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As we explore what it means to live God’s ‘story,’ I propose two problems and a solution.

Problem #1

We don’t know God’s ‘story’. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say most of us know little about God’s ‘story.’ By comparison, we do know a lot about other stories.

The Lord of the Rings is one of the best-selling novels ever written, with over 150 million copies sold.[1] Actually, it’s a series of three novels: The Fellowship of the Ring, followed by The Two Towers, and reaching the climax and resolution in The Return of the King.

Having read the series and watched the movies, I cannot imagine only reading the last thirdThe Return of the King. Even though it may be the most satisfying, how can we understand it without the first two-thirds? The audience would be plagued with questions: Who is the king? Where did he come from? And why is he important? What are the rings? Who is Sauron, or Gandalf, or Gollom? What is a Hobbit, an Orc, or a Nazgul?

This is not unlike the Bible. Of course, I am not comparing the content of the Holy Scriptures to a work of fantasy fiction. However, how many of us only read the New Testament (NT)?

The NT is the last third of the Bible. Although it is the climax and resolution of the ‘story,’ what about the first two-thirds?

By ‘story,’ I do not mean fiction. For example, if I asked you, “What’s your ‘story’?” you would select and arrange various people, places, and experiences from your life and tell me who you are. I use ‘story’ in this sense— selected events, characters, locations, and experiences woven together to tell us something about God’s salvation history with humanity.

Reading the NT is similar to only reading The Return of the King. You miss the first 70% of the ‘story.’ As a result, many unanswered questions limit your understanding: Who is the King? Where did he come from? And why is he important? What are sacrifices, and why are they important? Who are the Samaritans, and why are they disdained? Who were Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, and other important historical figures? And so it goes.

Not only do many ignore the first two-thirds of the Bible, but they also do not read much of it at all.

Recently, Faith Today reported that “since 1996 there has been a dramatic decline in regular Bible reading (from 28% reading at least weekly to just 11%) ... . Specifically, only 5% of Canadians report reading the Bible daily, just 14% at least once a month, and weekly Bible reading is down by 60%.” [2]

Similar statistics prevail in the United States, Australia-New Zealand, and Europe.

Not knowing God’s ‘story’ results in another problem.

Problem #2

We do not live in God’s ‘story,’ or at least, most of us do not live in it very much. As we will see, there is a direct relationship between knowing God’s ‘story’ and living in it.

Most of us have experienced what it is to be drawn into a story. We watch a good movie or read a well-crafted novel, and suddenly, we realize we have climbed inside and find ourselves living there.

There is a sense in which we all live our lives in a ‘story’ of some kind. Each ‘story’ has its plot, values, goals, and purpose. Examples of such ‘stories’ include the American Dream, “Goth,” or whatever.

How does it work?

With the American Dream, for instance, there is a general plot of “rags to riches,” a story of success and prosperity.

This plot dictates values that include hard work, economic prudence, and wealth accumulation.

In turn, these values result in certain attitudes and behaviors:

  • how time is used (e.g., “time is money”);
  • how wealth is acquired and used (e.g., “it’s mine; I’ll use it the way I want”);
  • how other people are treated (e.g., are they hardworking, incapable, or poor);
  • even how God is imagined (e.g., “if I live ‘right,’ god will give me health and wealth”).

I may be overstating things a bit— but you get the idea. The ‘story’ a person chooses to live in shapes how that person lives.

What about God’s ‘Story’?

If we do not know God’s ‘story,’ how can we live in it? And there is the problem.

Solution #1 – Getting to know the ‘story’

As we know God’s ‘story’ better, we will live in it better.

Ed Stetzer, a research professor, puts it this way:

There is much research that shows the correlation between spiritual maturity and reading the Bible. In Brad Waggoner’s book The Shape of Faith to Come, which is based on a LifeWay Research study, and in George Guthrie’s Read the Bible for Life material, we see that reading the Bible is the best predictor of spiritual maturity. In other words, if you are in the Bible, you are growing spiritually.[4]

 Followers of Jesus are called to live in God’s ‘story.’ As we listen to or read the Bible, we begin hearing, seeing, and touching that ‘story’— and it is not long before we climb into it and start living there, adopting its perspectives, values, and attitudes toward all things and all people.

We get a sense of the plot: God is at work reconciling humanity to Himself. We recognize what is happening to people as they live their imperfect lives.

We discern God’s values and goals: hearts and lives become clean, free, and joyful in a renewed relationship with the Creator through Jesus Christ.

We experience his purpose: forgiven people becoming more and more like Jesus Christ.

As we live in that ‘story,’ we begin to find that our thoughts, words, and behavior are shaped by that ‘story’— shaped to the extent that we find ourselves desiring to ‘walk’ as Jesus ‘walked’ (1 John 2:6). The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) becomes less a fanciful, unreachable, unreasonable standard for super-saint-like living and more an expression of real Kingdom life ‘here and now.’ 

Where to from here?

In the next post, we will explore a practical way of getting to know the ‘story.

Until then, I recommend you pick up a Bible and read it like any other book. Choose a translation or version that is in the language you know. If it is English, perhaps read or listen to the New International Version, the New Living Translation, or the English Standard Version. If the language of your heart is another language, read it in that language, whether it is Chinese, Spanish, or some other language. Contact me if you need to find a Bible in another language. You can use this link.

“Where should I start?”

Well, why not start at the beginning—Genesis 1, page 1? For the next week, read a few chapters or just one a day. Perhaps you can do it with a friend or family member for mutual encouragement and accountability. 

In the next post, I will map out the Historical Backbone of the Bible— a shortened format to get the gist of the ‘Story.’ You get a head start by downloading the free resource “Introducing the Historical Backbone of the Bible.”

FORWARD TO the next post in this series                    

[1] Vit Wagner, “Tolkien Proves He’s Still the King,” Toronto Star April 16, 2007.

[2] See May/June 2014, pages 49-50.

[3] The link no longer exists for Barna Research Online, “Religious Beliefs Vary Widely by Denomination,”
June 25, 2001; Barna Research Online,

[4] See the full article at Emphasis mine.

Photo credit:  The Lord of the Rings is a trademark of the Saul Zaentz Company d.b.a. Middle-earth Enterprises (“SZC”) under license to New Line Productions, Inc. © 2011 New Line Productions, Inc.  

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