Sermon Illustrations

Keeping Faith in the Midst of Trials

The story is told of a man who was walking across the road when he was hit by a car. The impact knocked him on his head which caused him to be in a coma for a couple of days before he finally regained consciousness. When he opened his eyes, his loving wife was there beside his bed holding his hand.

He said, "You know, Judy, you’ve always been right by my side. When I was a struggling college student, I failed again and again. But you were always there with me, encouraging me to go on trying."

He said, "And when I got out of school and went for all of my interviews and failed to get any of the jobs, you stayed right there with me, cutting out more classifieds for me to check on..."

“Then I started work at this little firm and finally got the chance to handle a big contract. But I blew it because of one little mistake, and yet you were there beside me all the way. Then I finally got another job after being laid off for sometime. But I never seemed to be promoted and my hard work was never recognized. And so, I remained in the same position from the day I joined the company until now... And, through it all, you were right there by my side."

Her eyes are starting to fill with tears as she listens. He says, "And now I’ve been in this accident and when I woke up, you’re the first person I see. There’s something I’ll really like to say to you...."

He said, "Judy, I think you’re just plain bad luck!"

Not what she was expecting to hear…

I wonder if that’s what God hears from us, too. He walks with us through our hardships and the valley of death, through troubles, tribulations, and difficult times, and instead of thanking him for being there, we turn our back, we raise our fist, we say – why are you putting me through this? Don’t you care, God?

ILLUS: I remember sitting in a circle with Holocaust survivors, listening as the gentleman next to me described losing every member of his family to the Nazis, describing seeing death every day in the concentration camps, telling how he used to pinch his cheeks to make it look like they had color. The Nazis would take those that looked weak and take them aside and shoot them…he tried not to look at any of the guards in the eyes, otherwise they might impetuously pull you aside as well…I asked him how difficult it must have been to believe in God as a Jew during these times. He said he lost his faith. He just couldn’t imagine a God who would stand by and let this evil continue day after day.

ILLUS: Even the professionals go through crisis of faith in hardships. I remember reading a Newsweek article (May 7, 2007) about an Army chaplain, Chaplain Roger Benimoff who deployed to Iraq twice-- he ended up with not only with PTSD, but also a crisis of his faith. He was chaplain for a Combat maneuver squadron (the kind of unit that kicks in doors, drives heavy equipment, prepared for combat)… he saw too much suffering, too many decapitated Iraqis on the streets, too much pain.

He wrote in his journal “I am doing more memorial ceremonies than preaching…I feel numb”…visit troop at an outpost and return later in the week to find out he’d been killed by a sniper.

ALL the while he’d think about God’s promises, like Isaiah 54:10, which reads “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken.” In a single two-week period there were 4 suicide bombings at his location, and the troops would come up and ask him “If I’m a child of God, than why isn’t he protecting me?”…

At one point, after giving another memorial service, he writes in his journal “I don’t feel like giving myself to God. I hope God changes my desire.” He gets home and can’t sleep, has dreams of flag draped caskets…takes anxiety medication, ptsd, and is now a hospital chaplain…his faith went through a crisis , but he emerged holding on to God’s hand even when he felt himself slipping and at one point wanted nothing to do with God…he says ‘Now I’m much more honest and blunt with God.”

See, even though he went through a faith crisis—he had faith…trust…honesty. What we call faith today is not really faith in God…it’s faith in our circumstances.

---When our lives are going well, we’re happy, career strong, our faith and religious experience is often strong.

---When we go through suffering, trials, hardships, pain, persecution, our faith sometimes falters, weakens, or even disappears.

From a sermon by Randy Croft, Keeping the Faith, 12/21/2009

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