An AWESOME Sermon Illustration... and it wasn't mine

Each week I spend a lot of time getting ready for Sunday morning. I put a fair amount of thought into what I’m going to saw. I think one different stories I want to tell, or illustrations I want to give. Some weeks, I just have to give it over to the Holy and trust that He will give me the right story, at the right time. This week, however the best illustration for my message didn’t come from me.

An unexpected source

At some point, after starting this series, James had revealed to me that he had been allowing some labels to hold him back. He had been allowing these things to identify him and convince him of what he could, or couldn’t do. He went on to tell me that he had, during that week, been freed from those labels. The amazing sermon illustration came as a result of James’ experience.

I didn’t talk about that

While, he was inspired by the messages I’ve been preaching, it was ultimately, James’ realization that Jesus WANTED him to let go of those labels. You see, I haven’t preached on the specific labels that James got free from. It wasn’t because of some inspirational thing that I said. It was just the reality that Jesus loves James and wanted to release him from those labels.

The awesome illustration

I would love to say that James and I had planned this out, but that would not be true. In fact, I had no idea that He was going to share this, but I’m really glad he did. So, what was the illustration?

James told us that he had recently been released from the labels that had been holding him back. He then said to imagine yourself in water, up to your neck. You want to come out, but you all the strings that are holding you back, keeping you from getting out. Those strings represent the labels that are holding you back. He said, he pictured himself like that. He pulled and pulled, but couldn’t get free.

Then Jesus…

Then, in his illustration, James saw Jesus reach down and take his hand. One by one those strings that held him back, that kept him from coming out the water began to break. As Jesus held his hand, James was able to break all those strings and come up out of the water, freed from the labels that had held him back. He explained that Jesus offered the same thing to all of us, the same freedom from our labels, or our past.

An unexpected source

After service, in talking with James about the illustration, he confessed that it had actually come from his girlfriend, Jenna. I think that makes it even better. You see, I think it’s a beautiful example of how the Holy Spirit can use us to talk to others. Consider this:

  • The Holy Spirit inspired me to do this series and each specific message.

  • The Holy Spirit spoke through me to James, inspiring him to be released from his labels.

  • The Holy Spirit spoke through me to Jenna, through a recent message.

  • The Holy Spirit spoke through Jenna to James, giving a visual to the freedom he was experiencing.

  • The Holy Spirit inspired James to share his story and Jenna’s illustration.

From there, I hope that the Holy Spirit spoke to you and inspires you to take hold of the freedom that Jesus is offering you from the labels that you have placed on yourself, or accepted from other people.