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Mar 10, 2019 | Rob Culler

Made for Your Story

Romans 12:1-2
I am the Church – Part 9

Made for Your Story – March 10, 2019

 

Introduction

          I love stories. I love to hear them. I love to tell them. I think stories are powerful. I think there are lessons taught by stories that we would seldom learn any other way.
          Stories can grab our attention and pull us into their world. They can stir up emotions and even move us to action. It’s hard to beat a good story. That’s one reason I love to read—even more than I like to watch movies.

          I really like movies, but they’re so limited. It’s hard to adequately transfer hundreds of pages into a 2-hour movie. There’s too much cutting that must take place.

          In 1999, Krista and I started reading books with our children before seeing the movie. The first one was Stuart Little. We've done it ever since. I don't think we've ever said the movie was better. Typically, we are pointing out things that were wrong or left out as we are walking to the car. In our estimation, the book is always better.

          Story is powerful…and important. I want to spend a little time today talking about The Story of Your Life.


Finish this phrase for me, "The grass is always greener ______. I figured you'd get it wrong. My  stepfather never said the grass was greener on the other side. He always said, "The grass is greener over the septic tank."

Why would I insert something like that here? Well, how many of us have ever been through a time or season of life when we wished we could live a different story? I think that's a common occurence. However, I think we need to find the value in our own stories and, more importantly, we need to see how God is working in our own stories.

          This is the last message in our current series, “I am the Church.” Next week, we’ll begin a new series, “Expecting Perfection, Accepting Humanity.”

          Let me remind you, one last time, that we are convinced life works best when people live in right relationship with God and with each other. We believe these right relationships are described in five purposes for both life and the church:

  • Worshiping
  • Belonging
  • Growing
  • Serving
  • Sharing

Today, we are wrapping up this series and considering the totality of life in light of these purposes. Let’s begin with the story of your life.

The Story of Your Life

          Simply defined, a story is the telling of a happening or connected series of happenings.

           Stories have three main parts: the character(s), the plot, and the
setting. I’d like to talk about each for a few minutes.

          The plot is the story itself. Closely related to the plot is the idea of conflict, which every story will have. 

  • It may be a difficulty faced by the characters.
  • It may be a problem that needs to be solved.
  • It may be an adventure.

Whatever form it takes, conflict will be present.

          In the story of your life, you can expect conflict. In fact, I’m sure that you have already experienced it: you’ve faced difficulty; solved a problem or two; and experienced adventure.

  • Perhaps you had a difficult time deciding what to wear this morning.
  • Perhaps someone in your family was running late…again.
  • Perhaps you had a fight with a sibling.
  • I’m willing to bet that you’ve known a little conflict in the last week.

 

I want you to know that conflict will never end. That’s good news, huh? Think of it two different ways.

  • FIRSTThere will be difficulties and problems in life; expect them and embrace them.
    • It’s amazing how today’s obstacles often prepare you for tomorrow’s opportunities.
    • Life will not always go your way. Get used to it. Learn from it. Grow from it.
    • God doesn’t waste the experiences of life. In fact, he wants to put them to use.
      • The best stories often include this reality, been there, done that, overcame it with God’s help.
      • Those are the experiences and parts of our stories that God wants to use so that we can serve other people.
    • For many of us, there are parts of our stories we wish didn’t exist.
      • We’d like to erase them.
      • Or, we’d like to tear those pages out and pretended they never happened.
      • Those kinds of things are exactly the kind of raw material God uses best.
      • The most moving stories in life are not centered around a person’s strengths or easy victories. They are centered around overcoming conflict and weakness.

 

  • SECOND—Since conflict will never end, we can that life is an adventure.
    • Let’s look at that word for a moment. Adventure is defined as...
      • an exciting or very unusual experience
      • a bold, usually risky, undertaking with an uncertain outcome
    • There are some wonderfully descriptive words in those definitions:
      • exciting
      • unusual
      • risky
      • uncertain
    • Life is all those things…and more.
      • Life will be filled with moments of excitement—enjoy them.
      • Life will involve the unusual—go with it. Perhaps we can call those things “plot twists.”
      • Life will ask you to take risks—evaluate them…and then jump in when it’s right.
      • Life will be uncertain—again, expect the unexpected.

          Only a portion of your story that has been written. The story will continue to unfold one day at a time, and it will be interesting to see how the plot unfolds.

          Now, let’s consider setting for a few moments. Setting is where a story takes place. Since our lives are more like novels than short stories, they will most likely play out in more than one place.

  • My story has unfolded in five states: Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana. If I were to count the towns instead of states, the number would be 10.
  • Each of those settings has contributed to my story and helped make me the person I am today.

 

This morning, you’re in Midlothian…or maybe Frostburg…depending on where you get your mail. Where did you live when you came home from the hospital? Where did you live in your 20s? 30s? 40s? 50s? 60s? 70s? 80s? 90s?

          Setting is important because some parts of the plot can only unfold in certain places.

  • We have a family member who wanted to be a marine biologist.
  • She grew up not far from Trinity.
  • Frostburg State does not offer a degree in marine biology.
  • She moved to Texas to attend Texas A&M.
  • After she finished her studies, she served as a resident biologist on boats fishing out of Dutch Harbor, Alaska—boats like the ones you may have seen on the TV show Deadliest Catch.
  • Her “story” could only unfold that way if the setting were changed.

 

In addition to the places you’ve lived, the places you’ve worked have been settings with the larger setting. They too have shaped you in many ways.

Now, let’s talk about the character in your story. This is the most important part. You see, without a character, plot and setting mean nothing.

I tend to see characters two different ways—either deep or shallow. The depth of life has much to do with whether we pay attention to all the facets of life—mental, physical, spiritual, social—or just pay attention to those parts that are easiest and afford the most instant gratification.

          We must remember that God’s ultimate goal for our lives is character development, not comfort. We also need to remember that he has a standard, he wants to develop the character of Christ in us.

God created us to be wonderfully complex people and he left no detail to chance. King David penned these beautiful words: (Psalm 139:13-16, NLT)
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed
.

          Do you recall these words from The Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not about you. The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.[1]

          Your story may be new to you every day, but it isn’t new to God. He knew what was coming today and he knows what is coming tomorrow.

  • He wants you to learn to worship him wherever you are.
  • He wants you to both belong to his family and to represent it well.
  • He wants you to grow in your relationship with Christ.
  • He wants you to serve each other.
  • He wants you to share about Christ so that others can come to know him as Savior.

These things are always being worked out within the context of the story of our lives. Sometimes, we get it right and sometimes we screw it up royally. Sometimes, we think God is close and sometimes we think he’s given up on us. But listen to these two portions of Scripture:

  • God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5, NIV)
  • And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6, NIV)

Don’t give up on yourself. Don’t give up on your story…but don’t insist on writing it alone. Give God creative control. Let me leave you with these words from the Apostle Paul: So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
(Romans 12:1-2, The Message)

Prayer


[1] Warren, Rick. 2002. The Purpose Driven Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, p. 5.

 

Series Information

As a building, a church is just a mass of steel, concrete, and wood. It’s just a building, nothing more, nothing less. What a building a church is the people who choose to show up and “be the church.” 

If I am the church, then I love God, love people, and I am a disciple who is making disciples.