Why do we tell our stories? I don’t mean things we have made up. But why do we tell about our lives, and our personal experiences, and about our pasts or things we are going through presently? What is the purpose of it all? Is there a purpose? And is it a good thing?
Obviously this depends upon the person, and upon his or her motivation, and on the content of the story, and the direction he or she heads with the story. But is it a bad thing to tell others about our lives and experiences and even about our sins, owning up to them, if the purpose is good, and if the end goal is to help others not to go down the same rabbit holes we went down, and if it is to point them in the right direction? – To God?
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 NIV
As I was examining this question, the other day, which was in my mind, the Lord brought to mind verse 11 here, where it says “these things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us…”
And there was my answer. I also thought about the Apostle Paul. He talked much about his own life. He spoke of his past, and of his past sins, and he often gave testimony as to where he once was, and of how Jesus Christ set him free. Although he penned these words “forgetting what is behind…” he still shared his testimony, time and time again, which spoke of his past.
But he didn’t just share his testimony of his past sins, and how God rescued him from his body that was subject to death, and how he delivered him through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 7:24-25). He shared many testimonies of the persecutions, the beatings, the imprisonments, the abuse, the false accusations, the attempts on his life to kill him, of how he was stoned and left for dead, and of people abandoning him, and of specific people trying to discredit him, his ministry, and the gospel. So, why did he do this?
As well, why do we have all the history we have recorded for us in the Bible of God’s people’s failures, their sins, their rebellions against God, their idolatry, their spiritual adultery, their wickedness, their false worship of God, their hypocrisy, their false professions of faith, their “lip service” only, and their rituals, traditions, tolerances, and the like? Because… they are recorded for us, and they are written down for us as warnings, and as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.
And this is why it is important for us to be transparent about these types of things from our own experiences, too, not to sensationalize, and not to gossip, or to put someone else down, or to shock people, or to get people to feel sorry for us, or just to talk about ourselves, as though that is our goal. And absolutely we must exercise much godly wisdom in this, and make sure of our motivations, and that what we say is to help, and not to hurt.
But God gave us our stories for a reason. He took us through the things he has taken us through in our lives also for a purpose, and it is not just for us to learn from them, but so that we can comfort others with the comfort we received from God when we were going through similar circumstances (See: 2 Corinthians 1:1-14). It is so we can be compassionate to others who are suffering, too, and especially towards those who are suffering in like manner as we have suffered.
Because of the things I have been through in my life, I am able to empathize with others who are going through the same types of things, and I am able to comfort them with the comfort (encouragement, counsel, instructions) that I received from God, and am still receiving from God, from when I have gone through or am going through what they are all having to endure, too.
But it is one thing just to preach the truth of scripture to people, and to tell them what God’s word says they must do in their circumstances, and it is another thing to be able to come alongside them and to say, “I know. I have been there, or I am there.” We can relate to them, and they can relate to us, because they know that we know what we are talking about. It isn’t just theory for us. We have been in those trenches, and God has delivered us out of them, and so we have a message of hope and healing for them that is not just theology, but that is from our own lives and experiences.
Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.
Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he? 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 NIV
So, when I say to someone “Don’t do this!” “Don’t go there!” “Flee from these things!” I am saying this, not just as someone who has read and who has believed the Word of God, and what it teaches, but I speak from experience. I have been there. I have been idolatrous. I have been an adulteress. I have been worldly, and I have compromised my faith, and I have strayed from my Lord, and from my pure devotion to him, so I know what I am talking about. I know what it is like to be living a lie and to not be walking in the truth that I know, and I know how much that destroyed me.
I also know what it is like to be betrayed, cheated on, lied to, persecuted, abandoned, rejected, mistreated, abused, taken advantage of, used, misjudged, and falsely accused, and the like. So, I can empathize with God – with God the Father, and with Jesus Christ, and with the Holy Spirit in how God’s people have treated them, and with the Lord’s jealousy for his people, and with the Apostle Paul and with his godly jealousy for God’s people. So, when I write about such things, I can feel how God feels, and how Paul felt, because I have experienced that, too. And that is a good thing!
When we read the scriptures, do we not identify with the characters in the stories, or at least some of them, and to some degree? When we read about the things they did and said, whether good or bad, don’t we learn from their lives and their experiences? We learn what not to do, because from their stories we can see personally how that ended, and what it resulted in, and who all was hurt by it, and the damage that was done through it, and it touches our lives probably more than instructions on “do’s” and “don’ts.”
But we also learn what to do, and we see how doing the right things resulted in God’s blessings on their lives, and his Spirit using them in mighty ways, and of their ability to withstand temptation and to not give in, or to withstand persecution and opposition and to not give way to it and to not back down. And it encourages us, does it not? And doesn’t that often have more of an impact on us than just reading instructions?
Why? Because we are able to relate, and we can see that we are not alone, but that others have gone through what we are going through, and we can see the bad directions they have taken, which serve as warnings to us, and we can see the good (godly) directions their lives have gone, too, and that can help inspire us to also live godly and holy lives, pleasing to God.
So, it is good for us to share our stories, providing the purpose is good, and that we are doing so with love, compassion, concern, and hearts for God and for his people and for the people of this world who are lost in their sins, and in order to share with them the way to salvation, and to healing, and to deliverance, for this has to be our goal, or it is for naught.
We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations
H. Ernest Nichol
We’ve a story to tell to the nations,
that shall turn their hearts to the right,
a story of truth and mercy,
a story of peace and light,
a story of peace and light.
We’ve a song to be sung to the nations,
that shall lift their hearts to the Lord,
a song that shall conquer evil
and shatter the spear and sword,
and shatter the spear and sword.
We’ve a Savior to show to the nations,
who the path of sorrow has trod,
that all of the world’s great peoples
may come to the truth of God,
may come to the truth of God.
For the darkness shall turn to dawning,
and the dawning to noonday bright,
and Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth,
the kingdom of love and light.
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