Sermon Illustrations

John W. Peterson Learns A Valuable Lesson After Vocal Chords Damaged

In Robert J. Morgan’s book, The Promise, he tells the story of John Peterson. When John was a teenager he had a remarkable singing voice and was in high demand as a performer. His greatest ambition was to become a famous vocalist. “Only in singing did I feel competent and confident,” he wrote. “Here was at least one place where I could excel. I knew it, and I made the most of it.”

John became known as “the singing farm boy.” Local radio programs were featuring him and his future as a singer was bright. Then, one summer he found a job in a factory, working at a machine that made canvas wheat binders. It was a noisy factory, and John’s machine was especially loud. He couldn’t hear anything else; he could barely hear himself think. So he spent the whole day singing at the top of his lungs as he worked—all day, every day.

Too late, he realized that he was abusing and ruining his vocal cords. There was nothing the doctors or speech therapists could do. “I put such a strain on my faltering voice through overuse and inexperience,” he wrote, “that I damaged it beyond repair. When I realized fully what had happened, that my voice would never again be beautiful, I suffered such an emotional shock that it took months before I recovered. Singing, I had the power to thrill people, and suddenly it was all gone.” He was heartbroken.

However, John’s inability to sing forced him to pursue other talents that he had been neglecting. Peterson later wrote, “With my voice damaged, I turned more and more to writing and that talent was allowed to emerge and develop. What at first seemed like a tragedy was used for good, and the course of my life began to take shape in a quite unexpected way.” For those of you who may not recognize the name, John Peterson went on to give us such wonderful hymns as “Heaven Came Down and Glory Filled My Soul,” and “Surely Goodness and Mercy.”

I tell you that story to tell you this:

“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God; those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 HCSB).

I know there have been countless times when this verse has rung true in my life, and I’m sure there have been in yours, too. Let’s face it—bad things happen and they happen with unpredictable frequency and varying levels of intensity. Some are mere inconveniences; others are life-shattering disasters. But there is a promise—a single promise—in God’s Word that can meet every negative moment head-on, and given enough time, it will resolve our every problem. In Jesus Christ, we have an iron-clad, unfailing, all-encompassing, God-given guarantee that every single circumstance of life will sooner or later turn out well for those who love him.

Romans 8:28 is the promise that morphs us into resilient, cheerful people, whatever our temperament. It’s God darkroom in which negatives become positives. It’s His situation-reversal machine in which heartaches are changed into hallelujahs. It’s the foundation of hope and a fountainhead of confidence. Even our failures can become enriching and our sins redeemed. Even death itself becomes a blessing for the child of God. I want to explore this promise with you this morning because, as Charles Spurgeon once put it, “This is the best promise of this life!”

Like a precious jewel, this promise is multi-faceted reflecting the many colors of God’s grace and sovereignty. First of all, the promise begins with confidence.

From a sermon by Scott Bayles, The Promise: Romans 8:28, 1/9/2010

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