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A Purpose Runs Through It


One of the most beautiful movies of last year was A River Runs Through It, based upon the novel by the same title. The movie told the story of the Maclean family, who lived in Montana early in the twentieth century. The father of the family was a Presbyterian minister—stern but loving. His wife was supportive and nurturing. They had two sons: the oldest, first-born Norman, who tells the story, and a younger son, Paul.

We meet the Maclean family when the boys are young, squirming in the front row while their father preaches in church. We watch them grow up through childhood, stormy adolescence, and crossing the threshold into adulthood. Norman, the older of the two, is cautious and studious. He eventually goes off to college and becomes a writer and a professor. The younger son Paul is the daredevil, a lady's man, with a quick wit and a winning smile.

These are the characters in the novel, but the real protagonist in the story is the river that runs through their part of Montana. That river becomes the focal point of their family life and the catalyst for everything significant that takes place in their individual lives. It was walking along the banks of that river on Sunday afternoons that the father forged a relationship with his young boys—turning over rocks, teaching them about the world, about life, and about the God who made it all. It was the river that the boys ran to after their studies were over, and sibling rivalry and brotherly affection flourished as they fished for trout together on that beautiful stream.

When it came time for these adolescent boys to prove their moxie, they took a death-defying ride down the rapids in a stolen boat. It was on the river that young Paul made a name for himself ...

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Bryan Wilkerson is pastor of Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts.

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Audio Sample:

Sermon Outline:


I. The world can be awful

II. There's a difference between a reason and a purpose

III. God's purpose will prevail