Why living in the Larger Story matters
I wonder if anyone these days, including me, takes seriously a rarely quoted verse from the Bible: “…if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world”. So many sermons and books and conferences seem to focus on how Christians can live for God and trust in God in a way that will win God’s favor in their lives. And “favor” usually is presented as having to do with God’s blessings in this life, blessings such as a solid marriage, responsible children, meaningful work, good health, and, if you’re a Christian in ministry, satisfying success. No one who enjoys those blessings – and I enjoy most of them – will invoke pity from anyone.
In terms of this life’s blessings, Paul was seemingly not so favored. Writing to Christians who were enjoying what most of us think of as the good life, Paul said this: “You think you are already rich… I sometimes think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor’s parade, condemned to die. We have become a spectacle to the entire world… Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools”; those words come from 1 Corinthians 4: 8-10. The ones quoted above can be found in 1 Corinthians 15: 19 (both in NLT).
Among others one thing is clear: maturity in Christ does not guarantee blessings from Christ that are designed by Him to make our lives comfortable. But today’s version of the prosperity gospel, perhaps better labeled as the “blessed life” gospel, has come up with a variety of ways to pray, of promises to claim, of morality to live, and of spiritual practices to do that will apparently persuade God to open the windows of heaven and give Christians a happy healthy experience in this life, virtually problem free; and when problems do arise, we can expect better times coming.
Christianity was once viewed as a guaranteed hope of eternal life in heaven that freed us to live with one goal, to delight our Father and love like Jesus in dependence on their Spirit. Somehow along the way we’ve changed our understanding. The BIG SHIFT has occurred. A doctor’s check-up? Count on good news as you pray. A troubled marriage? A Christian counselor will guide you toward restored intimacy to enjoy. A lost job? Trust the God who only closes one door to open a wider one.
Our Christian culture, with few but notable exceptions, is now focused on the smaller story of our lives, the story that begins at our birth and ends at our death. But the good news of Jesus includes the promise of “many troubles and sorrows” during the years of our smaller story (see John 16: 33 NLT). That’s good news? Yes, but only when we become aware of the Larger Story God is telling.
The Father’s story is designed to form us into the likeness of Jesus, who trusted His Father’s goodness during tough times, even during the agony in Gethsemane and on Calvary, not without profound struggle but with unwavering confidence in the goodness of the story His Father was telling. And He knew that the outcome of God’s Larger Story, an eternity of endless joy in a world where everything was made new, was worth the struggle required to do what mattered most, to delight the Father and to experience the joy of Jesus.
The time has never been more in need of a renewed focus on God’s Larger Story, a Big Shift backwards to the Good News made possible by the Cross of Christ, and a way to live sustained by the anticipation of the Coming of Christ. LARGER STORY is a ministry designed to do exactly that, to shift our focus back to what God is doing in us and through us in the good times and bad times of life, and back to living in glad anticipation of the never ending good times. And only as we more clearly realize what defines God’s beauty and learn, not merely to glance at it occasionally but gaze on it continually will we long to join His story. God’s beauty is ours to enjoy even now as we live in a world soon to be destroyed then rebuilt to eternally reflect His unblemished beauty.
Listen to Peter. As an old man after years earlier leaving a pleasant life as a fisherman and now knowing he would soon die a death by crucifixion promised by Jesus, Peter wrote this:
“…when the Day of God’s Judgment does come, it will be unannounced, like a thief. The sky will collapse with a thunderous bang, everything disintegrating in a huge conflagration, earth and all its ways exposed to a scrutiny of Judgment. Since everything here today might well be gone tomorrow, do you see how essential it is to live a holy life?… So… since this is what you have to look forward to, do your very best to be found living at your best” (2 Peter 3: 10-14 MSG).
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are worthy of pity, not envy. But if these short years are followed by severe judgment on this world that ushers in an eternity of perfect joy in perfect relationship in a perfect world in the presence of our perfect Savior, then living now to reveal the God whose heart designed the Larger Story is the only life worth living. Learn about God’s loving plan for you, now and forever, to live in hope-filled community, through LARGER STORY.