Encouragement Sermon Illustrations

Encouragement Sermon Illustrations

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Few know how great a part General Grant's friends played in his great career. What, for example, his chief of staff, John Rawlins, the Galena lawyer, did to keep him from intemperance; or what Sherman did to keep him in the army. After the victories of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, Grant was shabbily treated by the commanding general, Halleck, and was virtually under arrest for misconduct. When he was restored to his army, he won the great battle at Shiloh, in April, 1862. But after that victory General Halleck himself joined the army and Grant was reduced to a merely titular command. His position became intolerable, and he determined to resign from the army. He had his effects packed and was about to leave.

Sherman came to see him and, sitting down on one of the boxes, expostulated with him and pled with him to reconsider his resolution. There had been a day, he said, when he had felt just the way Grant did, but now all was prosperous with him. He was sure it would be so with Grant, if he remained with the army. Some happy event would come along and everything would be changed. Grant reluctantly agreed to stay in the army. In a few weeks the happy event turned up in the appointment of General Halleck to the chief command at Washington. This put Grant at the head of his army again, and the way was opened for him to carve out the great career with ponderous hammer blows at Vicksburg, Chattanooga, Missionary Ridge, the Wilderness, and Appomattox.

One of the chief ornaments of American letters is Nathaniel Hawthorne. In the dedication of his Snow-Image Hawthorne writes to his college friend Horatio Bridges: "If anybody is responsible at this day for my being an author, it is yourself. I know not whence your faith came; but while we were lads together at a country college, gathering blueberries in study hours under the tall academic pines, or watching the great logs as they tumbled along the current of the Androscoggin, or shooting pigeons or gray squirrels in the woods, or batfowling in the summer twilight, or catching trout in that shadowy little stream, which, I suppose, is still wandering riverward through the forest—though you and I will never cast a line in it again—two idle lads, still, it was your prognostic of your friend's destiny that he was to be a writer of fiction."

In Hawthorne's life there is a chapter which illustrates how another's faith, and particularly a woman's faith, can comfort and strengthen. On the day of his discharge from the customs house at Salem, Hawthorne came to his home a beaten and discouraged man. When he told his wife of the disaster which had befallen him, her answer was, "Now you can write your book." She put pen and paper and ink before him, and on that same afternoon he commenced his immortal tale, The Scarlet Letter. If he is the chief ornament of American letters, it is due, first of all, according to his own confession, to a schoolboy's faith in his future, and then to the unshaken confidence of his wife, the frail woman who marshaled and set in array his half-hesitating abilities, protecting him from the cruelty and hardness of the world, until he could speak of her as "that flower lent from heaven to show the possibilities of a human soul."

"You will see now one day we shall shake hands across the brook. You, as first in literature; I, as first in divinity; and people will say, 'Both these fellows are from Annandale. Where is Annandale?'"

Thus, on one of their summer afternoon rambles by the shores of the Solway, or along the coasts of Fife, spake a tall young divinity licentiate to his taciturn and discouraged companion. It was a prophecy which was strangely fulfilled, for the day came when the young licentiate was the most renowned preacher in Britain, and his moody and dyspeptic companion the greatest of living writers of prophets. Both scaled the heights of fame; and both, especially the first, tasted the sorrows of Gethsemane. The young licentiate was Edward Irving, and the young student of literature was Thomas Carlyle.

"Life," wrote Carlyle long years afterward, of that period, "was all dreary, eerie, tinted with the hues of imprisonment and impossibility; hope practically not there. To all which Irving's advent was the pleasant contradiction and reversal, like sun rising to night, or impenetrable fog and its specialities."


(I Sam. 7:12)
When our souls are much discouraged,
By the roughness of the way
And the cross we have to carry
Seemeth heavier every day.

When some cloud that over-shadows,
Hides the Father's face from view,
Oh 'tis well to remember
He hath blessed us hitherto.—Selected.

He Put the Stars Back

William T. Stidger tells a fine story of a discouraged young colored minister. Everything seemed to have gone wrong with this man. He had built a church for his people, for he had been a carpenter; but when it was completed his wife, who had worked by his side, died. This and other trying experiences left him broken and defeated. Then he heard, over the radio, a sermon by a well-known minister. He felt sure that man could help him, and he went to see him. He was cordially received and stayed in the minister's study for a long time, and when he came out there was a new light in his eyes. "What a man he is," he said. "When I went into his office all the stars had fallen out of my skies—but one by one he put them back again."—Archer Wallace, in Leaves of Healing, Harper Brothers, publishers.

Helping Others

D. L. Moody says, "It is very easy to preach when others are all the time praying for you." In an illustration, he says, "You have heard the story, I suppose, of the child who was rescued from the fire that was raging in a house away up in the fourth story. The child came to the window and as the flames were shooting up higher and higher, it cried out for help. A fireman started up the ladder of the fire escape to rescue the child from its dangerous position. The wind swept the flames near him, and it was getting so hot that he wavered, and it looked as if he would have to return without the child. Thousands looked on, and their hearts quaked at the thought of the child having to perish in the fire, as it must do if the fireman did not reach it. Someone in the crowd cried, `Give him a cheer!' Cheer after cheer went up, and as the man heard them he gathered fresh courage. Up he went in­to the midst of the smoke and the fire, and brought down the child to safety."

In the day when rewards are given, the one who did the cheering in the service of the Lord "shall in no wise lose his reward" (Matt. 10:42).

Beloved, if you cannot do much, you can at least be among the ones that "helped everyone his neighbor; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage."

"Brother, for Christ's Kingdom sighing,
Help a little, help a little;
Help to save the millions dying,
Help just a little.

"Oh the wrongs that we may righten
Oh the hearts that we may lighten;
Oh the skies that we may brighten
Helping just a little."Gospel Herald.

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