Sermon Illustrations

Note: this story is told by me - Jim Butcher of Madison WV.

I want to tell you a story about an insight that God gave me into John 14:1-4, the passage where Jesus speaks of going to prepare a place for us. This is the story of something that happened to me several years ago while I was in Guangzhou China.

Karen and I were in Guangzhou to complete our adoption. We went to bed on a Sunday evening with the excitement of knowing that the next day we’d be holding our daughter for the first time. Because of the jet lag we went to bed early each evening. I would then wake up in the middle of the night, unable to go back to sleep. I’d stay up for an hour or two before finally being able to get a couple more hours sleep before morning.

I woke up at 4 a.m. early Monday morning. It was the big day! In several hours we would hold our daughter for the first time. I wrote for a while in a journal I was keeping detailing what was going each day so that Jenna would know what we did on the trip. I read for a while from a book I’d brought. I listened to music on my headphones for a while.

I decided to also read a little in the Bible before going back to sleep. I’m not much of a “flip-it-open-and-read” kind of guy – I’m more of a chapter-by-chapter person – but on this occasion, I opened the Bible and it fell to John 14. I read the first four verses and was overwhelmed by the Spirit. It was one of those rare occasions when the total understanding just came into my head at once. It was not there by my own thinking – it was a gift from God. I saw clearly what the heart of these verses was.

I’m not a crying person, but I was so overwhelmed that I just laid there and wept. It was one of the most powerful spiritual moments of my life.

In those verses Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

There is controversy about the verse 2 reference. Some translations have it as “mansions” that are awaiting us. Others have it as “many rooms” in the Father’s house. Most people prefer the thought of mansions because it seems a better deal. After that 4 a.m. experience, though, I will forever believe that the correct (and better) translation is “rooms.”

Here’s what the Holy Spirit revealed to me in that moment.

We were in China to get our daughter and bring her home – that day, in fact. As you know, international adoption is expensive. Instead of spending all that money to complete the adoption and bring her home, we could have just sent the money and said, “Here’s the cash – you all take care of her.”

But we (as parents will do) did something far more meaningful – we to get her so that we could take her into our home. We were there to say to her, “I want you to come live in my house.”

When we read John 14 and get caught up in thoughts about eternity that focus on heavenly mansions or streets of gold or anything like that, we are totally missing the point. The most amazing thing about eternity is not any of the glorious things that will make up that place. The most amazing thing is that God has looked at us, saved us through Christ, and then said to us, “I want you to come live in My house.”

The glory is that is that we get to live in His house. He has invited us into His home.

This is an amazing gift. What’s more touching and meaningful than for someone to invite you to be a part of their family and come live in their home?

The correct translation is “in My Father’s house are many rooms.” That is also the better translation in terms of what we’re being offered because it means the Father has looked on us and said, “I want you to come live in My house.”

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