By Rich DuBose Some things never change. Storytelling is as popular as ever. Children still clamor to know what life was like when Dad and Mom were little. And adults like to hear good stories too.
Television derives much of its success from being able to spark our imaginations. There’s something magical about the phrase, "Once upon a time. . ." This hunger feeds a whole industry (Hollywood) that spends millions of dollars each year telling and retelling stories like never before!
Jesus couched His words in stories and parables. He knew truth would find its mark more readily if it was associated with memorable anecdotes. So He used common everyday objects to get people’s attention. Things like salt, water and fire, became vehicles of expression that riveted eternal truths into the minds and hearts of His hearers. For centuries people have been telling and retelling His stories.
Over a period of some 1,500 years, 40 inspired writers put together their composite stories about God. Their narratives are informational, prophetic, personal and universal. But they all speak one language in the end. The Bible gives us a multifaceted picture of what God is like.
Most people think of the Bible as a completed book. We don’t expect anyone to come along and add to Scripture cannon. Yet, there is a sense in which the Bible is incomplete. Before it can be understood by contemporary people it must be translated into their language and personalized.
In his book, Holy Sweat, Tim Hansel talks about the importance of translating theology into biography and defines this as, "meshing our beliefs into everyday life." This means putting flesh on Scripture and letting it breathe. We all struggle with how to do this and sometimes get bogged down in theological quicksand. But we're talking about something more practical.
We understand Scripture best when we see it reflected in the lives of others. Simply put, people need to see and hear your story. They need to know how the gospel [God's story] has impacted your life. Educational psychology teaches that learning is maximized when accompanied by a visual example of what's being taught. Although your story may be incomplete and less than perfect, it can make a positive statement about how God works today.
In Mark 5, we read about a man whom Christ delivered from a legion of evil spirits. After being released, he bowed at Jesus' feet in gratitude. He wanted to be with Jesus! When his fellow citizens came out to see what had happened, they saw "the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind" (Mark 5:19). Before, he had lived like an animal and had frightened everyone who came near his hideout. But Jesus changed all of this, and the people were so afraid of His power they asked Him to leave!
As Jesus was preparing to leave, the healed man wanted to go with Him. But Jesus said no Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." In other words, go tell your story! Jesus knew this man could have a greater influence on his friends and family than He Himself, so He sent him in His place.
One author says, "if we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good we shall have something to tell." It may not be dramatic or highly eloquent, but it will be personal, and it will be ours! Who knows what effect it may have?
Never underestimate the power of a story, especially when it’s about how God can change a life. You’ll be amazed with how He is able to take "Once upon a time . . ." and change it into the present tense.