The Stories We Tell

I’m a talker and that is an understatement. I have a lot of words that tend to be downloaded on the first person I really want to “connect” with relationally. The thing about connection, however, is that it implies a two way exchange. My one way dumping of thoughts, stories, experiences and monologue reveals that the other person involved is really only as necessary as their fascination and delight in all that I am “sharing” with them.

I attended a ministry presentation the other night of an organization I really like. But the entire time I was there, the stories were about the people who were serving, how they were change makers, how they had blessed this town and that person and how we too should consider doing big things for God. This came on the heels of my reading a charge from a Christian author to “start living in such a way that we could hope to hear God tell us ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant!'”

Am I suggesting that we shouldn’t? Not necessarily, but I do find it interesting that while Jesus and God are mentioned as the ones we are doing it for, there is little other mention of their work in these stories. The stories, like mine in my own living room, are all about the things the storyteller accomplished or said or observed. But, I never heard how the person and work of Jesus was necessary for the actual accomplishment.

How did God change the heart of the storyteller through this experience? What did they begin to believe about God through this ministry that they had not really believed before? How did these events and projects show them more of their need for His grace and how did His grace cover that need and effect genuine change? How did their ministry increase reliance upon the person and work of Jesus and decrease reliance upon self? What insufficiencies in their own character, vision, understanding, relationships, abilities were exposed by this experience and then releived by the sufficiency of His grace? 2 Corinthians 12:9

Without the person and work of Jesus, (the only person and work for whom “Well done my good and faithful servant” ultimately applies because He is the only one able to say, “It is finished!”), the only counsel being offered from one believer to another is “do what I did” or “do more and try harder!” Am I still working to hear God say “well done” about my efforts and achievements, or do I believe Paul when he said that “in Him we live and move and have our being?” (Acts. 17:28) Do I believe that it is God who works in me to will and to act according to His good purpose (Phil. 2:13) or do I really think I’m acting independently and surprising Him with helpfulness for His Kindgom? God made Him who had no sin become sin so that I may become His righteousness.

My story can either highlight His willing me to act (which means overriding mine) and His acting in me for His good purpose, because every particle of my being and moving and living is now to be hidden within the completed work of Jesus, or my story can tell of my will, my acting, and the apparent bonus righteousness I expect to receive on top of what has already been secured and promised me in Christ Jesus. Is there bonus righteous in addition to what Jesus earned from fulfilling every letter of the law and crediting it to us?

Oh would I, would we as believers, begin to see God as the author and perfecter of faith and not our own wills and works.

These are the kinds of stories (those of God’s authoring and perfecting) that require a group telling and actually build faith because its in relationship that we see the heart changes God is most interested in working. Maybe the tale won’t be about the house I built for the poor family but will be my friend telling how I was more pleasant to work with because God had changed my need to micromanage or had made me more patient or less irritable when frustrations occured on the work site.

“Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The LORD has done great things for them.'”Psalm 126:2

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

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