Biblical Word Pictures

by John Meador

John Meador"What do you think your people remember about last Sunday's message?" I'll ask an even more thought provoking question, "What do you remember about the message you preached three weeks ago?" In all honesty, as much preaching as most of us do, I'm not sure I can remember (without a pause to consult my word processor) what I preached on just a few weeks ago.

Yet, preaching should be remembered. God consistently placed remembrances before His people to help remind them of what He had said. As preachers of God's Word, we need to take the hint. Preach memorably. Illustrate with creativity. Yes, the answer to the question above is: "They will remember the stories." They will! Years after I have preached a message, someone will come up and say, "I liked the one you did seven years ago that told the story of your son lost on a beach!" Or, they'll say, "I remember the one where you told us about your first seven years of marriage being like the Seven Years of Tribulation." For them, the story had become attached to a biblical truth-and the truth lived with them through the details of a story.

The great thing about preaching a text of Scripture is that it often supplies its own word pictures. After the background and word studies are completed, you and I should see a picture emerge that we can use to illustrate a text to our people. As we work to hone that text, and that story, we are investing in the spiritual lives of our people. If we don't invest in the creative and illustrative parts of preaching, our messages can become, all too often, forgettable.

For example, in preaching through Colossians, I came across some key phrases in the second chapter: "rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving" (Col. 2:7 NKJV). These words refer to us as plants that are buried in the soil of Christ, and take root before being built up and established as mature plants, or trees. One key for me was the number of times this passage uses the phrase "in Him."

My message was called, "Like an Oak," and drew upon the stately oak tree that flourishes next to our church building. Everyone sees that oak and admires it. It has become a word picture of spiritual growth, as I encourage people to look and learn that being rooted in rich soil, the soil of Christ, produces an incredibly strong tree.

My four points on spiritual growth dynamics came directly out of the text:

1. Growing deep: "rooted"

2. Growing up: "and built up in Him"

3. Growing strong: "and established in the faith"

4. Growing out: "abounding in it with thanksgiving."

Using pictures of trees on a screen, I was able to illustrate each point by talking about trees that demonstrate the truth of the passage. I showed a picture of a tree that had shallow roots and was blown over by the wind to illustrate the need for strong roots. As I spoke on the principle of being "built up" in Him, I referred to Psalm 1 and demonstrated the truths of a person who is planted by the streams of water, growing up with nourishment. A picture of the lowly mesquite tree that happened to have a root system over 250 feet deep illustrated the need to grow strong for the desert times of life. Finally a banyan tree picture demonstrated an unusual tree that could branch out and bring benefit to whole villages, all from one tree growing outward. Trees, trees, trees.

The next day, the e-mails came rolling in. It didn't hurt that the message was preached in the spring of the year. People had been busy working in their yards, planting (of course) trees. Others had been watching the trees bloom, and using an illustration of trees connected with where they were!

Simple, imbedded word pictures that required a few hours of study and a "Google search" for pictures helped provide a memorable message. It would be my prayer that every time our people view that majestic oak near our church, they would be reminded of the principles of spiritual growth that were communicated that day. My prayer is that they will aspire to be mighty, "like an oak," as they grow strong in the Christian life.

John Meador is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Euless, Texas.

2011 Disciple 155x50 2011 AMG 155x50
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