Sermon Illustrations

“The Hound of Heaven!” Nehemiah 4:1-6 Key verse(s) 6:“So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.”

It’s just too hard! The more I worked at it, the farther it seemed to slip away from me. I just couldn’t seem to stem the rapid progression of failure. I thought, if radios have buttons with which to turn them off and cars have ignition keys, why not me? Hadn’t I been “running” long enough? Perhaps it would be best if I just called it quits and left it at that. Turn off my key and park me right now. Sometimes you just have to know when to quit.

Have you ever worked at something so long and hard only to realize that, work accomplished, you are little farther than from where you started? To me there is nothing more frustrating than putting in the time and effort and realizing nothing for it. Like most people I am task-driven and goal-oriented. That’s just the way God made me. Deep down inside of there is that still small voice that can never be stopped; it is always whispering, “If you just give it one more turn, one more twist, you can make it work.” Nevertheless, there usually comes a point in any project where, because of the size and nature of the work, it just doesn’t seem feasible or reasonable to spend the effort.

If you are like me, quitting seems sometimes like a very good option. You are provided a certain measure of peace when, freed from the slavery of competition and accomplishment, you can just sit back and watch someone else beat his head against the wall for a change. Sounds logical, doesn’t it? Perhaps. But, when all is said and done, we seldom find that comfort we seek when we put something worthwhile aside. Simply because we don’t have the patience or endurance to make it work, doesn’t seem like a good excuse deep down, does it? And, when you think about it, what if God had that attitude? Where would we be today?

The son of a doctor, Thompson started out with great potential. His father sent him to study for the priesthood, and then to another school to become a doctor. But he failed at both professions and became a wastrel instead, running from responsibility, family, and God. Eventually, this prodigal hit bottom. Wandering the back alleys of London, he was hungry, friendless, and addicted to drugs. With tattered clothes and broken shoes, he barely survived by selling matches and newspapers. Still, God did not relent in His dogged chase to capture the young man’s soul. A ray of hope came when Thompson began to write poetry. Wilfred Meynell, an editor, immediately saw Thompson’s genius. He published his works, encouraged him to enter a hospital, and personally nursed him through his convalescence. This marked a spiritual turnaround in Thompson’s life. In the poem “The Hound of Heaven,” he writes of his flight from God and God’s pursuit of him.

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled Him, down the arches of the years;

I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways, Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears

I hid from Him, and under running laughter . . . Still with unhurrying chase,

And unperturbed pace, Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,

Came on the following Feet, And a Voice above their beat––

“Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me.”

With this same breathless pursuit, the Hound of Heaven once chased another running man. This person was not a vagrant; he was a well-educated Pharisee. Nonetheless, he stubbornly fled from Christ until, one day, the Hound caught him on the dusty road to Damascus. (Frank N. Magill, Cyclopedia of World Authors)

A Christian can’t quit. Not because we aren’t made of the “same stuff” as most people. That has nothing to do with it. A Christian can’t quit because every day of our lives we are pursued by a God who by His very nature is a winner. Quitting to God is meaningless. He can’t fail, so He never need be concerned with quitting. He pursues us even when we are trying our best to run away. He follows and works, sometimes ploddingly and other times swiftly. No matter. The result is always the same. He will accomplish His goal in us because it is God’s nature to do so. He is relentless and, because we bear His spirit, we are also so inclined. Give up? Not in a Christian’s vocabulary. We may pause and we may break but we never quit. Anything worth have is worth doing for a Christian. When we put our whole heart into something, as the Spirit of God dwells in us, we are compelled to persevere until the task is done. With the Hound of Heaven as our example, there can be no other way.

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