Each day we get up, get dressed and bet our life on something. I’m not talking about the dangers of traffic or the structural integrity of bridges. I’m talking about the stories, beliefs or worldviews that each of us carries around in our hearts and minds. We each have an internal story that drives the decisions we make and the way we live.
Sometimes it’s easy to recognize those stories in other people. That dominating driver that cut you off at the highway exit this morning? Maybe her story is: “I have to look out for number one and take what I can get.” The promiscuous roommate who leaps from one meaningless relationship to another? His story might be: “My value is based in others’ opinion of me.” Your substance-abusing sibling? Her whole group of friends seems to subscribe to the motto: “Life is short and meaningless so enjoy it while you can.”
Our world is filled with a variety of stories on which we can build and bet our lives. For starters, everyday we are told by advertisers that this or that new thing will finally make us happy. But is it true that the one who dies with the most toys wins? Or is it true that a simple life is the only real life? Do all stories lead to happiness in this life and the next as long as you believe they are true?
I want to posit that building your life on true stories leads to happiness and peace but betting your life on false stories leads to bondage and destruction. I believe that the stories in your head about how life works and why, DO matter. A lot. I want to exhort you think about the stories that motivate you and to bet your life on God as he is revealed in the stories of the Bible.
Why not look out for number one? Well, God reveals himself in the Bible to us as loving and self-sacrificing, and we are to emulate him. Bible stories of selfish characters, like Cain, don’t end well for the individual or others involved. Unselfish characters like Ruth and Boaz are blessed AND bless others.
Why not locate our value in others’ opinions? The story of Adam and Eve in creation tells us that we are made in God’s image and feel joy only when we are able to walk unguarded with him. Why not live only for today? Jesus tells us directly, “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul” (Matthew 16:26). Such stories show us the truth about how God’s world really runs.
How can you live by these true stories? The first step is to identify the stories on which you are betting your life right now. The second step is to evaluate these stories in light of what the Bible teaches us. The third step is to submit our beliefs and actions to the true stories of the Bible. This takes time, but as you take risks and bet your life on the Bible and its truth you will see these stories ring true and the old lies will begin to seem flimsy and unstable.
Shannon wrote this blog with the help of his friend and ministry partner, Richard Webb, who helps him think about all things theological and philosophical. Richard is a pastor at Hope Lutheran Church in West Des Moines, IA.