In today’s New Testament lesson, Paul and his companions are in Pisidian Antioch on one of their missionary journeys, and they are invited to speak in the local synagogue. So, for the next 25 verses or so, Paul proceeds to tell the story of how God had been at work in the history of His people; culminating in the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus (see Acts 13:16-41). This perspective on how everything fits together is so compelling that the scriptures report: “As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath…On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.” (Acts 13:42;44).
What’s the story of how God has been at work in your life? And how do you understand The Story that explains why we’re here, what’s gone wrong, and how it will all turn out?
In his wonderful little book Epic: The Story God Is Telling and the Role That Is Yours to Play, Pastor John Eldredge reminds us of the power of a good story. “Story is the language of the heart,” he says. And yet, the problem for many of us is that “life feels like a movie we’ve arrived at forty-five minutes late…We find ourselves in the middle of a story that is sometimes wonderful, sometimes awful, often a confusing mixture of both, and we haven’t a clue how to make sense of it all.”
The good news, of course, is that even in our confusion — the True Story about our lives continues to call out to our hearts. “I want you to notice,” Eldredge says, “that all the great stories pretty much follow the same story line. Things were once good, then something awful happened, and now a great battle must be fought or a journey taken. At just the right moment (which feels like the last possible moment), a hero comes and sets things right, and life is found again…Have you ever wondered why? Every story, great and small, shares the same essential structure because every story we tell borrows its power from a Larger Story, a Story woven into the fabric of our being…There is a Story written on the human heart.”
Of course, the challenge for all of us — even those of us in the church — is learning how to pay attention to the true plot line of that Story, because there are plenty of misguided souls (including pastors like me) who are peddling adulterated versions of it. But as for the beginning of the Story and its implications, I’m on board with what Eldredge has to say:
“Christianity, in its true form, tells us that there is an Author and that He is good, the essence of all that is good and beautiful and true, for He is the source of all those things. It tells us that He has set our hearts’ longings within us, for He has made us to live in an Epic. It warns that the truth is always in danger of being twisted and corrupted and stolen from us, because there is a Villain in the Story who hates our hearts and wants to destroy us. It calls us up into a Story that is truer and deeper than any other, and assures us that there we will find the meaning of our lives.
What if all the great stories that have ever moved you, brought you joy or tears — what if they are telling you something about the true Story into which you were born, the Epic into which you have been cast?”
John Eldredge, Epic (Nelson Books, 2004), pp. 14-15.
May you be caught up in God’s Story today, and may His promise of a joyful conclusion give you strength for every challenge.