Since I was young, I’ve always loved to tell stories. I love the way that a good story is woven together, with all of the plot twists and turns that, in the end, fit together perfectly.
Storytelling might seem like entertainment, but there is a lot of power in a good story. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the Bible! This book is packed with powerful stories of individuals to whom God was faithful—all woven into a greater story of God’s redemptive plan for the world.
The Plotline of a “God-Story”
I think that Hebrews 11 is a beautiful summary of the stories in the Bible and how they all fit together. Throughout this chapter, (which is often referred to as “Faith Hall of Fame”) the writer shares the stories of individuals throughout the Bible who trusted God. I think that these stories can generally be broken down into this plotline:
1) The Confusing Situation
2) The Decision to Have Faith
3) The Faithful God Comes Through
4) But really, they are looking forward to something greater that no one has seen yet
The decision to trust God in these situations is a tough one to make when you are on the inside of the problem. It’s easy to read Joseph’s story—where in the course of your five minutes of reading, he moves from jail to the second-highest position in the kingdom—and say that Joseph was right to trust God. But there was a long period of time in Joseph’s life where it would have been easy, and it would have seemed to make sense, to quit trusting God. When we come to those times in our life where it makes the most sense to give up, those are the times that it is IMPERATIVE that we choose faith.
Abraham: The Three-Fold Promise
Let’s talk for a moment about Abraham, since he was the first in this long line of people who chose to have faith in God. Abraham received a promise from God that his wife Sarah would give birth to a son in old age and that through this son, he would have numerous descendants—too many to count!
God’s promise is actually threefold. The first promise is that Abraham would have a son. This alone is a huge blessing, and a miracle that Abraham would get to witness. This was a promise that Abraham would get to see in his lifetime. The second promise was the descendants of this son would be too numerous to count, and that they would occupy the land that God showed Abraham. This was a promise that Abraham would not get to see in his lifetime. Despite this, his descendants would be able to see and enjoy this promise in a natural timeframe. They would be able to see that God kept his promise to Abraham. The third part of this promise is something that we often look past when reading this story, but it’s mentioned in Hebrews 11:13-16:
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return Instead, they were longing for a better country–a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
The third part of this promise is what connects all of the stories in the Bible: another city that God is preparing. So this seems to be God’s pattern: He gives us promises for this lifetime that seem impossible. We get to watch them take place and praise God for what He’s done. But the underlying promise, the one that all of these smaller promises feed into, is one that is shared by every member of the faith and that will be jointly experienced by all of us on the day that God chooses to reveal it. This is the New Jerusalem, which is mentioned in Revelation 21. The New Jerusalem is the church in its completed form.
The Church is Our Reward
God has certainly made us promises for this lifetime. But these promises are only a shadow of what’s to come. It’s easy to put our focus on our own personal promises, but it’s more important to look at the big picture: that He is preparing a city for us. We often dismiss involvement in church as something of little importance. We get mad about petty things, we get bored, or we disagree with people, and it causes us to remove ourselves from the building process that God has invited us to be a part of. The reason so many of us struggle with trusting God through hard times—why many of us lack strong faith—is because we place so little value on the reward of our faith.
It’s easy to get caught up in all of the imperfections of the church. You don’t need to look far to find it’s flaws.
It’s impossible for us to truly love the church on our own. But we can ask God for a revelation of His love for the church. I can’t give you this revelation, and you can’t pick it up from someone else—this is something you can only receive from God himself. Once do receive it, something will change in your soul.
You will be more energized for the trials we all must endure. You will watch as your fear and insecurities melt away. You will find this amazing humility that comes from Christ and you’ll find that you LOVE to walk in it. You’ll become less concerned about your own fame and glory and you’ll desire more than anything else to get down in the dirt and work at whatever part of this building process God has given you to do.
Right now, I’m in the middle of watching God write an amazing story in my life. But my story is simply another one of many stories that points to God’s city, the church. If you are yearning for something greater for your life, for an amazing adventure with a perfect plotline, I invite you to stop trying to control your life. Hand it to God and watch in amazement as He pens a story that you could never have imagined on your own.