Today’s Illustration: “I’m Joseph”

Screen Shot 2021-03-19 at 10.06.32 AM When: March 2021 — Reunion 35 Years Later

What: May 18, 1986 — The family boat capsized at sea, resulting in the death of all but one 9-year-old family member.

Where:  Catalina Island, California

Who: “2 Die, 3 Lost — but Girl, 9, Survives Capsizing of Pleasure Boat in Sea,”

Thomas Rodriguez, 30 years old
Petra Rodriguez — 29-years old and pregnant.
Desireé, Rodriguez, now 44,
Trisha – Desiree’s 5-year-old sister
Desiree’s grandparents — Corinne & Alan  Wheeler — 33 and 34) sister of Thomas / Desiree’s aunt and uncle
Rescuers: Mark Pisano & Paul Strasser – both 23 years old


  • Family fishing expedition
  • Husband, father, and brother — Thomas Rodriguez, 30 years old
  • Aboard a 28-foot pleasure boat named “DC Too.”
  • A dense fog had rolled in, and their boat had then capsized.
  • Paul Strasser and Mark Pisano were new to captaining a ship and had  pushed off from San Pedro at 6 am, with 35 passengers aboard their homemade boat named ” First String.”

Key Biblical Ideas:

  • tragic
  • accident
  • death
  • family
  • responsibility / feeling responsible
  • unexpected / unplanned
  • saved alive
  • hope / hopeless
  • help / helplessness
  • rescue / rescuers
  • providence  / miracles
  • say not we will today or tomorrow
  • witnessing
  • “I’m Joseph.”
  • works together for good
  • someday I’m going to look back on all this and think / say / feel

Key Words & Phrases:

  • “Get out of the boat. The boat’s sinking!”
  • ““I’ll be back,”
  • “My dad was like the superhero to me. I actually thought he would get help,”
  • “I think we were all just kind of in disbelief, and just waiting [for help to arrive ]”
  • “We were going to try one more spot and then go home . . . But”
  • “We kind of still had hope . . . Like, we’re going to be OK. We’re going to come out of this.”
  • ““He just kind of gave up,”
  • “she was alone in the ocean.”
  • “Strasser sat behind the wheel, which was set to autopilot.”
  • “I had even hoped that my dad did make it somewhere,”
  • guided constantly by the question, “What would my parents expect of me?”
  • “We’ve got to finish this story!”
  • “I’m Desireé,”

Sermonic Example:

The account states . . . .

“She had been drifting in the cold Pacific water for a night and most of a day.

Kept afloat by her orange life jacket and the bow of her family’s capsized boat, 9-year-old Desireé Rodriguez had watched helplessly as one family member after another let go of life.

First her mother began foaming at the mouth and then went still. Her 5-year-old sister died soon after. Her uncle went next, followed by her aunt.

Now she was alone, with no idea where her father was. He’d been at the helm during what started as a routine fishing excursion on the family’s boat. Soon after it flipped over, miles from land, he had insisted on trying to swim for help through the dark and thick fog.

Just as Desireé, too, began to give up, the skipper of a commercial sportfishing boat spotted an orange smudge bobbing in the water through his binoculars. Within minutes, the boat’s first officer had leapt into the water and was grabbing Desireé’s life jacket, pulling her back toward the boat — and toward life.

The crew radioed the Coast Guard, then transported the girl back to San Pedro, where medics wheeled her off the boat in a stretcher. That was the last time the rescuers and the girl saw one another. Until this year.”

What had happened?
(include the details you find useful) . . . .

Now listen to these words, spoken by ______, because they reflect how people think / or how God works / or how alone we can feel when / / / / / / Here is what she said . . . . .

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Four Ways To Use An Illustration:

Previously, I had laid out three different ways to use an illustration.  Today, I am adding a fourth because of the way such an illustration was used by Steven Smith [1].

#4) — The fourth way to use an illustration is to have it set up your APPROACH!

If you were using this illustration that way, after laying out the story (as you choose whatever details you select), you would say something like . . .

You see, were I to just read the headlines, or read the article’s hook in the introductory paragraphs, every one of us would say — “Well, what happened.  What lead to that situation, outcome, tragedy?”  Knowing about the singular rescue of a nine-year-old is good news, but that doesn’t end our curiosity about what happened.  Likewise, when you read a Bible passage that is focused on the outcome, you still want to know more.  Hebrews 11 is the hook — it tells us the end of the story, but it is as one knows and understands the fullness of the account that Hebrew’s few verses on this-or-that event become even more remarkable.

That is what we are going to do this morning — we are going to read the verses in Hebrews 11 about ______, and then show how remarkable it was that _____ was able to walk by faith.   We are going to go see “Where The Past Begins.”


When that fact is revealed, what is happening is totally reinterpreted.   When they then realize that they are speaking to the very person they lost contact with — after 35 years — they read all that has happened during their interview differently.  You have to know what is really happening to understand the “interview.”  Let’s look at Joseph’s account facing and talking to his brothers after all these years!

NOTE: again, it is not the use of the actual account which is used to illustrate a biblical truth or point, but a means of setting up the approach of the sermon.

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PDF of full article

1. If you would like to listen to a creative way to use an illustration, and this account, here is the link – or the Easter Video 04/12/2020!  Steven Smith is one of the most effective preachers I listen to on a regular basis.

The story, not the details of the story, are not part of his sermon.
He is using the story to set up his approach!

It is not the story or any of our keywords or key phrases that become part of the sermon, but Pastor Smith sets up the need to know the back-story if you are going to understand the ending.  Pastor Smith is setting up his approach!  He is laying out why he going to do what he is going to do, why he is going to begin in Genesis — to understand the conclusion of what has happened — the divine rescue through the resurrection — you have to go back to the beginning of the story.

Notice how he keeps connecting the parts and pieces as he moves through the story.  He has included parts and pieces that will be connected to what he will say later on about the plan.

Other Approach Examples:

1 – Steven Smith’s Approach — the back story is what gives us the reason, the fullness of the reason for why the resurrection matters

2 – It is the clarity that is provided and made the difference when you know . . .

3 – It is the rest of the facts that changed the opinions of those listening / reading / watching  / jurors (i.e. a true court case)

4 – When you are told what the difference is, you read the account differently.  The difference is that he was that it was their father who told them. . . . That changes the way we read the account and in the Bible there are facts, which when included change the way we read the passage.

5 – Change that word, or this-or-that detail, and it is all seen in a different light.

6. When that fact is revealed, what is happening is totally reinterpreted.

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