Sermon Illustrations

Three years and a half years ago, an incident occurred that I filed back because I knew at some point that I would have a message to place it in. In fact, I heard Anthony Mangun use it in a message that he preached. I have some friends that incorporated it into some sermons that they preached. For whatever reason, I briefly mentioned it in a Sunday School lesson but never used it with a sermon. . . until now. . .

On April 26, 2003, Aron Ralston was enjoying a passion that he had. Aron loved climbing mountains in a remote area of Utah. While he was climbing through a tiny opening about three feet wide, he put his right hand on a nearby boulder to adequately brace himself to climb through the opening. When he did, his weight caused the huge boulder to shift and the shifting trapped his hand. He did everything that he could to free his hand but nothing worked. As darkness fell that night, he knew he was in trouble. By the way, April 26 was on a Saturday.

By Tuesday, he was completely out of water and had given up the hope that he would be found by any other climbers who were in the area. If he was going to survive, he was going to have to save himself. Now he was done to only one escape route. It was a morbid one but it was all that he had left now. Not only was it morbid, it was almost unthinkable. . . he was considering cutting off his arm directly below his elbow. The difficulty was the knife that he had. It was a small, dull pocket knife and he had earlier tried to begin cutting his arm but the dull knife wouldn’t even break the skin.

Aron spent most of Wednesday trying to think of exactly what he would have to do to amputate his arm. He knew that a tourniquet was imperative because he could not afford to lose much blood. After a day and half without water, he was in a serious state of dehydration and weak from the lack of food. Trying to think through more of the details, he thought that he was probably five miles or more from his pickup.

On Thursday, his fifth day, he decided that it was going to be now or never. . . His arm or his life. It brings to mind what Jesus said. . .

Matthew 5:30 KJV And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

I have met a lot of people in my life who were trapped just like Aron—not in some remote mountainous area in Utah but in habits and lifestyles. Some are trapped by habits and whims of their flesh. Others have fallen prey to thinking that around the next bend in life, they will finally capture the “big deal.”

But unlike Aron, they are totally oblivious to their entrapment. Death is looking them squarely in the eye and they lack perception of the matter. To their way of thinking, “I have just made some bad business deals. I have made a few wrong turns. I can quit anytime I choose to.”

However, when you get in that deep, getting out requires some drastic and immediate action. For Aron, it was his arm or his life. He had to make a hard, difficult, and serious choice. He could not have them both.

Aron was a man of valor, he made the tough choice. After a crude amputation, he rappelled down a 60-foot cliff and hiked nearly six miles before the rescuers spotted him. He then was air-lifted to a hospital ER where park ranger Steve Swanke told reporters, “I’ve never seen anybody like him. His will to live is unbelievable. I’ve been doing this for twenty-five years and I’ve never seen a warrior like him.”