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OUR NEED FOR PAIN

There is no tougher dilemma in the Christian life than the problem of pain. It could be the pain of broken relationship, the pain of rejection, or the pain of insults. Or it could just be plain old physical pain. Nothing tests the faith like pain.

It was physical pain that became a life's work for a man named Dr. Paul Brand. Perhaps nobody studied pain like Dr. Brand.

I became acquainted with his work through the writing of one of my favorite authors, Phil Yancey. He and Dr. Brand wrote several books together including, In His Image, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, and The Gift of Pain.

Dr. Brand died in 2003 at the age of 89. I want to read a little bit from an article in Christianity Today about him:

"Born to missionary parents in the mountains of southwestern India in 1914, Brand attended London University, where he met his wife, Margaret Berry. The two surgeons returned to Vellore, India, to teach at the Christian Medical College and Hospital. While working as the school's first Professor of orthopaedics and hand research, Brand pioneered surgical work with those suffering from Hansen's disease, a bacterial infection more commonly known as leprosy. He was the first surgeon to use reconstructive surgery to correct deformities caused by the disease in the hands and feet, and developed many other forms of prevention and healing from the disease.

"Before Brand, it was widely believed that those suffering from Hansen's disease lost their fingers and feet because of rotting flesh. Instead, Brand discovered, such deformities were due to the loss of ability to feel pain. With treatment and care, he showed, victims of the disease could go indefinitely without such deformities.
It was on this issue that Brand's work with Hansen's disease met with his theological reflections on what he viewed as 'the most problematic aspect of creation: the existence of pain.' Pain, Brand believed, was not antithetical to life, but a requisite for it. God designed the human body so that it is able to survive because of pain,' he later wrote."

Dr. Brand's research helped him form a theology of pain. He compared the body's need for pain, to alert it to danger, to the soul and the spirit's need for pain to alert it to danger and help it to survive.

You see, as Christians, we believe, that our trials, our pain, our deepest hurts, have a purpose beyond our comprehension. This dovetails nicely with what we find in the opening pages of the book of James.

(From a sermon by Daniel Darling, The Purpose of Your Pain, 2/2/2011)

 
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Gordon Curley
 
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ON FASTING

The Didache, is a first or second century document that relates to us outside the New Testament the teaching of the early church. This document "prescribed two fast days a week: Wednesday and Friday." For early Christians; this was seen as a regular part of daily discipleship.

John Wesley sought to revive the teaching of the Didache and urged early Methodists to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. He felt so strongly about this matter that he refused to ordain anyone to the Methodist ministry who did not fast on those two days.

Matthew Henry said, "Fasting is a laudable practice and we have reason to lament that it is generally neglected among Christians."

Hudson Taylor the great missionary and founder of China Inland Mission, said, "In Shansi I found Chinese Christians who were accustomed to spend time in fasting and prayer. They recognized that this fasting, which so many dislike, which requires faith in God, since it makes one feel weak and poorly, is really a Divinely appointed means of grace. Perhaps the greatest hindrance to our work is our own imagined strength; and in fasting we learn what poor, weak creatures we are-dependent on a meal of meat for the little strength which we are so apt to lean upon."

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: "I wonder whether we have ever fasted? I wonder whether it has even occurred to us that we ought to be considering the question of fasting? The fact is, that this whole subject seems to have dropped right out of our lives and right out of our whole Christian thinking."

 
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C.S. Lewis wrote, "It is he who thinks most of the next world that does the most in this world."

Where there is no faith in the future, there is no work in the present.

(From a sermon by Donald McCulley, Got Hope? 12/21/2010)

 
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Paul Fritz
 
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FAITHFUL FOR A PROMISE

A promise from God is a statement we can depend on with absolute confidence. Here are 12 promises for the Christian to claim.

God’s presence -- "I will never leave thee" (Heb. 13:5)

God’s protection -- "I am thy shield" (Gen. 15:1)

God’s power -- "I will strengthen thee" (Isa. 41:10)

God’s provision -- "I will help thee" (Isa. 41:10)

God’s leading -- "And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them" (John 10:4)

God’s purposes -- "I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil" (Jer. 20:11)

God’s rest -- "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28)

God’s cleansing -- "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9)

God’s goodness -- "No good thing will He withhold from them that work uprightly" (Psalm 84:11) ...

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Paul Fritz
 
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Peter Drucker offers insightful guidance to the church when he calls leadership a peak performance by one who is "the trumpet that sounds a clear sound of the organizations’ goals." His five requirements for this task are amazingly reliable and useful for those who dare to lead churches:

(1) a leader works;

(2) a leader sees his assignment as responsibility rather than rank or privilege;

(3) a leader wants strong, capable, self-assured, independent associates;

(4) a leader creates human energies and vision;

(5) a leader develops followers’ trust by his own consistency and integrity.

H.B. London, Jr. and Neil B. Wiseman, Pastors at Risk, Victor Books, 1993, pp. 227-228.

 
Contributed By:
Randy Aly
 
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Let’s play ‘Let’s Pretend’. Let’s pretend that you work for me. In fact, you are my executive assistant in a company that is growing rapidly. I’m the owner and I’m interested in expanding overseas. To pull this off, I make plans to travel abroad and stay there until a new branch office gets established. I make all the arrangements to take my family and move to Europe for six to eight months. And I leave you in charge of the busy stateside organization. I tell you that I will write you regularly and give you directions and instructions. I leave and you stay. Months pass. A flow of letters are mailed from Europe and received by you at the national headquarters. I spell out all my expectations. Finally, I return. Soon after my arrival, I drive down to the office and I am stunned. Grass and weeds have grown up high. A few windows along the street are broken. I walk into the Receptionist’s room. She is doing her nails, chewing gum and listening to her favorite disco station. I look around and notice the wastebaskets are overflowing. The carpet hasn’t been vacuumed for weeks, and nobody seems concerned that the owner has returned. I asked about your whereabouts and someone in the crowded lounge area points down the hall and yells, "I think he’s down there." Disturbed, I move in that direction and bump into you as you are finishing a chess game with our sales manager. I ask you to step into my office, which has been temporarily turned into a television room for watching afternoon soap operas. "What in the world is going on, man?" "What do you mean?" "Well, look at this place! Didn’t you get any of my letters?" "Letters? Oh yes! Sure! I got every one of them. As a matter of fact, we have had a letter study every Friday since you left. We have even divided the personnel into small groups to discuss many of the things you wrote. Some of the things were really interesting. You will be pleased to know that a few of us have actually committed to memory some of your sentences and paragraphs. One or two memorized an entire letter or two - Great stuff in those letters."
"OK. You got my letters. You studied them and meditated on them; discussed and even memorized them. But what did you do about them?" "Do? We didn’t do anything about them." (Improving Your Serve, Chuck Swindoll)

For more from Chuck, visit http://www.insight.org

 
Contributed By:
Michael McCartney
 
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I found a great article which addresses the question “Does God Play Favorites? On page 1562 in the Quest Study Bible: Listen to what it says: The whole Bible teaches that God is fair and just (Psalm 11:7). It also states that God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 18:23), but that he wants all men to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4). Therefore, the idea of God’s purpose in election (v. 11) raises some hard questions, such as “How can God choose some and pass on others?” People have attempted to explain God’s election in several ways. Some hold the view that God elects some to be saved because he knows beforehand that they will choose to accept Christ (8:29). Their election, according to this view, is based on God’s foreknowledge (Arminianism). Others conclude that God, in his wise and sovereign will, chooses some but not others for reasons we cannot understand. His selection may seem unfair, but that is simply because we have limited perspective. Humans, bound in sin. Do not naturally seek God (3:11), but when God’s grace comes to the elect, it frees them to choose God (Calvinism). Still others emphasize that God elected Jesus, his Son, and that all those who are in Christ by faith share in that corporate election. What about Pharaoh (vv. 17-18)? While the Bible clearly states that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (v. 18; see Exodus 9:12), it also records Pharaoh’s own decision to harden his heart (Exodus 8:15). The mystery of how God works in election is not easily resolved. Difficult questions continue to confound us. In the end we may need to confess that our understanding is limited, that we may be missing some key part of God’s plan that would allow us to understand election better (page 1562, Quest Study Bible).

 
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Mike Wilkins
 
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"At last I understood: in the final analysis, forgiveness is an act of faith. By forgiving another, I am trusting that God is a better justice-maker than I am. By forgiving, I release my own right to get even and leave all issues of fairness for God to work out. I leave in God’s hands the...

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Contributed By:
Joel Santos
 
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Henry P. Crowell, affectionately called “The autocrat of the Breakfast Table,” contracted tuberculosis when a boy and couldn’t go to school. After hearing a sermon by Dwight L. Moody, young Crowell prayed, “I can’t be a preacher, but I can be a good businessman. God, if you will let me make money, I will use it in your service.”
Under the doctor’s advice Crowell worked outdoors for seven years and regained his health. He then bought the little run-down Quaker Mill at Ravanna, Ohio. Within ten years Quaker Oats was a household word to millions. Crowell also operated the huge Perfection Stove Company.
For over forty years Henry P. Crowell faithfully gave 60 to 70 percent of his income to God’s causes, having advanced from an initial 10%. [7700 illustrations]

 
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POSITION VERSUS DISCIPLESHIP

C. Gene Wilkes, in his book Jesus on Leadership, says, "Confusion arises when you equate higher 'positions' with leadership . . . As long as 'position' is honored above discipleship -- being a follower -- church leaders will honor the ambitious over the obedient." We often tend to think that those who appear promising, or who say they will go, are the ones who are great in God's kingdom and His service. Keep in mind, however, that even though someone may seem incredible and obedient, it doesn't mean they really are, for appearance can be deceiving.

An individual might say they have great faith in God, but when it all boils down do we see the evidence? James 2:17 and 19 says, "Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead . . . You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe and tremble!" Just believing in God is not enough to exhibit your obedience, because even the demons believe in Him, and we know they don't serve the Lord. Proclaiming to others, or even telling the Lord, that you have great faith in Him and are willing to serve Him doesn't make you faithful. An individual is not faithful until they actually go as commanded. The late Rich Mullins said, "Faith without works is about as useless as a screen-door on a submarine."

(From a sermon by Damian Phillips, Faith Seen in Action, 8/20/2012)

 
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