story she thought would bring him to himself.
But his face showed no recognition. Gradually she realized that he had lost touch with his heart's desire, that he no longer knew the purpose of his waiting and grieving, that now all he remembered was the waiting and grieving itself. "You remember it; you must remember it -- the story of Lila and Jacob?"
After a long, bewildered pause, he said, "There is something familiar about the story, I think I have read it somewhere. It comes to me that it is something by Tolstoi." Dropping the key, she fled the shop. And Brodzky returned to his desk, to his reading, unaware that the love he waited for had come and gone.
Tennessee Williams's 1931 story "Something by Tolstoi" reminds me how easy it is to miss love when it comes. Either something so distracts us or we have so completely lost who we are and what we care about that we cannot recognize our heart's desire.
Signs of the Times, June, 1993, p. 11.
This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one: the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap, and being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
George Bernard Shaw, quoted in Courage - You Can Stand Strong in the Face of Fear, Jon Johnston, 1990, SP Publications, p. 171.
When you're up to your neck in alligators, it's difficult to keep your mind on the fact that your primary objective is to drain the swamp.
News commentator Dan Rather has a good way of keeping his professional objective always in mind. He says he looks often at a question he's written on three slips of paper. He keeps one in his billfold, one in his pocket, and one on his desk. The probing reminder asks, "Is what you are doing now helping the broadcast?"
Our Daily Bread.
One of golf's immortal moments came when a Scotchman demonstrated the new game to President Ulysses Grant. Carefully placing the ball on the tee, he took a mighty swing. The club hit the turf and scattered dirt all over the President's beard and surrounding vicinity, while the ball placidly waited on the tee. Again the Scotchman swung, and again he missed. Our President waited patiently through six tries and then quietly stated, "There seems to be a fair amount of exercise in the game, but I fail to see the purpose of the ball.
Sign on door: "Gone out of business. Didn't know what our business was."
1963 -- University Christian Church. in NY.
Put all your eggs in one basket -- and watch that basket.
Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Willson (Harper & Row).
Give Me to Hold Me Firmly to My Trust
My God, who has committed to my care
Thy ransomed one
Lest I be scattered here and there
and she be gone
Give me to hold me firmly to my trust
Let all that would distract me be as dust.
'Thy life for hers' -- O solemn, urgent word --
Lest I forget,
My sense of values waver, or be blurred,
By other things, take me and purge and bend
Each power and purpose to one single end.
Teach me to do the thing that pleaseth Thee
O Lord, my God
Give clearness, lest some by-way tangle me.
Where Christ hath trod
There would I tred, nor ever turn aside,
Lest she be missing for whom Christ hath died.
Amy Carmichael, quoted in Prodigals and Those Who Love Them, Ruth Bell Graham, 1991, Focus on the Family Publishing, p. 111.
Jimmy Johnson, when coaching on the college level, had a wife and the appearance of a marriage because it was expected of college football coaches. The wife and family was needed for social occasions. The day he was named head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, he set about to rid himself of this excess baggage. He threw her away like yesterday's newspaper. He didn't need her any more and he didn't lose any time in losing her. He confessed that he never bought his boys birthday or Christmas presents. He just didn't have the time, and they weren't a priority. So he single-mindedly threw himself into his football team, and in January, 1993 he made it to the top, #1, they won the Superbowl. So what's he going to do next year, and the year after that, and ...
A man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder--a waif, a nothing, a no man. Have a purpose in life, and, having it, throw such strength of mind and muscle into your work as God has given you.
Early in his career, Thomas Edison invented a vote-recording machine for use in legislative chambers. By moving a switch to the right or left, an official could vote for or against a proposal without leaving his desk. The machine would replace the tedious business of marking ballots, counting them, etc. Elated with the prospects, Edison obtained a patent -- his first -- and headed for Washington. Eagerly he demonstrated his machine to the Chairman of Congressional Committees. This gentleman, while complimenting Edison on his ingenuity, promptly turned it down. "Filibustering and delay in the tabulation of votes are often the only means we have for defeating bad or improper legislation." he told Edison.
The young inventor was stunned. The invention was good; he knew it and the chairman knew it. Still, it wasn't wanted. Said Edison later: "There and then I made a vow that I would never again invent anything which was not wanted."
Bits & Pieces, May 28, 1992, pp. 11-12.
There is a story involving Yogi Berra, the well-known catcher for the New York Yankees, and Hank Aaron, who at that time was the chief power hitter for the Milwaukee Braves. The teams were playng in the World Series, and as usual Yogi was keeping up his ceaseless chatter, intended to pep up his teammates on the one hand, and distract the Milwaukee batters on the other. As Aaron came to the plate, Yogi tried to distract him by saying, "Henry, you're holding the bat wrong. You're supposed to hold it so you can read the trademark." Aaron didn't say anything, but when the next pitch came he hit it into the left-field bleachers. After rounding the bases and tagging up at home plate, Aaron looked at Yogi Berra and said, "I didn't come up here to read."
J. M. Boice, Learning to Lead, Revell, 1990, p. 38.
"More men fail through lack of purpose than lack of talent."
Christians without goals are a little like Alice in the fairy tale Alice in Wonderland. In a conversation between her and the Cheshire Cat, Alice asked, "Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?" "That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the cat. "I don't much care where," said Alice. "Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the cat.
Bertrand Russell was born into a Christian home and taught to believe in God, but he rejected his training and became an outspoken atheist. His daughter, Katherine Tait, said of him, "Somewhere at the bottom of his heart, in the depths of his soul, there was an empty space that once had been filled by God, and he never found anything else to put in it."
Cartoonist Ralph Barton, although successful and in demand, took his own life, leaving a note nearby that included these words, "I am fed up with inventing devices to fill up twenty-four hours of the day."
Charles Swindoll, Living Above the Level of Mediocrity, p.179.
A man so various, that he seem'd to be
Not one, but all mankind's epitome:
Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong;
Was everything by starts, and nothing long;
But, in the course of one revolving moon,
Was chemist, fiddler, statesman, and buffoon.
In February 1980, the U.S. Olympic hockey team slipped its foot into a glass slipper and walked away with a gold medal at Lake Placid, New York. Those collegians had shocked the world by upsetting the powerful Soviet team, and then they grabbed the championship from Finland while the crowd chanted, "U.S.A.!" Before his team's victory over the Soviet Union which advanced them to the finals, the coach of the U.S. hockey team told his players, "You are born to be a player. You are meant to be here at this time. This is your moment."
Today in the Word, July, 1990, p. 11.
Imagine people going to work day after day without knowing their company's business, yet that's exactly what happens when church members don't know what their church is trying to do. Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.
A rich man was determined to give his mother a birthday present that would outshine all others. He read of a bird that had a vocabulary of 4000 words, could speak in numerous languages and sing 3 operatic arias. He immediately bought the bird for $50,000 and had it delivered to his mother. The next day he phoned to see if she had received the bird. "What did you think of the bird?" he asked.
She replied, "It was delicious."
Naturalist Henry David Thoreau is often noted for his statement that most men "live lives of quiet desperation." In an attempt to avoid that kind of existence, he lived alone from 1845 to 1847 in the woods of Walden Pond, Massachusetts. In 1854, he published his experiences in the book Walden. He wrote, "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear..."
Daily Bread, July 23, 1989.
The glory of God, and, as our only means to glorifying Him, the salvation of human souls, is the real business of life.
The late actor George Sanders was one of Hollywood's leading men a generation ago. After a glamorous life, however, he felt there was nothing else to live for. Having no peace, Sanders took his life, leaving this note: "I committed suicide because I am boring and because I have already lived long enough."
Today In The Word, June, 1988, p. 20.
That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins--all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built...Brief and powerless is Man's life; on him and all his race the slow, sure doom falls pitiless and dark. Blind to good and evil, reckless of destruction, omnipotent matter rolls on its relentless way; for Man, condemned today to lose his dearest, tomorrow himself to pass through the gate of darkness, it remains only to cherish, ere yet the blow falls, the lofty thoughts that ennoble his little day;. . . proudly defiant of the irresistible forces that tolerate, for a moment, his knowledge . . . and his condemnation, to sustain alone, a weary but unyielding Atlas, the world that his own ideals have fashioned despite the trampling march of unconscious power.
Mysticism and Logic, 1929.
Mark Twain shortly before his death wrote, "A myriad of men are born; they labor and sweat and struggle;...they squabble and scold and fight; they scramble for little mean advantages over each other; age creeps upon them; infirmities follow; ...those they love are taken from them, and the joy of life is turned to aching grief. It (the release) comes at last--the only unpoisoned gift earth ever had for them--and they vanish from a world where they were of no consequence,...a world which will lament them a day and forget them forever."