Everyone loves a good story. It’s what drives us to stay up longer at night than we intended—binge watching or binge reading—and there’s something about stories, no matter the genre, that attracts us. The truth is, we’re all living a story right now.
For some of us we’re in a season of drama, for others maybe a romantic comedy, but regardless, we’re all in the middle of our stories. Over the next several weeks, we’re going to look at how Jesus’ promise of “life to the full” plays out in each of our life stories.
It’s important to understand both the direction and destination our lives are moving, and when we understand that Jesus offers us a joy greater than any happiness we can find here on earth, we can begin to live a full life. As we look at the story of our lives and what our lives are meant to look like, the life Jesus offers His followers makes more and more sense. Ultimately, when we understand our part in God’s story, we can better understand our own story.
Welcome to the series, “Story of My Life!” We’re so glad you’ve joined us on this journey. Here are the nuts and bolts of what’s included in this series.
As the leader, you’ll find that there are two guides—the Series Guide (that’s what you’re reading right now) and the Weekly Leader Guide. The Series Guide should be read before your first week. (Kudos to you for doing that!) And the Weekly Leader Guide should be read before each week your group meets.
If we’re honest, when we look at our life story, most of us know how we want it to end: “happily ever after.” We’ve all heard or read fairytale stories that ended happily ever after, but this phrase oftentimes seems like an all too distant myth. In fact, while we may want a life that ends happily ever after, most of us would say we want a happy life right now.
We all want our life story to be happy. We want our kids to be happy. We want our marriages to be happy. We want to be happy in our job, happy in our friendships, happy in our finances. It drives everything we do. But being happy just isn’t that simple, is it? In fact, sometimes it feels the more we chase happiness, the more it remains just out of reach.
This week we’ll reconsider whether or not happiness should be the ultimate goal—and if not happiness, then what? Jesus showed us that when we let go of happy, He will give us something much better in return. Jesus came not to give us a happy story, but a better story.
As we learned in the first week of this series, one of the main problems with happiness is that it’s extremely fickle. It’s slippery. One moment happiness is all ours, and the next, it’s gone. Happiness is so slippery because it depends on circumstances— it’s in and out of our grasp as our lives journey up and down.
Happiness can’t stand up to life’s challenging circumstances. Thankfully, Jesus offers us something much better than mere happiness—He offers us joy. While happiness depends on circumstances, joy transcends them. While happiness is chained to our external circumstances, joy is rooted inside of us. And we can find joy by focusing on something other than our circumstances—by focusing on Jesus and His Kingdom. Living in joy isn’t just a perspective change—it’s a reality change.
We live in an amazing world of technology. When you think about it, our phones, computers, tablets and nearly every app we can download have the same purpose—to make life easier. And we can all agree on one thing: easy is good. If there’s a way to make life simpler, smoother, or less complicated, we’re on board. And, because we believe that easy is good, our brains also draw the natural conclusion that not easy is not good.
In a lot of ways, that logic can save us hurt. But it’s not always true, is it? We’ve had experiences that were both difficult and good—like getting a job or raising a child. The other problem with our “easy is good” mantra is that it can often give us a distorted view of God. It can be tempting to assume that if we experience something not easy then it must be not good. And, if God allowed us to experience it, then maybe He is not good.
But what if we’ve got it all wrong? What if difficult and good aren’t enemies? What if God can take something not easy and use it for our good? As we’ll disuss this week, Jesus’ closest followers experienced difficulties and discovered that the path to a better life story is rarely easy, but it’s always worth it.
Many of us think that powerful people are men and women who lead Fortune 500 companies, or are heads of banks, or are politicians making policy decisions for millions of people. We rarely consider ourselves to be powerful. But the truth is that each of us has some sort of power. Whether in our jobs, our families, or our neighborhoods, we all have the ability to influence those around us.
The question we must then answer is: What are we doing with the power we have? How we choose to answer will affect our ability to experience the full, abundant, better life Jesus promised. Power, in any form, can be used to benefit the person who holds it or to serve the people who are under it. When we look at Jesus’ life, we see the perfect example of how to use power. As the Son of God, He had more power than anyone on Earth, but instead of wielding His power like a self-serving weapon, He used it to serve others. Since we all have power in one form or another, it’s our responsibility to use it to make other’s lives better, and as we do, we just might make our lives better too.
We all love the idea of having an indicator or a measurement of how we’re doing. We track how many steps we take each day. We count calories. We monitor our spending habits. Do you ever wish you had a way to know whether you’re doing well or poorly in what really matters in life? Like in your faith and in your relationship with God?
Fortunately for us, God gave us an indicator. He told us that one of the best ways to know whether we’re experiencing the better life He promised is to look at the fruit we’re producing. He taught that those who follow His Spirit and His ways will produce the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. He also shared that those who are living on their own will produce something different—hatred, discord, and anger.
This week we’ll learn how to tell what our lives are producing and what we can do to produce more good fruit—more love and less hate. Ultimately, our stories are either moving toward love, toward joy, toward peace, or away from it. And it’s up to us to discern the direction we’re going.
The last few weeks we’ve been talking about the idea that each of our lives tells a story. And how, maybe more than anything else, we all want the story of our lives to be a good one. The problem is that the road to a better life story isn’t always an easy one. There are setbacks and failures that make it seem as if our life story will never be as good as we want it to be. What’s more, it often seems as if we’re the only people struggling to live a good life story; we’re the only ones who can’t get it right.
The truth is that we’re not alone. Everyone who has ever wanted to make their life better has fallen short at times. Everyone who has tried to do what’s right has, at some point, done what’s wrong. We know we aren’t perfect people, and the good news is this: God knows this too. That’s why He doesn’t expect us to be perfect—He just asks us not to give up and to continue loving and following Him.
God doesn’t use perfect people in His story—He uses broken people, because that’s the only kind of people He has. So, no matter where you are in your life story, you’re in a place where you can be used by God. This week, lay down the perfect picture of what you think it means to be a Christian and invite God into your real picture. He will meet you there.
Download Week 1 of Story of My Life when you sign up below. This series explores how Jesus’ promise of “life to the full” plays out in each of our life stories. As you’re looking through the content, you’ll see some important ways that Live A Better Story gives you a better strategy for your small group ministry and makes it more effective.
Thank you for your interest in Live a Better Story. You should receive an email shortly with instructions for downloading Week 1 of Story of My Life.