GOD IS THE HERO IN OUR STORIES, ALWAYS
by Eric Elder
I spoke to a group this week about God’s goodness. I’ve been through various things in my life, but I’m still utterly amazed at how good God really is. I’d like to share that message with you today. You can listen to the message at this link (10 minutes), or read the text of the message below.
The message today is based on Psalm 145, verses 6 and 7, which says:
“Your marvelous doings are headline news; I could write a book full of the details of Your greatness. The fame of your goodness spreads across the country; Your righteousness is on everyone’s lips” (Psalm 145:6-7, MSG).
This is a particularly meaningful passage to me right now because I’ve just finished writing a book of my testimony about how God has worked in my life. I’ve been working on this book for a year, and I’ve just finished and launched it last week. I’m really excited about it because I feel it’s going to spread the goodness of God and how great He is.
The book is called, “Fifty Shades of Grace,” and I’ve written it under a pseudonym, Nicholas Deere. (If you look for it on Amazon, make sure you type in “Fifty Shades of Grace,” not something else! Or just look for “Nicholas Deere.”) The book talks about my story: my life before Christ, my life after Christ, and how I came to Christ right in the center.
The book focuses on how God has changed and transformed my life in one particular area, and that’s in the area of my sexuality. As one reviewer said, “It’s not your traditional ‘boy meets girl’ kind of story. It’s more like ‘boy meets boy, boy meets girl, boy meets God.'” So it’s a little bit different, and I would caution you, if you’re highly sensitive to sexual things, then you might not want to take a look at this. But I love the book, because it shows God’s amazing grace in my life, and how He gave me a wife and six kids and worked all things for good in my life. I love spreading God’s goodness.
But as I was writing it, I made a mistake. You know how, if you’ve ever taken a storytelling class, you have the protagonist and the antagonist. The protagonist is sort of the good guy, and the antagonist is trying to stop the good guy.
My mistake was that I saw myself as the good guy in the story and how God was helping me work through obstacles in my life. I wasn’t very far into the book when I realized I was no “good guy.” There’s another protagonist in this story, and that’s God. In fact, He’s the ONLY protagonist in my story. He’s the “good guy.” He’s the ultimate “Good Guy.”
God created me good, but because of sin, and my sinful choices, I was headed on a path that was going to kill me. And God took me, changed me, and put me on another path. I was my own antagonist. I was the one throwing all those obstacles out in front of myself and tripping over them. But God turned me into someone who eventually was good, bringing out all the goodness that God had put in me from the beginning.
And it’s the same in all of our stories. God is the ultimate “Good Guy.” God is the Hero in our stories, always. He’s the One who came to rescue us, to redeem us, to restore what was lost. He is SO GOOD!
Sometimes we think that the word “good” is not a very exciting word. I had a high school physics teacher who would write on my paper, whenever I would get 100% right, and he would say, “Good.” To me and to some of the other people in the class, we would say, “‘Good’? That’s a little disappointing, isn’t it? It should be something like ‘Outstanding,” ‘Excellent’ or ‘Simply Amazing!'”
And our teacher said, “No, Eric,” and then he told me and the rest of the class–back when it was okay for teachers to say things like this to their students–he said, “God, when He created the world, said it was ‘good.’ When He created light, He said it was ‘good.’ When He created the land, He said it was ‘good.’ When He created plants and animals He said it was ‘good.’ When He created humans, He said it was ‘good.’ And when He sat back and looked at everything He had created, He said it was ‘very good'” (see Genesis chapter 1). And my teacher said, “‘Good’ is a very good word.” And if GOD is good, then ‘good’ is certainly one of the most astounding words we could use.
Now how do you get that goodness into your life, though? That’s what I want to touch on for a little bit here.
My call to you, and the call of God to me for my life, is to invite His goodness into our lives. My wife had written in one of her journals something she had heard one time that said, “If God is bigger than us, and He comes to live inside of us, then shouldn’t some of Him show through us, so others can see Him, too?”
And it’s true. When we invite God’s Holy Spirit to come into our lives, if we say, “God, we invite You, Your Holy Spirit, to come in,” then the Holy Spirit, who is the essence of God Himself, will come into us, and the Holy Spirit is going to show through us. Any good that you see in my life, or any good that you see in other Christians’ lives, is usually the Spirit of God living in us, working and acting and bringing out the best in us. It’s God’s goodness, that has come into us, and is shining through us.
My call to you is the same as my call to myself, and it’s something that we can do over and over again, and that’s to say, “God, I invite Your Holy Spirit to come into every area of my life. Push all of me out, and fill me with all of You. Every area of my life, take it over God. Fill me with all Your goodness, all Your righteousness, because I want to do what’s good. I want to do what’s right. But I know I can’t do it on my own. I need Your help.”
There’s a great verse in Romans chapter 8 which gives me encouragement about God living within us. In Romans 8, verses 10 and 11, it says:
“But for you who welcome Him, in whom He dwells – even though you still experience all the limitations of sin – you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, He’ll do the same thing in you that He did in Jesus, bringing you alive to Himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and He does, as surely as He did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With His Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!” (Romans 8:10-11, MSG).
So if the Holy Spirit came into Christ’s body when He was dead and raised Him back to life, and if that same Holy Spirit lives in us, then He can bring us back to life, too. Anything that’s broken in your life, He can restore it. Anything that’s been damaged, He can redeem it. Anything that’s been lost, He can find it.
I wasn’t planning to share this, but back when I was growing up, I loved to tap dance. I watched my sister do it, and I thought, “I could do that! I’d love to do that!” It sounded so fun to dance. And I went and I danced for several years at a studio here in town. I loved my teacher. I loved dancing. It was so much fun. I would get up and just dance and dance and dance. It just made me smile.
Then, of course, in junior high, a lot of people started making fun of me that I would tap dance. But I pictured Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. These were some great heroes, not sissy guys. But I let some of those comments in, and it made me not want to dance anymore.
A few weeks ago, I was at my daughter’s dance studio. The same teacher who taught me back then is teaching my daughter now. And as she was teaching the class, she said, “Eric, you don’t have to just sit out here, you can come in the class with us!”
And I thought, Oh gosh! Do I want to go back to that in my 50’s? But I also thought, It was really fun. The teacher didn’t have many students for that particular class, so she said, “Just take off your shoes and come dance with us.” And I did. And I smiled the whole time.
It was so fun. It was fun to dance with my teacher and fun to dance with my daughter. And it put a smile on my face. I said, “I think I’ll do this.” So I got some tap shoes and tonight, after this, I’m heading over to “hoof it” a little bit. And I’m going to say, “God, I just want to smile with You for a little while. I need You in my life.”
God can take those things that have been lost–long gone from your life–and He can bring them back. He can help put a smile on your face again.
Father, thank You so much for being so good. We love You, God. We worship You. We praise You. And I pray that You would fill each one of us with Your Holy Spirit. Push all of us out, and fill us completely with Jesus Christ. Fill us with all Your goodness, all Your mercy, all Your grace, all Your love. Help us, God, to do the things that put a smile on Your face, because that will then put a smile on our faces. Lord, thank You for redeeming what was lost, restoring what was broken. Lord, I pray that we would go forward today as changed people, a little bit better, a little bit more filled with Your goodness, and that the light of Your glory would spill out to everyone around us, making Your name known across the face of the earth. We thank You, Lord, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
P.P.S. I’ll also be sharing more of my testimony at our 3rd Annual Ranch retreat next month. I’d love for you to come! I’ll be leading worship from the piano for the weekend, and I’ve invited several others to share their testimonies, too, about how God has worked in wonderful ways in their lives. So I hope you’ll join me, along with Greg Potzer of This Day’s Thought from The Ranch and several other special guests, here in Central Illinois on Columbus Day Weekend. (It’s free!) Here’s a link to learn more:
The 3rd Annual Ranch Retreat
If you need a boost in your faith, join us in Central Illinois in October for a weekend of inspirational music, messages and time with new friends. It’s free! To learn more, visit The 3rd Annual Ranch Retreat.