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    PRESSURE

    Who was United States Senator Edmund G. Ross of Kansas? I suppose you could call him a "Mr. Nobody." No law bears his name. Not a single list of Senate "greats" mentions his service. Yet when Ross entered the Senate in 1866, he was considered the man to watch. He seemed destined to surpass his colleagues, but he tossed it all away by one courageous act of conscience. Let's set the stage.

    Conflict was dividing our government in the wake of the Civil War. President Andrew Johnson was determined to follow Lincoln's policy of reconciliation toward the defeated South. Congress, however, wanted to rule the downtrodden Confederate states with an iron hand. Congress decided to strike first. Shortly after Senator Ross was seated, the Senate introduced impeachment proceedings against the hated President. The radicals calculated that they needed thirty-six votes, and smiled as they concluded that the thirty-sixth was none other than Ross'.

    The new senator listened to the vigilante talk. But to the surprise of many, he declared that the president "deserved as fair a trial as any accused man has ever had on earth." The word immediately went out that his vote was "shaky." Ross received an avalanche of anti-Johnson telegrams from every section of the country. Radical senators badgered him to "come to his senses."

    The fateful day of the vote arrived. The courtroom galleries were packed. Tickets for admission were at an enormous premium. As a deathlike stillness fell over the Senate chamber, the vote began. By the time they reached Ross, twenty-four "guilties" had been announced. Eleven more were certain. Only Ross' vote was needed to impeach the President.

    Unable to conceal his emotion, the Chief Justice asked in a trembling voice, "Mr. Senator Ross, how vote you? Is the respondent Andrew Johnson guilty as charged?"

    Ross later explained, at that moment, "I looked into my open grave. Friendships, position, fortune, and everything that makes life desirable to an ambitions man were about to be swept away by the breath of my mouth, perhaps forever." Then, the answer came -- unhesitating, unmistakable: "Not guilty!" With that, the trial was over. And the response was as predicted.

    A high public official from Kansas wired Ross to say: "Kansas repudiates you as she does all perjurers and skunks." The "open grave" vision had become a reality. Ross' political career was in ruins. Extreme ostracism, and even physical attack awaited his family upon their return home.

    One gloomy day Ross turned to his faithful wife and said, "Millions cursing me today will bless me tomorrow...though not but God can know the struggle it has cost me." It was a prophetic declaration. Twenty years later Congress and the Supreme Court verified the wisdom of his position, by changing the laws related to impeachment.

    Ross was appointed Territorial Governor of New Mexico. Then, just prior to his death, he was awarded a special pension by Congress. The press and country took this opportunity to honor his courage which, they finally concluded, had saved our country from crisis and division. 

    Jon Johnston, Courage - You Can Stand Strong in the Face of Fear, 1990, SP Publications, pp. 56-58.


    And bowling? Odds against rolling a perfect 300 in the game are about 225,000 to one. And one bowler appropriately collapsed when he qualified to join that brotherhood of 300. Another bowler just couldn't bring himself to play the final ball of an otherwise perfect game. Instead he silently packed his shoes and ball and walked out -- and never again set foot inside a bowling alley! 

    Campus Life.


    Man who decided that "in" and "out" baskets on his desk weren't sufficient. Instead, he labeled them: Urgent, Frantic, Overdue, Forget it We Americans do not adequately appreciate the political process in our nation. During the campaign, I often recounted a nightmarish 1938 incident from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago, by way of contrast:

    A district party conference was under way in Moscow Province. It was presided over by a new secretary of the District Party Committee, replacing one recently arrested. At the conclusion of the conference, a tribute to Comrade Stalin was called for. Of course, everyone stood up (just as everyone had leaped to his feet during the conference with every mention of his name). The hall echoed with "stormy applause, raising to an ovation." For three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, the "stormy applause, rising to an ovation," continued. But palms were getting sore and raised arms were already aching. And the older people were panting from exhaustion. It was becoming insufferably silly even to those who adored Stalin. However, who would dare to be the first to stop? The secretary of the District Party could have done it. He was standing on the platform, and it was he who had just called for the ovation. But he was a newcomer. He had taken the place of a man who'd been arrested. He was afraid! After all, NKVD men were standing in the hall applauding and watching to see who would quit first! And in the obscure, small hall, unknown to the leader, the applause went on -- six, seven, eight minutes! They were done for! Their goose was cooked! They couldn't stop now till they collapsed with heart attacks! At the rear of the hall, which was crowded, they could of course cheat a bit, clap less frequently, less vigorously, not so eagerly -- but up there with the presidium where everyone could see them?

    The director of the local paper factor, an independent and strong-minded man, stood with the presidium. Aware of all the falsity and all the impossibility of the situation, he still kept on applauding! Nine minutes! Ten! In anguish he watched the secretary of the District Party Committee, but the latter dared not stop. Insanity! To the last man! With make-believe enthusiasm on their faces, looking at each other with faint hope, the district leaders were just going to go on and on applauding till they fell where they stood, till they were carried out of the hall on stretchers! And even then those who were left would not falter... Then, after eleven minutes, the director of the paper factory assumed a businesslike expression and sat down in his seat. And, oh, a miracle took place! Where had the universal, uninhibited, indescribable enthusiasm gone? To a man, everyone else stopped dead and sat down. They had been saved!

    The squirrel had been smart enough to jump off his revolving wheel. That, however, was how they discovered who the independent people were. And that was how they went about eliminating them. That same night the factory director was arrested. They easily pasted ten years on him on the pretext of something quite different. But after he had signed Form 206, the final document of the interrogation, his interrogator reminded him: "Don't ever be the first to stop applauding!" 

    Robert P. Dugan, Winning the New Civil War, Jr., pp. 25-27.


    Here is an instruction on how to react to hungry pythons, as given to Peace Corpsmen serving in Brazil -- "Remember not to run away, the python can run faster. The thing to do is to lie flat on the ground on your back with your feet together, arms at your side, head well down. The python will then try to push its head under you, experimenting at every possible point. Keep calm (that was underscored).

    "You must let him swallow your foot. It is quite painless and it will take a long time. If you lose your head and struggle, he will quickly whip his coils around you. If you keep calm and still, he will go on swallowing. Wait patiently until he has swallowed up to about your knee. Then carefully take out your knife and insert it into the distended side of his mouth and with a quick rip slit him up."

    Resource, Sept./Oct., 1992.


    The Scriptures often exhort us to be filled with various godly virtues--which means what? How do we know if we are "full of goodness" (Rom. 15:14), for example?

    Think a moment about a water-saturated sponge. If we push down with our finger even slightly, water runs out onto the table. We immediately know what fills the interior pockets of the sponge. The same is true of ourselves. We can tell what fills us on the inside by what comes out under pressure.

    Robert Schmidgall.


    There are two ways of handling pressure. One is illustrated by a bathysphere, the miniature submarine used to explore the ocean in places so deep that the water pressure would crush a conventional submarine like an aluminum can. Bathyspheres compensate with plate steel several inches thick, which keeps the water out but also makes them heavy and hard to maneuver.

    Inside they're not alone. When their lights are turned on and you look through the tiny, thick plate-glass windows, what do you see? Fish! These fish cope with extreme pressure in an entirely different way. They don't build thick skins; they remain supple and free. They compensate for the outside pressure through equal and opposite pressure inside themselves.

    Christians, likewise, don't have to be hard and thick-skinned--as long as they appropriate God's power within to equal the pressure without. 

    Jay Kesler.


    Countless icebergs float in the frigid waters around Greenland. Some are tiny; others tower skyward. At times the small ones move in one direction while their gigantic counterparts go in another. The small ones are subject to surface winds, but the huge ice masses are carried along by deep ocean currents.

    Source Unknown.


    The Hope College Women's basketball team had made it to the national playoffs. The final game saw Hope 20 points behind with 10 minutes left to play. The team remained calm and began to narrow the gap. Then with just 5 seconds remaining, a 3 point basket tied the game. The final score was decided by Dina Disney. With no time left on the clock, she sank two free throws to win the game. When television and press interviewers asked her how she stayed calm under so much pressure, Dina said she recited to herself, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." 

    Daily Bread.


    Pressed out of measure and pressed to all length;

    Pressed so intensely, it seems beyond strength;

    Pressed in the body, and pressed in the soul;

    Pressed in the mind, till the dark surges roll.

    Pressure by foes, and pressure by friends--

    Pressure on pressure, till life nearly ends.

    Pressed into knowing no helper but God;

    Pressed into loving the staff and the rod.

    Pressed into liberty where nothing clings;

    Pressed into faith for impossible things.

    Pressed into tasting the joy of the Lord;

    Pressed into loving a Christ-life outpoured.

    Source Unknown.


    A research psychologist at the National Institute of Mental Health was convinced he could prove his theory from a cage full of mice. His name? Dr. John Calhoun. His theory? Overcrowded conditions take a terrible toll on humanity. Dr. Calhoun built a nine-foot square cage for selected mice. He observed them closely as their population grew. He started with eight mice. The cage was designed to contain comfortably a population of 160. He allowed the mice to grow, however, to a population of 2200. They were not deprived of any of life's necessities except privacy--no time or space to be all alone. Food, water, and other resources were always clean and in abundance. A pleasant temperature was maintained. No disease was present. All mortality factors (except aging) were eliminated. The cage, except for its overcrowded condition, was ideal for the mice. The population reached its peak at 2200 after about two-and-a-half years. 

    Since there was no way for the mice to physically escape from their closed environment, Dr. Calhoun was especially interested in how they would handle themselves in that overcrowded cage. Interestingly, as the population reached its peak, the colony of mice began to disintegrate. Strange stuff started happening. Dr. Calhoun made these observations: 1)Adults formed natural groups of about a dozen individual mice. 2) In each group each adult mouse performed a particular social role...but there were no roles in which to place the healthy young mice, which totally disrupted the whole society. 3) The males who had protected their territory withdrew from leadership. 4) The females became aggressive and forced out the young...even their own offspring. 5) The young grew to be only self-indulgent. They ate, drank, slept, groomed themselves, but showed no normal aggression and, most noteworthy, failed to reproduce. After five years, every mouse had died. This occurred despite the fact that right up to the end there was plenty of food, water, and an absence of disease. After the research psychologist reported on his experiment, a couple of significant questions arose.

    Q: "What were the first activities to cease?"

    A: "The most complex activities for mice: courtship and mating."

    Q: What results would such overcrowding have on humanity?"

    A: We would first of all cease to reproduce our ideas, and along with ideas, our goals and ideals. In other words, our values would be lost."

    Swindoll, Quest For Character, p. 35-36.