Sermon Illustrations

The day I turned 18, I left home. I had saved some money, and despite my parents' strong objections, I packed a few things in my Volkswagen and headed for California. Just outside of Needles, California, a man at a rest stop pulled a gun, took my wallet, and drove off with my car. I had not been in the state more than 15 minutes, and I was broke and on foot. I made a report to the California Highway Patrol, but the officer said there was little chance I would ever see my car or my stuff again. As a final warning he said, "It's against the law to hitchhike on the interstate." I walked to a truck stop and finally convinced a driver to give me a ride to Los Angeles. The driver listened to my story, and then as he let me out, he gave me a $20 bill.

I walked 32 blocks to the beach. I was thrilled to see the waves beat up on Will Rogers Beach. It was more beautiful than I had ever imagined. I sat there in the bright day, and considered what to do. As the sun began to set, I spent part of my $20 for something to eat. Determined to get a fresh start in the morning, I slept that night in a park where I could hear the pounding surf.

The next few weeks were not pleasant. Within a few days, I was dirty and reduced to asking strangers for money. For two months I slept wherever I could. I searched behind restaurants and grocery stores for food. One day I spent a precious dollar on a picture postcard to send to the folks. "Having a great time. Found a good job, and have rented an apartment near the beach," I wrote. All lies, but I was too embarrassed to tell my folks of my situation.

I got into a routine. Every morning I would walk down Santa Monica Boulevard and hold out my hand and ask everyone I passed, "Do you have any extra change?" One day, a lady gave me a dollar. I quickly stuck it into my pocket, and approach the next person coming down the street. I stuck out my hand and looked at him, -- but didn't say anything. I couldn't. I stood there in shocked silence. I was staring at my own father. I was instantly embarrassed, and then I realized he didn't recognize me. As he fumbled for some change, I realized that I had lost a lot of weight, and behind the beard and dirty clothes, he could have easily passed me by.

Then without really thinking about it, I said, "Dad! It's me. Scotty." Tears came instantly to both our eyes. He stood there in silence for a few moments; then said, "Son, I've been looking for you." Despite the filth and the smell, he hugged me close to himself.

To shorten a long story, within 24 hours I was clean, shaven, wearing new clothes, and on a plane heading for Nebraska. I was sitting beside my dad, and I was going home. I feel very good knowing that once he had received my postcard, he came looking for me.

I was not really like the boy in the Prodigal Son parable. I just wanted to make my own way in the world. I was not really a bad kid; I just got into a lot of trouble because of my naive, youthful outlook on life. And then I stayed in trouble, because my pride will not let me ask my folks for help.

Well, that was years ago. Both my mom and dad have passed away now. In fact I live in their house, the one I left so long ago. I realize now just how young and foolish I was back then, but I'll tell you something that is a lot more foolish than that. That day in Santa Monica, all I had asked from my dad was "any spare change." Yet he would have willingly given me all he had. I asked so little from him that day because (at first) I didn't know who he was. We often ask so little from God, because we really do not know him. We ask him for a bauble here or a trinket there, yet all He has is ours if we will only ask. We project our limited love toward God, and assume His love is limited towards us. But "He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us, will He not also graciously give us everything we ask?" (Romans 8 32 - Montgomery NT).

(From a sermon by N. D. "Scotty" Plummer - Source: "Illustration Digest" edited by Jon Allen - Number 1, 1996 - p. 5)

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