Stories shape our lives. Do you remember some of the first stories you heard as a child? Did you ever read Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel? A great story of determination and being useful over time. The one that has endured and continually is endearing is The Little Engine That Could. A small but determined train engine works with all his might to get to the top of a mountain. Learning to finish what you start and not give up is one of the best lessons a person can learn. Sticking to your goals no matter how tough it may gets is so important to success. Being determined to reach your goals, the ability to stick to them is admirable. But what do you do when life seems to get in the way of your plans?
This is where knowing the right stories is important. Some may bristle with the idea that a story can be right or wrong. But think with me. What stories are you rehearsing in your head about yourself now? Do they help you? The ones you listen to and believe direct your life. That is why just any story won't do. The best stories are ones that pull our imagination to new levels. The best stories touch our hearts and awaken our minds to greater things for our lives.
I think that the story of the resurrection is the greatest story of all. The story of Jesus life, birth, death and resurrection is by far one of the most "unbelievable" stories of all time. It stretches our imagination to the limits. Who would have thought of a god who becomes human in order to show us who he is? Who would have thought of a savior who dies, not courageously in battle, but on an instrument of torture? Or what about being raised from the dead? No wonder the world has a hard time with Christianity. Jesus' story would never be one that people would invent. But it's just that story that started a new movement that goes on to this day.
The story of Jesus is our story. One that we live. It is far more than a childhood moral tale. It surpasses emotion more than even the most touching sentimental story. As Easter is near, I invite you to see that the resurrection as not a surreal event from the distant past, nor only about a fantastic future. Resurrection is everyday for people who trust in Jesus. The death and resurrection of Jesus is one you can trust to be true. Its story changes us. Trusting Christ Jesus is a moment by moment experience. Knowing him lifts us to a place that we would not be able to be, despite all our determination. Life is tough. Determination is needed. Don't give up. I love those messages. But when it comes to living for Jesus they can fall short. Why? The story of Jesus is not about human motivation. Its about the transformational power of God. Only his effort toward us can change what is truly essential in us. Only he can change our heart. Our desires change. Our lives shift.
The story of resurrection give us something that our own determination cannot give to us; hope. Hope is what can lift us up in hardship, pull us forward with purpose and shape our lives more than anything our own self will could accomplish. With hope in this grand story even the mountain of death is overcome. To be very personal, this last week (April 6th), the realization of hope was brought home again. In our family a precious little boy who struggled with a huge disability died. Jackson is my niece's son who had a mitochondrial disease. For three years he graced our lives with his love. Even with his severe mobility impairments he still had an infectious smile. He is dearly loved. Now his life is with God. That is our hope.
Our hope is not a wish. It is not some sentimental escape to deaden the pain. It is a sure thing. The Apostle Paul calls our confidence a hope kept in heaven for us. (Colossians 1:5). When my mom passed away last year, I was assured in my heart that she was not dead. Where does that come from? The story of the resurrection. It gives hope in a world where hard and terrible things happen. With the resurrection hope fresh in my heart I go and live courageously. Even when the things I face seem like a mountain in my way. "Hope does not disappoint us", the Apostle Paul states. Why? He goes on, "because God has poured out his love into our hearts." And love overcomes all things!