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How God Used a ‘Dead in the Water’ Sermon

One afternoon while walking through the Norfolk General Hospital, Dr. Hugh Litchfield heard his name being called from across the lobby. As a man approached, he asked; “Hi, Dr. Litchfield, remember me?”

About 10 years earlier the young man had visited the church where Dr. Litchfield was serving. He was facing possible jail time over tax violations. This had led to alcohol dependency, which had in turn jeopardized his marriage and his relationship with is children. His life was in a desperate shape.

Dr. Litchfield explains the interaction in his book Visualizing the Sermon:

He then said to me in that lobby, "I want to thank you." "For what?" "One Sunday you preached a sermon about taking responsibility for our lives, not to blame what we become on somebody else. God used that sermon to speak to me. That afternoon I got down on my knees and prayed to God and promised to take responsibility for my life. With God's help, I did. Since that time, life has been great. I got out of trouble with the IRS, I became the master over the bottle, my marriage is better than ever. I want to thank you."

As he left me standing there, I was overwhelmed by what he had told me. . . When I went back to the office, I dug down into my sermon files to get out that sermon that had meant so much to him. Early in my ministry, on Monday morning I would jot down a phrase or two at the top of my sermon manuscript as to how I felt the sermon had gone on Sunday. For that sermon, I glanced at what I had written. "Dead in the water! No one listened! A waste of time!"

Dr. Litchfield concludes, “I have learned something along the way. If we offer faithfully to God what we have, somehow it will be used in magnificent ways. We must never underestimate what God will do with what we give.”


Hugh Litchfield, Visualizing the Sermon: Preaching Without Notes (CSS Publishing, 1996)

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