As an avid reader one of the things I enjoyed most about decorating my new home was choosing a few books to have pride of place in the, rather minimalist, lounge. There’s my vintage Hemingways, some Shūsaku Endō, Márquez, and a couple of others, people who are amongst the greatest storytellers in the world. Something in the human condition draws us to the power of a good story.
When those are stories of faith from other people, stories about the ways that God has came through for them, something special happens. This shouldn’t surprise us. Over three thousand years ago, the people of Israel were delivered from slavery in Egypt and God told them to institute a feast that would tell the story of their deliverance to the next generation (Exodus 12, particularly 25-27).
When we hear the stories of faith from other people something special happens.
A thousand and some years later, in a small room in Jerusalem, on that very feast, a Rabbi broke bread with His followers. “Every time you break bread together,” He told them, “do it in remembrance of me”. Remember, recall, retell. Passover becomes communion, with the bread and wine representing His body and blood.
Notably absent from this new tradition is the roasted lamb and the bitter herbs, because this Rabbi Himself would be the Lamb and the bitterness of sin is taken away by His sacrifice. And the story continues. One generation to another.
The telling and retelling of stories of God’s faithfulness is a central part of our faith. Eden, Exodus, Exile. The pattern is established. Creation marred and then restored. Every time we tell our own stories of His faithfulness, we’re retelling that same central story.
The telling and retelling of stories of God’s faithfulness is a central part of our faith.
I’ve recently been following a teaching series called Listening to God, from Mountsandel Christian Fellowship in Coleraine. As I listened on Saturday, running through the pouring rain, the preacher started by sharing stories from within the congregation. By this point I was twelve miles in, shivering, soaked to the skin – and yet all I could do when hearing those stories was exclaim, “yes, yes and amen”.
It is so important that every follower of Christ is also a story teller, is a person who carries the story of resurrection to others around them. Our stories are an echo of His faithfulness. As we hear the stories of others our faith grows, and as we declare our stories to the next generation we inspire faith in others.
One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts … They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness.
– Psalm 145:4,6 (ESV)
The continued cycle of telling of God’s faithfulness has great power. We often think of faith as a blind step into the unknown but when we remember the death and resurrection of Christ, and the way that it has outworked in the lives of others, it builds confidence in us that He will come through.
As we grow in faith we gather these stories. I couldn’t help but be struck as I listened to the stories on the podcast by the way they are a kind of currency of faith, a continuing thread that can be used to strengthen our brothers and sisters. I’m listening to the way God came through for a lady in another country, a quarter of a century ago, and yet my faith can’t help but rise. Even before the story is over I know what is coming because I know the character of God is to come through.
Likewise, I don’t believe that God intended any of the suffering I’ve experienced in life, it was not His perfect plan, but in bringing me through things I know He’s left me with a whole pile of stories that testify of His faithfulness. I know that for the rest of my time on earth I get the honour to tell the next generation of what He’s done.
And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
– Revelation 12:11 (ESV)
When the apostle John was on the island of Patmos, he had a vision in which the believers overcame the enemy by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony. By what Christ had done and by their continued telling of what He’d done for them.
There’s great power in your story, please don’t keep it to yourself.