Stories fascinate me. I like to read them, hear them, see them and tell them. I also like to talk about them with others. On one afternoon, when some young friends and I were discussing the book by C.S. Lewis, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” we were proverbially kicking around the elements that make up a story: the setting, plot, and theme. When we came to “setting” (or “time and place of the story”), we talked at length about how the setting at the beginning of the book began in England (during World War II) and then shifted to the snowy landscape of the perpetual winter of Narnia. We thoroughly explored to how the setting in the story not only allowed for the tremendous events that followed to take place but how the author deliberately used the setting as a tool to launch his story.
My friends waxed eloquently on the various insights that they had gleaned from their reading of the first few chapters, pointing out that the four young protagonists would never have begun their journey into adventure and become the heroes that they were destined to be had there not been Nazi bombing raids taking place in London. Neither would they have discovered the marvelous grace of Aslan (the character representing Jesus Christ) had they not been sent to that old mansion with long and creepy corridors and mysterious empty rooms. And but for the rainy day on their first day there (much of England being rainy much of the time) there may not have been the discovery of the magical wardrobe that silently waited for the chance to open the way to a new world.
But since the author knew where he wanted to go in his story, he knew what it would take to tell it, and what would have to happen to bring all the right ingredients into the mix along with all the right conditions for the unfolding of the tale.
We talked then about how it seems that God is also telling a story and that He is constantly establishing the necessary settings to continue His tale of love and righteousness. Since that conversation, I’ve only grown in the conviction that it is so.
Consider first how the setting of Jesus’ earthly ministry is ideal for the events leading up to His submitting Himself to the cross for our sake. The Law, although perfectly upholding the holy and righteous standards of God, could not change the nature of the human heart: generations upon generations of sliding into idolatry had given testimony to that fact. Legalistic oppression under the Sanhedrin and the military and political oppression under Rome had so exhausted people who could barely remember their divinely bestowed identity that they were spiritually famished. Because of all these things, and countless more, people needed the infusion of a grace so radical and so thorough that it would do far more than save people from their circumstances but would pierce their hearts and pave the way for God Himself to enter in. People needed a Savior.
So Jesus came and lived among us, teaching and healing, loving the unloved. He was rejected and despised; He suffered and died. And then He rose again, demonstrating for all who place their faith in Him that He alone holds the keys to death and life. This is the story God told and is still telling today.
“(Let us fix) our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 NAS).
Now consider how that we ourselves are in the ongoing saga of God’s story, having been placed in settings that are necessary for us each to be the unique creation God intends us. Our afflictions, our burdens, our handicaps can each somehow contribute to an effect in and through us that could not be realized except that we endure and persevere through faith in Christ.
You are a part of God’s story of love. What tale will now be told in your part of this cosmic drama that is still unfolding? Are you a protagonist, embracing God’s will for your life, becoming all that God desires as He transforms you through His Word, prayer, and fellowship with other Christians? Are you contributing your unique gifts and letting God harvest through your life the kind of fruit that endures?
“We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:28-31 ESV).
Consider well your setting, the circumstances surrounding your life, and prayerfully ask the Lord how He wants you to respond. Let His working in your life transform you into the protagonist, the Christ-like hero that your family, your church, and your community need. Make room in your heart for His Holy Spirit to pour out love, grace, forgiveness, courage, vision, hope, and joy in you and through you. The world needs heroes today. Be one who answers God’s call!
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 23 ½ years, is the author of Led by Grace, The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org).