Before I suggest how story fits in sharing our faith. I think it’s important to think about the goal of our faith. Take a look at 1 Peter 1:8-9. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
The goal of our faith is the salvation of our souls—not just mine but yours too. We’re all in the same boat when it comes to where we start on the path to redemption. And it’s in that redemption, through Christ, that God is making all things new—restoring the imago Dei, or image of God, in the things that have been created for God’s glory.
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. Romans 3:23-24.
Donald Miller has a great understanding of story and how it helps us reach our goals—ours being the salvation of our souls, through the work of Christ. Miller writes in his blog why many goals don’t get met. “It’s because their goals aren’t embedded in the context of a narrative.”
In his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, you would see that he has reorganized his life into stories rather than goals. He mentions that he likes goals and sets them but notes this: “Without an overarching plot, goals don’t make sense and are hard to achieve. A story gives a goal a narrative context that forces you to engage and follow through.”
For example, I could set a goal to go without coffee and soda for a year. It’s a good goal. My blood sugar would love me for it, but knowing me, I would fail superbly. But if I put my goal into the context of a story, I might be able to do it. Let’s say giving up caffeine consumption for a year would save me around $500 a year—$500 is about half the money it takes to give $50 a month to the International Justice Mission (lawyers and caregivers who fight for the cause of the oppressed) for a yearly commitment to being a freedom partner. Let’s say I found a friend who also had this same passion. We decide, together, to save every penny we would spend on beverages for this cause in 2011 to raise the $1,000 to be partners in rescuing the oppressed. In this context, I wouldn’t fail—because the story gives life and meaning to the goal.
God knew we needed a story. God knew the importance of inspiring the writers of the Bible to preserve the details—we needed to know. Why? Because we needed to know reason we need redemption in the first place; we needed to know the depth of God’s love and sacrifice so we could then live in response to it. It changes the way we look at our goals.
When Jesus responded to the learners’ question about the most important way to live, he ranked loving God with our entire beings and loving our neighbors together as number one. He set a goal. He was telling his disciples the way to follow him. But he also gave them a great story to live in—sharing in his glorious riches through trials and temptations. He gave them the big picture.
Sharing our personal stories with others is the natural extension of the story Jesus told with his life. It’s easier to tell others how much God loves them when we give them the context of how God has loved us. The journey we’ve experienced with God foreshadows what could happen in someone else’s life. The story gives meaning to the sharing of our faith.
Jesus left his earthly story here with us when he gave us the gift of the Spirit. The story of redemption is alive and being played out in our journey. Sharing our stories not only plays a part in sharing our faith; it is how we impart the gospel to others. The Israelites looked back to the Exodus. We look back to the resurrection of Jesus and are able to say he has rescued us from sin and so many other things. Those “things” are our stories—the context of our being rescued—and those stories are compelling and rich and personal. At the same time, those personal stories are collective in the body and useful for the edification and encouragement of the people.
Most people want to be free. Most people want to be forgiven. Most people want to know what it feels like to experience unconditional love. Hearing how you’ve experienced all of these things may just be the bridge to their own stirring and curiosity for God. And in the midst of the telling, we find the gentle and prevenient grace of God doing the important work of love in our hearts.