Sermon Illustrations

We used to live in a very nice house which had some live plants near the driveway. One of those plants in particular was a “volunteer elm” and we absolutely hated it. Sure enough, we saw that thing getting bigger—but we didn’t want that to happen. It was out of place!

Somehow, I obtained a can of some kind of “pruning paint”. The idea was that if you cut off an “offending” branch, you could spray that paint at the location and that would stop the branch from growing back. I can’t say if it really worked in other places, but we did notice something strange about that volunteer elm.

The next spring, the tree was still there, and the black paint I had used was still preventing the tree from growing back from where I had cut it off. But I hadn’t killed that tree! Like a capital letter “J”, the stem started growing up from the root in a slightly different direction. It was still very much alive.

I hadn’t done away with the roots.

And as long as the root is strong, generally speaking, the tree will continue to grow.

Hebrews 12:15 says, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled”.

The writer warns us about this root, with a tendency to spring up again, and again, apparently as often as the root gets a chance.

Had I tried to get rid of the root, I would have been rid of the plant. I simply stopped one avenue of growth, but the root kept providing nourishment to the plant so it was able to just keep on growing.

Sin, including bitterness, is just like that root. The more we let something grow, the stronger the root grows, and the harder it is to overcome. It can be done, but unless the root is gone, it won’t be easy.

What roots, still growing under the surface, are in my heart? Even more sobering, what will I do with what that root produces?

Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)

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