There is something exciting about the new year. It is a time to reflect on the past year and refocus our life for the coming year. I enjoy taking time each year to pray, reflect, and consider how I might make the new year better. To help with our reflection we started a new sermon series at Grace and Glory entitled Living a Better Story.
We are wired for stories. A great gathering almost always involves telling stories. “Let me tell you about the time Jennifer and I bought a chocolate fountain from the Craigslist killer in the backwoods of Washougal. I thought we were never going to get out of there alive…” You naturally want to hear the rest of the story.
Stories are the most powerful form of communication we have. We love stories because God has wired us to live a great story. Yet, if we are honest, most of us do not live very good stories. For the next four weeks I want to think with you about what it might look like to live a good story.
This week we talked about why our stories stumble and become stories that aren’t worth telling.
Our stories stumble because:
1. We don’t show up for our casting call.
I believe we all have an important part in the story that God is directing. Unfortunately, most people never respond to call to be part of God’s story. God is directing the most compelling and beautiful true story ever told. A story about God’s love and faithfulness. A story of God’s insistence on never giving up on anyone who decides to run away from his home. A story of the reconciliation and renewal of all things through Jesus Christ. You do not want to miss out on being part of God’s story.
As you plan for 2018 consider how you can participate in what God is doing around you.
2. What we want isn’t compelling.
Donald Miller says, “a story is about a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.”
Every great story starts with a great ambition. Donald Miller says, “If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. The truth is, you wouldn’t remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back. But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to feel meaningful.”
So what do you really want?
Most of us are living boring stories because what we want isn’t compelling. It doesn’t motivate us and it surely doesn’t make for a good story. Our stories are being hijacked by many things. For example, one study concluded that they average American living in a city encounters approximately 5000 advertisements a day (Yankelovich Market Research). We are being bombarded with messages and images that tell us to want something. Most of these messages are compelling us to want something that will end up in a garage sale, landfill, or our stomach.
Jesus said, ”Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
Let’s spend 2018 pursing things of eternal value that bring renewal and love to the world around us. Let’s purse dreams for our families, workplaces, neighborhoods, and church that inspire us to change. Let’s purse goals that motivate us to persevere when we encounter conflict. And let’s purse ambitions that drive us to our knees to ask for God’s help.
3. We allow the negative turns in our life to derail our story.
Conflict and suffering is part of every good story. In fact, a story without conflict isn’t worth telling. Now it’s easy to write fictional stories where our characters suffer. It’s much more difficult to walk though conflict and suffering. When we encounter trials we often want to blame someone. Sometimes we blame God.
God is in the business of redeeming bad stories and turning them into good stories. God is not the author of sin and suffering in the world around us. God is the author redemption. God wants to use the negative turns in our story for good.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
What are the negative turns in your story? How could God use the negative turn in your story for good? Ask God to comfort you in your troubles so that you might be a comfort to others.
4. We cast ourselves as the main character in our stories.
It’s easy to make our story about us. Did you ever pretend as a kid that you were a star and all the cameras where on you? As a kid I would often pretend that I was a star basketball player and I was on TV. I’d give the play by play commentary in my back yard. “Game seven, Chicago Bulls verses Detroit Pistons. Chicago is down one with 31 seconds left. Will takes the ball down the court …” You see where this going. I wanted to be the star of the story. The problem is that I make a louse hero for my story. God never designed us to be the hero of the story. Jesus is the hero of the story.
Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Jesus is the only hero who is perfect, who perfectly loved those who he knew would reject him and crucify him. Jesus is the only sufficient Savior for all. Jesus is the only one whom Death could not hold. You and I make great characters in the story “marked out for us.” But we make terrible saviors, terrible rulers over all things, terrible people to look to as an example in all things.
So as you think about the story you will tell in 2018 don’t cast yourself as the main character. Let Jesus be the center and let Him lead you into the joy of playing your part in the big story God is directing.