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Contributed By:
Josh Hunt
 
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THE NEXT ONE

Eugene Peterson wrote about visiting a monastery. While on the way to the refectory for lunch, he and the monks he was visiting walked past a graveyard with an open grave. He asked one of the monks which member of the community had died recently, and he was told, "Nobody. That grave is for the next one." Every day, three times a day, as they walk to eat, the members of that community are reminded of what we spend our waking hours trying to forget. One of them will be the next one.

(Ortberg, J. (2012). Who is this man? the unpredictable impact of the inescapable jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.)

 
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When we give our lives to Christ and become His follower we will want to hold on loosely to the things of this world.
Back in 1987 on a commuter flight from Portland, Maine, to Boston the pilot, Henry Dempsey, heard an unusual noise near the rear of the plane. Dempsey turned the controls over to the co-pilot and went back to check it out. As he reached the tail section, the plane hit an air pocket, and Dempsey was tossed against the rear door.
He soon discovered that the original noise was caused because the rear door had been improperly latched prior to takeoff. Now the impact of his weight caused it to open. Dempsey was instantly sucked out of the tiny jet.
The co-pilot saw the red light, which indicated an open door. He immediately radioed the nearest airport requesting permission for an emergency landing. He reported that the pilot had fallen out of the plane and wanted a helicopter to search the area.
After the plane landed the ground crew found Dempsey holding on to the outdoor ladder of the aircraft. Somehow he had caught the ladder and held on for ten minutes as the plane flew two hundred mph at an altitude of 4000 feet, and then when landing he kept his head from hitting the runway, which was only twelve inches away.
According to the news reports, it took airport personnel several minutes to pry Dempsey’s fingers off of the ladder.
I’ve known some people who have held onto certain things in this world with the same white-knuckle intensity. What are you holding on to? Hold on loosely to the things in this world. You might have money and influence and that’s fine. It’s fine provided that you find your value and significance in Christ and not in the things of this world. Wealth and possessions can steal your heart away if you’re not careful.

 
Contributed By:
MELVIN NEWLAND
 
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ILL. Do you remember Bubba Smith? He retired from professional football a few years ago. Then, after he retired from playing football, Bubba Smith started making beer commercials. He was the guy who tore the top off of beer cans, & engaged in the argument about whether it is less filling or tastes great. You remember him now, don’t you?

In a magazine article about him, Bubba Smith said that he has never, ever drank beer. Drinking any kind of alcoholic beverage just isn’t a part of his life. But he advertised it & felt good about his job. It was an easy job. It was an enjoyable job, & it paid a good salary.

Until one day when he went back to Michigan State, his alma mater, as the Grand Marshal of the Homecoming Parade. As he was riding in the limousine at the head of the parade, he heard the throngs of people on both sides of the parade route shouting. And what were they shouting? "Hail to Michigan State?" No! One side was shouting, "Tastes great!" & the other side was shouting, "Less filling!"

Bubba Smith suddenly realized that he & the beer commercials that he made had had a tremendous impact on the students at Michigan State. And the message that they had gotten was that "It is all right to drink light beer."

Later, Bubba was in Ft. Lauderdale during Spring Break, & he saw drunken college kids up & down the beaches, shouting "Tastes great! Less filling!"

And when it came time to renew his contract, he refused to sign because he said that he didn’t want his life to count for something like that. He said that there was a still, small voice in his mind that kept saying, "Stop, Bubba. Stop."

You see, everybody’s life counts for something.

 
Contributed By:
Jim Luthy
 
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When David Brainerd took the message of redemption to the North American Indians from 1743 to his death at age 29 just four years later, a revival broke out that impacted the Native American community. Baugh writes, "The revival had greatest impact when Brainerd emphasized the compassion of the Savior, the provisions of the gospel, and the free offer of divine grace. Idolatry was abandoned, marriages repaired, drunkenness practically disappeared, honesty and repayments of debts prevailed. Money once wasted on excessive drinking was used for family and communal needs. Their communities were filled with love."

In 1857, four young Irishmen began a weekly prayer meeting in a village school. The next year, more prayer meetings started and revival was the common theme of the preachers. The next year, 100,000 people were converted into the churches of Ireland in what is marked as the beginning of the Ulster revival of 1859. By 1860, crime was reduced and the judges had no cases to try. One county in Ireland reported no crime and the no prisoners were held in the jail. It was the greatest thing to hit Ireland since the ministry of Saint Patrick. Services were packed with people, there was an abundance of prayer meetings, family prayers increased, Scripture reading was unmatched, Sunday Schools prospered, people stood firm, giving increased, vice abated, and crime was reduced significantly.

In the Welsh revival that occured around the turn of the 20th century, 100,000 outsiders were added to the churches. Again from Baugh: "Drunkenness was immediately cut in half, and many taverns went bankrupt. Crime was so diminished th...

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Contributed By:
Rodney Buchanan
 
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I read a recent magazine article about a pastor and his encounter with some unbelievers while having breakfast. Here is how he tells the story: “My wife and I were vacationing in Estes Park, Colorado, and had breakfast in a coffee shop. It was empty except for four men at another table. One was mocking Christianity; in particular, the resurrection of Christ. He went on and on about what a stupid teaching that was. I could feel the Lord asking me: ‘Are you going to let this go unchallenged?’ However I was thinking, But I don’t even know these guys. He’s bigger than me. He’s got cowboy boots on and looks tough. I was agitated and frightened about doing anything. But I knew I had to stand for Jesus. Finally, I told Susan to pray. I took my last drink of water and went over and challenged him. With probably a squeaky voice, I said, ‘I’ve been listening to you, and you don’t know what you’re talking about ’ I did my best to give him a flying rundown of the proofs for the resurrection. He was speechless, and I was half dead. I must have shaken for an hour after that. But I had to take a stand. We cannot remain anonymous in our faith forever. God has a way of flushing us out of our quiet little places, and when he does we must be ready to speak for him.”

Now I admire this pastor’s courage and his determination to be a witness, regardless of how difficult it was. A lot of Christians would have just sat there in fear or fumed, thinking about how terrible the things were that these men were saying. I realize that I have the opportunity of looking back with hindsight on the situation, but I wonder if there wasn’t another possible approach that may have been more positive, and perhaps had more impact, than rattling off a list of rational arguments for the resurrection. It seems to me that he missed the most important and impressive proof of the resurrection — his own life. I wonder if it would not have been more effective to walk over to the men at the table and say something like this: “You know, I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation, and found it very interesting. If you don’t mind, I would like to pay for all of your breakfasts. The reason I want to do this is that, because of the resurrection, Jesus Christ has changed my life and lives in me, and wants to communicate his tremendous love for you.”

Rational arguments do not change people, changed lives do. Changed lives change the lives of others, and thereby change the world. It is how we challenge the unbelief of a skeptical world. But not only would it possibly have been a stronger witness, it would have been an excellent use of money to buy their breakfasts. I think the point in what Jesus was saying in our Scripture reading this morning was that people are always the priority. Helping people, whether physically or spiritually, is to be given priority over serving ourselves — especially when it comes to money. But money is usually our last holdout in our walk with God. It is what we surrender last. As you grow in the Christian life you realize that it is not your money anyway. Everything you own already belongs to God. It is a gift, a loan from him.

 
Contributed By:
Mark Brunner
 
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“Aunt Bessie’s Pickled Beets!” 2 Corinthians 7:2-13 Key verse(s): 10:“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

The worst part of doing wrong is being found out. We’ve all been caught doing wrong in life; especially when we reflect back on our childhoods. And there are many things about doing wrong that are hurtful. First and foremost is the pain and suffering that we bring to others in our wrong-doing. This is the impact of wrong-doing that reverberates. Wrong has a way of broadcasting and spreading out, making a little mistake into a much bigger one. Take a lie for example. What started out as a fib can easily become the initiator of all manner of hurt, none of which was our intention in the first place. Certainly the effect of our wrong-doing on others is preeminent in our concern for doing right. But, there are other consequences attached to our wrongful behavior; not the least of which is the regret that becomes our lot when we are discovered in our sins.

I really hate the feeling of regret. There is simply something grinding and gnawing about it. Regret has a way of packaging itself so that it stays fresh for a very long time. Just when you think that you have put it away for good in some safe place where it can slowly but surely dissipate into the farthest and deepest reaches of your consciousness, some little reminder of the deed that spawned the regret in the first place creeps into your life. And that’s when regret pops up. It’s the jar of Aunt Bessie’s pickled beets that you pushed to the back of the fruit cellar shelf in hopes that in the darkness it could be forgotten that, despite the accumulation of years of dust and perhaps a little rust around the rim, stares back at you fresh and beckoning to be opened. Unless you empty the contents and wash the jar, Aunt Bessie’s face will always be popping up in the cellar no matter how many times you push it to the back of the shelf. You can’t live with regret no matter how hard you try. It will never be tamed or transformed because, like pickled beets, regret always tastes and looks the same. You can’t “salt” it or tincture it to make it more palatable. Pickled beets will always taste pickled.

“In 1904 William Borden, heir to the Borden Dairy Estate, graduated from a Chicago high school a millionaire. His parents gave him a trip around the world. Traveling through Asia, the Middle East and Europe gave Borden a burden for the world’s hurting people. Writing home, he said, ‘I’m going to give my life to prepare for the mission field.’ When he made this decision, he wrote in the back of his Bible two words: No Reserves. Turning down high paying job offers after graduation from Yale University, he entered two more words in his Bible: No Retreats. Completing studies at Princeton Seminary, Borden sailed for China to work with Muslims, stopping first at Egypt for some preparation. While there he was stricken with cerebral meningitis and died within a month. A waste, you say! Not in God’s plan. In his Bible underneath the words No Reserves and No Retreats, he had written the words No Regrets. (Daily Bread, December 31, 1988.)

There is only one way to deal with regret. You need to remove it from your life completely. Aunt Bessie’s pickled beets are always going to be there unless, of course, you eat them, wash the jar and return it with thanks to Aunt Bessie. Regrets don’t go away unless you decide in the first place that there is simply no room for them among the provisions in your heart. You may not like pickled beets but one thing you can be sure of, the beets marinated in that pickling solution are suspended in a state of freshness that will preserve them for a very long time. It is not likely that they will self-destruct any time soon requiring you to dispose of them with a clean conscience. No, Aunt Bessie pickled them for a reason. She wanted them preserved as a memorial to her garden and she had every intention of insuring that their survival would even exceed her’s. You might as well eat them and get it over with.

 
Contributed By:
John Shearhart
 
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“[16 year old] Nathan Johnson dreamed of starting a revolution for Christ. [He wrote in his diary, “God’s] will for me is to radically impact my school for Him." But before he could see the revolution become a reality, Johnson’s life was cut short by an automobile accident [after] striking a cement truck almost head-on.” 1

Romans 8:28 says, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.”

Question: How can Paul write these verses in light of tragedy to good people?

Perhaps you have asked a similar question about your situation.

How can anything good come from my death?
How can anything good come from my sickness?
How can anything good come from rape?
How can anything good come from a drunk driver killing an entire family?

Allow me to finish this true story published in the September 6th edition of the Baptist Press:
“Despite his early death, friends and family say that God is using the tragedy to make [Nathan] Johnson’s dream a reality. Nearly 300 people have professed faith in Christ in the aftermath of Johnson’s accident, including more than 30 at his funeral [and 16 more] two nights following the funeral at the Wednesday night youth gathering…

One of Johnson’s gifts was his football ability, which he displayed as a kicker and punter for Beech [High School]. Johnson […] consistently [kicked] field goals of 45-50 yards. But [he] saw his athletic ability as a tool to win teammates to Christ […] In his journal, Nathan had written, "God has given me the gift of kicking so that I can start by winning my teammates on the football team to Christ." During his freshman year, he led two players to faith in Christ during football camp and later led a senior to faith.

Inside the front cover of this year’s team program, which is sold at every game, is a picture of Johnson in his football uniform with a message dedicating the season to him. At the top of the page is the Apostle Paul’s declaration from Philippians 1:21: “For to me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.” At the bottom of the page is Jesus’ command from Matthew 5:16: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your father which is in heaven.”

The final page in the program has another photo of Johnson in his uniform with the quote from his journal about impacting his school for Christ. At the bottom of the page is a quote from Johnson’s grave marker: ‘Dude, Heaven is sweet. See you there ...’

In the aftermath of Johnson’s funeral, professions of faith have continued, and several local churches report that they baptize people weekly who say they were saved at the funeral [and] teenagers at [Johnson’s church] have been saved at several programs since the funeral.” 1

The bottom line is that God allowed something bad to happen temporarily to a great young man in order to bring much good eternally for many.

1 Roach, David. “One godly teen dies; hundreds find new life.” Baptist Press. 6 Sep. 2006. 7 Sep. 2006.

 
Contributed By:
Donnie  Martin
 
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GIVING IT ALL AWAY-- Communion Mediation

"In Ernest Gordon’s true account of life in a World War II Japanese prison camp, "Through the Valley of the Kwai," there is a story that never fails to move me. It is about a man who through giving it all away literally transformed a whole camp of soldiers. The man’s name was Angus McGillivray.

Angus was a Scottish prisoner in one of the camps filled with Americans, Australians, and Britons who had helped build the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai. The camp had become an ugly situation. A dog-eat-dog mentality had set in. Allies would literally steal from each other and cheat each other; men would sleep on their packs and yet have them stolen from under their heads. Survival was everything. The law of the jungle prevailed...until the news of Angus McGillivray’s death spread throughout the camp.

Rumors spread in the wake of his death.
No one could believe big Angus had succumbed. He was strong, one of those whom they had expected to be the last to die. Actually, it wasn’t the fact of his death that shocked the men, but the reason he died. Finally they pieced together the true story.

The Argylls (Scottish soldiers) took their buddy system very seriously. Their buddy was called their 'mucker,' and these Argylls believed that is was literally up to each of them to make sure their 'mucker' survived. Angus’s mucker, though, was dying, and everyone had given up on him; everyone, of course, but Angus. He had made up his mind that his friend would not die.

Someone had stolen his mucker’s blanket. So Angus gave him his own, telling his mucker that he had 'just come across an extra one.' Likewise, every mealtime, Angus would get his rations and take them to his friend, stand over him and force him to eat them, again stating that he was able to get 'extra food.' Angus was going to do anything and everything to see that his buddy got what he needed to recover.

But as Angus’s mucker began to recover, Angus collapsed, slumped over, and died. The doctors discovered that he had died of starvation complicated by exhaustion. He had been giving of his own food and shelter. He had given everything he had—even his very life.

The ramifications of his acts of love and unselfishness had a startling impact on the compound. 'Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends' (John 15:12). As word circulated of the reason for Angus McGillivray’s death, the feel of the camp began to change. Suddenly, men began to focus on their mates, their friends, and humanity-- of living beyond survival, of giving oneself away. They began to pool their talents...

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Sermon Central Staff
 
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CHRYSOSTOM ON ECCLESIASTES

Eutropius had fallen into disgrace. As the highest-ranking official in the Byzantine Empire (late fourth century), he served as the closest adviser to the emperor Arcadius, then ruling in Constantinople. But Eutropius abused his imperial power and aroused the anger of the empress Eudoxia, who orchestrated a campaign against him that resulted in a sentence of death.

Desperate to save his life, Eutropius slipped away from the palace and ran to the Hagia Sophia, where he clung to the altar and claimed sanctuary. Soon an angry mob of soldiers surrounded the great church, denouncing Eutropius and demanding his execution. Eventually, the crowds dispersed, but the next day was Sunday, and so they returned the following morning to see whether the pastor would give in to their demands for the execution of Eutropius.

The pastor was John Chrysostom, the famous preacher who served as the Bishop of Constantinople. As he mounted his pulpit, Chrysostom could see a church crowded with worshipers and thrill-seekers. They, in turn, could see Eutropius groveling at the altar. The great man had become a pitiable spectacle, with his teeth chattering and hopeless terror in his eyes.

The dramatic sermon Chrysostom preached that day may have been the finest he ever preached. For his text Chrysostom took Ecclesiastes 1:2 ("Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity"), and for his primary illustration he used the decline and fall of Eutropius.

Here was a man, Chrysostom noted, who had lost everything--position, wealth, freedom, safety. Only days before, he had been the second most powerful man in the world. But it was all vanity, as events had proven, for now Eutropius had become "more wretched than a chained convict, more pitiable than a menial slave, more indigent than a beggar wasting away with hunger." "Though I should try my very best," Chrysostom said, "I could never convey to you in words the agony he must be suffering, from hour to hour expecting to be butchered."

Chrysostom did not stop there, however. His purpose was not to condemn Eutropius but to save him, and also to give his listeners the gospel. To that end, he challenged his listeners to recognize the vanity of their own existence. Whether rich or poor, one day they would all have to leave their possessions behind. They too would face a day of judgment--the judgment of a holy God. Their only hope then would be the hope that they should offer to Eutropius now--mercy at the table of Christ.

The sermon must have hit its mark, for as Chrysostom came to a close, he could see tears of pity streaming down people's faces. Eutropius was spared--a life saved by the preaching of Ecclesiastes.

Because Ecclesiastes is the Word of the living God, it can have the same impact in our lives today. Ecclesiastes teaches us that there is more to life than what we can see with our eyes. Ecclesiastes warns us to live our lives in light of eternity. Ecclesiastes teaches us how to live a meaningful life.

(From a sermon by Freddy Fritz, Introduction to Ecclesiastes, 7/11/2010)

 
Contributed By:
Ross Cochrane
 
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TWO MEN, TWO SOILS

Two of the men have impacted my life. Both of them died of cancer. For many years one of these men allowed his CIRCUMSTANCES to harden him towards those in his family and towards God.

I thought my dad was about as far away from God as he could be. He seemed to be represented by footpath in the parable of the sower that Jesus relates in Matthew 13:4,19. Jesus speaks of HARD soil, defensive, closed and bitter towards God.

The other man also had cancer. Before he died, Bill (not his real name) said to me, "I'm an atheist and I intend to stay that way!" INTENTIONALLY RESISTANT to considering that the message of Christ might have had any relevance. He was also like the footpath in the parable but it seems to me that he had allowed the cancer to be like a PNEUMATIC SOIL COMPACTER and His heart had set like concrete.

My Dad also got CANCER and it was clear that he was going to die. I think he could have responded to God in one of 2 ways. He could have allowed the cancer to harden his heart even further towards God like Bill, the atheist. Instead he allowed the cancer to be a like a PNEUMATIC JACKHAMMER. Yes, it shook him up but it also broke up the hard places of his heart and enabled God to get through to him. Everyone of us has that choice.

In Matthew 13:19 Jesus says, "The seed that fell on the FOOTPATH represents those who HEAR the message about the Kingdom and DON'T UNDERSTAND it. Then the evil one comes and SNATCHES AWAY the seed that was planted in their hearts."

Jesus says His message is planted in their hearts but there's an AUTHORITY issue here. Two KINGDOMS in conflict. What King Jesus wants to GIVE, Satan wants to STEAL. The "message about the Kingdom" speaks of the RULERSHIP of Christ. The degree that things grow in my life is determined by who has AUTHORITY over my ears and my heart.

Acts 28:27 (NLT) says "For the hearts of these people are hardened, ... so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to Me and let Me heal them.'"

 
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