Overarching Illustrations . . . .

pencil arch  Span The Message!

In a message titled, “Rafting on the Whitewater of Grace Moving Forward, Part 8 Philippians 1:28-30,” by Stephen Davey, he sets up a beginning illustration about a whitewater trip a missionary kid took in Zimbabwe . . . .

A pastor who grew up as a missionary kid in Africa wrote recently about a trip he took with his brothers to the western edge of Zimbabwe.

Among other things, they planned to go white water rafting on the Zambezi River – a River most famous, because at one point in its journey to the Indian Ocean, it includes the famous Victoria Falls. This pastor and his brothers planned to begin rafting at the base of Victoria Falls.

He writes, “Massive amounts of water spilled over the top of the giant falls and dropped almost 1,000 feet; the roar was deafening.

He explains – Victoria Falls are the largest in the world, more than a mile wide and three hundred feet high, on average. Mist from the spray fills the air like fog and can be seen 50 miles away; the local villagers call it, “Smoke That Thunders.”

The water from the falls rushes down the gorge in torrents, creating the world’s largest rapids. Now in the United States, the highest class rapid you can raft on is a Class 5. The Zambezi’s whitewater rapids can top 7 and even 8.

This trip was not for the faint of heart . . . he explains, “as I sat on the edge of the eight-person raft, all suited up in a tight, overstuffed jacket and a thick crash helmet – I wondered – the Zambezi can’t be that dangerous, can it?”

But then I heard our guide say, “When the raft flips over” . . . wait – he didn’t say, “if the raft flips or, on the off chance we get flipped over,” but “when the raft flips stay in the rough water. You will be tempted to swim toward the stagnate water at the edge of the banks of the river – don’t do it! It’s in the calm stagnate waters at the river’s edge where crocodiles will wait for you. So when the raft flips, stay in the rough water.

— (from — Guide Tells River Rafters: Stay in the Rough Water  http://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2011/july/7072511.html)


Davey then pulls out the point of the story . . . .

This pastor went on to make the application that stagnate waters are deadly and while the church and every Christian might not want to stay in the rough waters of tribulation and suffering when their raft is overturned, and they are spilled into the rough current.

Whitewater is not only God’s design but a sign of God’s protection and a place for the believer’s development.

The rough water is where character and perseverance is strengthened; which is why the believer is to resist the temptation to swim to where it seems safe and calm . . . stagnate waters are where the truly deadly enemies are watching and waiting.


Throughout the message, Davey references those terms and concepts . . . .

whitewater – 10 times

water – 8 times

stagnate – 5 times

safe – 3 times

calm – 3 times

rough – 5 times

stay in the rough waters – 4 times

raft – 15 times


Davey carries the illustration’s initial and driving point throughout the message.  This rhetorical methodology can be laid out with a simple template.


It is not that you or others have never done something like this.  However, it is . . . .

the conscious and purposeful use of this technique that is worth including in your “rhetorical memory banks.”

important to see how any illustration or story can call up words and phrases which flow through the entire message.

valuable to recognize that an illustration can not only be used to clarify or develop a particular point but can be set up to drive a truth or principle throughout the message.

a method to have the illustration overarch the whole sermon.

that the Big Idea can be developed-created from the words/ phrase stated in the illustration or story — “In Trials, Stay In The Whitewater.”


The Template:

 Begin With Your Story Or Illustration

 State The Point (Stay in the rough waters.  Don’t seek the calm and safe banks)

 Pick Out and/or Establish The Key Word(s)/Phrases Which Call Up The Point

 Pepper The Message With Those Key Words/Phrases

 Close Using One Or More Of Those Terms or Phrases

“There’s a genuine believer . . . ready to get on her raft . . . and head out into the whitewater, marked by and guided by and strengthened by the grace of God.”

Link To Full Transcript

Audio Link

One thought on “Overarching Illustrations . . . .

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