Sermon Illustrations

“God’s Plan for Pain!” Matthew 16:21-28 Key verse(s): 25:“‘For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.’”

“And whatever you do, make sure you don’t hurt yourself!” The tractor tire was heavy; definitely a two man job. Perched on the back of his pickup truck, Steve looked at the tire and found a sense of euphoria slowly creeping over him. There was the object of his quest lying in defiance before him. That old nemesis, the Farmall tractor tire. Steve knew that when these things worked, kept their air and fluid, they were indispensible. You could run over almost anything in your path with one of these babies. Nearly as tall as a man and, when filled with fluid, a whole lot heavier, these deeply treaded rolling monoliths were nearly indestructible. That is, of course, unless you just happened to roll over something pretty sharp and pretty sturdy like a six-inch rusty spike protruding from an old board. Then, like anything punctured, the laws of physics take hold and what you keep under pressure will always seek another environment where the pressure is off. Such was the bent of the air and fluid when they discovered the newly created escape hatch. Now Mr. Dependable Utility had become Mr. Sumo Wrestler. There was just no way it was going to lift or roll without a whole lot of convincing.

As he bent over to grasp his end of the tire the service station attendant on the other end of Mr. Sumo asked the question Steve didn’t want to hear. “Are you sure you can lift it?” Sure? Of course I’m sure. Steve thought to himself. Aren’t I the one who took it off the tractor? Lift it? Just watch me! “No problem!” Steve muttered as he bent over and confirmed his grasp. “On three!” The men looked at each other and then braced for the count. “One, two . . . crunch!” The words his wife had spoken to him just minutes before as he loaded the behemoth into his truck echoed on that last crunching count. “And whatever you do, make sure you don’t hurt yourself!” Steve had hurt himself. He had lifted with his back and not his legs and now he was to pay the price of pain as well as regret for some weeks to come.

Taking precautions against injury and the pain that it causes is just a part of life. And for most men that precaution needs to be something quite conscious and acted out. It is in our nature to take risks when it comes to pitting our strengths against those of another whether that be man, beast or tractor tire. It’s simply the way God made us. And, for that matter, it is the nature of a spouse to warn us of our folly when we press the issue too far. This makes for a good balance in a marriage. The man who is willing to risk and the woman who is willing to caution. Like most things in this life, God has a plan for our natures as well as our bodies. Avoiding injury and pain is a good thing and, doubtless, without the anointing of a cautious partner, we would inevitably fall prey to our own inclination to do more, lift more and carry more than we ever should.

Pain borne from injury is a suffering that punishes us. It reminds us daily of the importance of patience and caution in this life. It preaches a sermon of maintenance as we long for a time when, restored to full health, we can go about our lives again without the anchor of injury weighing us down. But, it all pain a punishment? Are there not some pains which are also worthwhile, even good? If we go through life with an “avoid pain” mentality laid over every relationship we enter into or steeped through every sniffle or cough we chance to find, suddenly WE become more important than the outcome of those relationships and illnesses. When we focus on a lack of pain in our lives we will miss much in that avoidance. There is no problem with protecting ourselves from pain when that protection indicates a clear understanding of the importance of a protecting God in our lives. However, when are predisposition to caution becomes obsessive, God generally drops from the equation and the product of our living becomes us and not a caring God.

When we understand that God’s plan for us in this life includes some pain and perhaps even the loss of life, the focus shifts from us to the One who is both the preventor of pain and the giver of it. If we can’t accept pain in the course of daily living, we will never be able to commit our lives to serving God in the manner that He would ask us to. God wants us to commit not only our time, talents and treasures to Him; He wants us to commit our very lives. That means putting our bodies into His protection and care, not ours. Becoming overly concerned with pain can put our very souls in peril, causing us to die spiritually. Obsessive concern for pain will often drive a person to withdraw from life, turning inward and focusing on self and not God. The pain this avoids is nothing compared with the pain of losing our faith.

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