In her book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, Rosaria Butterfield says, “We are the stories we tell.” Our lives, not just our words, are telling a story. I want to be a great storyteller. I want my story to proclaim God’s power perfected in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). I also want the themes of redeeming love and grace-fueled obedience to anchor my story.
About four years ago, God showed me great grace in opening my eyes to my own hypocrisy. I was able to quote any verse about God’s concern for vulnerable people. I could teach Bible studies about God’s command in James 1:27 to visit orphans and widows in their affliction. But what I could not do is present any evidence that I was obeying God’s Word concerning the vulnerable. He then led me to repentance and began to stir my heart to obedience. By His grace, He made me an orphan advocate. He’s given me a voice to use on their behalf (Proverbs 31:8). He sends me to visit them in children’s homes and share the gospel. He’s using my family to welcome a child into our home through adoption. He changed my story to validate my words.
It’s easy to tell a story; it’s harder to be our stories. It’s also harder to exhibit authenticity. Often, we declare something with our words but contradict it through our actions. Titus 1:16 says, “They profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.” The words we speak should translate seamlessly into the deeds we do. If we say we love God, we should live the kind of lives that express that through actionable obedience (John 14:15). We love through our deeds, not our words (1 John 3:18). Obedience requires action.
Does your life tell the same story that your words do?
Telling Two Different Stories
How do we discern if our lips speak one narrative while our actions tell another? Our duplicity will one day be exposed.
We may say that, “Jesus is Lord,” but live like we sit on the throne. A divided woman will admit that sexual immorality is a sin (1 Corinthians 6:18) but will secretly daydream about her coworker. Men who are half-hearted towards God will draw a red X on their hand to protest human trafficking while using the same hand to click on pornographic images, which fuels sexual slavery, when no one is looking.
We tell our children that we are supposed to love our neighbor (Mark 12:31), but do we only do so if that neighbor looks and acts like we do? Any church goer can talk about God’s command to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19), but do they ever engage beyond placing a donation requiring no sacrifice in the offering plate?
People with a half-hearted devotion to God can discuss how He wants us to love the sojourner (Deuteronomy 10:19) but won’t do it because it could be unsafe. We may talk about how God wants us to care for the vulnerable (James 1:27), but never actually do anything because it’s inconvenient and costly.
After God brought the Israelites into Canaan, Joshua charged them to fear God by serving Him in sincerity and forsaking their idols. (Joshua 24:14). The people were quick to speak their consent. But Joshua said, “You are not able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God (Joshua 24:19).”
Joshua knew their words did not equal their obedience. He saw through their half-hearted approach to God’s commands. He knew their agreeableness to his charge didn’t mean they would forsake their idols and obey God. Obedience requires action.
We cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). When our words and our actions aren’t aligned, we tell two different stories. Only one story matters.
The Story That Matters
Our words don’t tell our stories; our actions do. What we do in the present will speak for us in the future. Consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:31-46. These verses teach about the day when Christ will separate the wicked from the righteous based on how they treated the least among them. Neither the righteous nor the wicked in this story understood that their actions spoke louder than their words.
The danger in believing that what we say trumps what we do is that we deceive ourselves into thinking we’re right with God when we’re not. Instead, we’ve fooled ourselves into believing that we can have Jesus without having to obey Him. We believe that since we prayed a prayer and walked down an aisle, we’re good; no need to take God and His word too seriously.
One of the most haunting verses in all of Scripture is Matthew 7:21 – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Who are the people who will try to justify themselves before God by their words? It’s not those who never spoke of Him; it’s those who did.
There is no use in calling Him Lord if we’re not obeying Him. Luke 6:46 says, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” Those with a half- hearted devotion to God’s kingdom on earth will find themselves wholly surprised when they meet Him face to face. Half-hearted devotion isn’t devotion at all. Their duplicity will not serve them well before the throne.
God equips us to do more than just talk about obedience. God gives His people the grace to obey His word for the sake of His name among the nations (Romans 1:5). We obey Him because we know what’s ultimately at stake – His glory.
God is glorified through our actionable obedience (John 15:8). The story of His glory is the story that matters.
What’s Your Story?
If we love the Lord with our whole hearts (Matthew 22:37), we will do what He says (John 14:23). We will be James 1:22 kind of people – doers of the word. Our actions will testify to our proclamations about Him.
What’s your story? Is it an account of forsaking sin and obeying God, complete with victories and defeat, adventure and sacrifice? Or is it a tale of hypocrisy?
First, we must seek repentance. We can still ask our Father for a heart that obeys Him and delights to do His will (Psalm 40:8). Our God is glorified by our dependence on Him. There is always hope in Christ but only in Him. He alone can transform your tale of rebellion into a story that declares His glory as you live obediently by His grace for all the world to see.
God’s story is the greatest story. It’s the story of Him reconciling rebels to Himself through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:19). He has sent us to tell His story, to be it. Let’s be great storytellers.
Everybody loves a good ending to a story; God, most of all. One day, He will write the ending to our stories. By His grace, let’s strive for a happy ending: “Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master” (Matt. 25:23).