Stories. They make us laugh, they make us cry, they inspire us and they make us clench our fists in suspense. But can they make us live better lives?
At the beginning of this year, I felt a nudge from God to read some true stories—biographies. Real people and real lives are often more interesting, more inspiring and even more unbelievable than the best stories we can make up.
Reading biographies gives you an aerial view of how God arranges circumstances and makes a life. You can actually see him put the puzzle pieces together. Strengths and weaknesses are out in the open, miracles and mistakes are in plain view, and great lessons are taught that can make your own life better.
Lessons from Real People
I started with a biography of Francis Schaeffer–pastor, theologian, and philosopher from the 1960’s and 70’s. Schaeffer said our final authority is the Bible—which, as Christianity teaches, is the Word of God, and therefore always trustworthy and timeless. If it’s not in the Bible, then it comes from the imperfect mind of man. Not quite as trustworthy. Schaeffer also emphasized our need to practice what we preach, our need to live the Bible’s teachings—love everyone, care about others’ needs and feelings, be humble, etc.
I learned that pride really does go before a fall. He was born wealthy, into a family that had a good reputation and social standing. He was blessed with a great mind, great skill at public speaking, and was a natural leader. At age 20 he actually predicted that he would be prime minister of England someday, believing he was destined for greatness. But with those great advantages came great arrogance. He did become prime minister, but it was 45 years later! He first had to experience failure and rejection, which seemed to smooth out the rough edges of his pride and probably made him the leader England needed during World War II. (http://www.biography.com/people/winston-churchill-9248164)
Martin Luther showed me that sometimes you have to stand alone against a greater force than yourself, which requires a generous mixture of faith and guts. Luther had both, believing—like Schaeffer—that the Bible was God’s unchanging Word. Faith in that Word and in the God behind it gave him the strength and courage to speak the truth and lay his life on the line.
A lot of people are familiar with the name Eric Liddell from the movie Chariots of Fire. In addition to winning an Olympic gold medal for his speed as a runner, he also spent many years as a missionary to China. He died there at the end of World War II, in a Japanese-run prison camp. Those in the camp with him said he was kind to everyone—literally everyone. They describe him as always helping others, always putting others first, and always smiling. In fact, the camp was shocked when he died (of a brain tumor) because up until the end he was still smiling and helpful,despite his pain and weakness. (http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/church-history-for-kids/eric-liddell-greater-than-gold-11634861.html)
A Real Plan
When you read a biography it’s like reading any other story. The characters are introduced, the plot is set in motion, and conflict arises. There might be a time of waiting or enduring. Then the bad guys are defeated, or problems are solved, or great accomplishments are completed, or a noble death or defeat occurs.
Only with a biography, it’s all true. It really happened! And this makes me think of the Master Storyteller—God Himself. It reminds me that he’s in charge and he always has a plan.
Fictional stories are written with characters who make choices to advance the author’s plot. On the other hand, in real life, we are given by God real choices to make. But even in those choices God does have a plan. Nothing surprises him, and no one can force him to change the story.
Sometimes there are plot twists in our lives that may surprise us. We may not like them, but the Master Storyteller has a reason. He will bring everything together in the end in a way that makes sense, in a way that makes us say, “Oh, so that’s why that happened!” He has a plan for each of us—a real, fully thought-out plan. And he has a way of weaving all our individual plans together into one big master plan.
Trust God with your life story. Let him be the author. And if you have any questions about life in general, or your life in particular, come visit us here at First Free. We’d be glad to help you. For real.
About the author
Mike Anderson majored in Bible at the University of Northwestern and has been a student of the Bible his whole adult life. He is newly retired and still learning the ropes. At First Evangelical Free Church he teaches 5th grade Sunday school and co-leads a small group. He enjoys biking, reading, writing, and hiking. Mike and his wife Debbie make their home in Lake Elmo and enjoy having all of their kids and grandkids in the Twin Cities area.