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For Your Weekend: You Have a Story to Tell

Mallory Smyth

Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read Mark 16:1520

Years ago, I walked into a hotel gym to work out and was immediately overwhelmed by six screens, all playing the same music videos. With no remote in sight, I jumped on the elliptical, hoping I could ignore them. I couldn’t. For the next hour, I saw the glorification of sex, obscene materialism, and drug use in every single video. I walked out with a pit in my stomach and felt the Holy Spirit remind me of what I already knew. Sin is so dull. The devil uses the same old tired temptations to lead us down the same destructive paths: self-indulgence, sexual depravity, pleasure seeking, and greed. It’s a tale as old as time, and yet it still works like a charm on our fickle hearts. Why?

Because sin sells us a compelling story.

If I asked you to tell me your favorite statistic, you would look at me like I am crazy. But, if I asked you to tell me your favorite story, you would light up and recount a story that has captured your heart. That’s because, in the words of social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, the brain is a “story processor, not a logic processor.”[1] We experience the world and connect through the power of story.

When I was on the elliptical, those music videos were telling me a story about the world that answered the question: What is my purpose? And how can I be fulfilled? The answers I saw were: 

  • We exist to serve ourselves.
  • Sex, drugs, and money lead to fulfillment because they maximize pleasure, power, and freedom.

This is only one of many tales that seek to answer our deepest longings. When we find one that resonates, we buy into the story, hoping it will bring us closer to freedom and fulfillment. You may not be tempted by the extremes in the music videos I saw. Maybe you are more likely to buy into stories that glorify: 

Success. You will finally feel good enough when you have achieved a certain level of success.

Materialism. Financial security will give you safety, freedom, and importance.

Romantic fulfillment. Find “the one,” and you will finally be happy.

Utopia. Find suitable systems and incentives that can perfect humanity and rid the world of its problems.

Individual freedom. You will be fulfilled once you have achieved ultimate autonomy.

Like the narrative in the music videos, these stories sound good but are lies that fail to deliver on their promises.

This Sunday, we encounter Jesus in the Gospel of Mark as He is about to ascend into heaven. He had taught the apostles how to live, shared the secrets of God’s kingdom with them, and modeled how to tell God’s story to a world that had mostly forgotten it. He had completed His mission through His death and resurrection, and the time had come for Him to take His place next to His Father. 

Amid this incredible moment, He gave His apostles one last command, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). 

What a vote of confidence that Jesus would trust His followers to break through the world’s darkness with the light of the gospel. Until Jesus came, all of creation had been living under the spell of false stories. The culture had sold them the same bill of goods that it is selling us today, and those false narratives had left people like you and me mired in chaos and disorder. 

Jesus obliterated every fake story with the glorious truth for which we were made, one that delivers on every single explanation and promise it makes. Ephesians 2:1–6 explains:

You were dead through the trespasses and sins…following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience…But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

This, dear sister, is such good news. You are not destined to follow the course of this world. But God, who loves you so much, brought you to life in Christ. Through His grace, you have been saved from a life of futility, chasing superficial desires, addiction, being trapped by what others think of you, pursuing pleasure, being a slave to money, sexual degradation, shame, guilt, and darkness. 

When Jesus told His apostles to go and preach the gospel to all creation, He urged them to go forward and offer His story, the better story, to all who would listen. 

And so let me ask you. Has Jesus saved you from giving your life to false narratives? What were they? How were they wreaking havoc on you? How is He still setting you free today? How is your life different with Him than it was without Him? Where are you more free today than you were a week ago, a month ago, or a year ago? 

Answer these questions. Recognize that our Lord has given you a story to tell. The beauty of the gospel message is that it is for everyone and yet profoundly personal. God has broken into your life in a particular way. He has given you a story that uniquely glorifies Him. Do you know it? Are you willing to share it in hopes that it might break someone else out of their false narrative? 

So much has changed since Jesus walked the earth, but the human heart has stayed the same. We still long for God but seek to find Him in the world’s ways. The command Jesus gave to His apostles two thousand years ago, He offers to you today. You have a story to share. Will you take His words as a command or a suggestion? I hope you take it as a command, because the world needs to hear the honesty, vulnerability, and hope He has given you in your story. 

In His Heart,
Mallory Smyth

Food for thought or journaling:

What has God done in your life? From what has He saved you? How would your life look different if you had not come to know Him? Thank Him for everything He has done in your life. Then, ask Him if there is someone specific with whom He wants you to share your story. Listen to His voice and then ask for the courage to share your story with them. 

Dear Lord, Thank You for all the ways You have saved me from chasing false stories. Thank You for every way that You have broken in and brought me to life, even when I was dead in my transgressions. I can see that life with You is so much better than life apart from You. Please show me where I am still buying into the false promises of the world. I give You permission to lead me to the truth and to show me these fake narratives for the lies that they are. Please help me to hold onto Your truth even when it is difficult. Amen.

P.S. For a deeper dive on how to answer God’s call to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation,” check out our latest Bible study, Passionate Discipleship, on the New Testament book 2 Timothy.

[1] Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics and Religion (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 2013), page 328.

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