EPIC: The Story God is Telling by John Eldredge

“I had always felt life first as a story — and if there is a story there is a story teller.” ~ GK Chesterton.

My notes from the book:

We learn all of our most important lessons through story, and story deepens all of our most important lessons. Story is the language of the heart. Stories nourish us. 

We humans share these lingering questions: Who am I really? Why am I here? What does God want of me? The answers to these questions seem to come only when we know the rest of the story. 

“With every step of our lives we enter into the middle of some story which we are certain to misunderstand.” ~ GK Chesterton

The world has lost its story. 

For most of us, life feels like a movie we’ve arrived at forty-five minutes late. ~ John Eldredge

All the great stories pretty much follow the same story line. The films you love are telling you something very important, something essential about your heart. 

Every story, great and small, shares the same essential structure because every story we tell borrows its power from a Larger Story, a Story woven into the fabric of our being. 

“He has planted eternity in the human heart” ~ Ecce 3:11

We must understand the story in which we have found ourselves. 

Act 1:  Eternal Love

“In the beginning…” or “Once upon a time”. Read the first lines of the gospel of John.

The whole story began with something relational, the Trinity. So reality is relational to its core and we are relational beings. 

Act 2: The Entrance of Evil

Why does every story have a villain? Every story has a villain because yours does. 

You can learn something about a story by the characters the author writes into it. 

“Of all bad men religious bad men are the worst. Of all created beings the wickedest is the one who originally stood in the immediate presence of God” ~ CS Lewis

The Holocaust, abortion, child prostitution, terrorist bombings, genocidal governments. What is it going to take for us to consider evil seriously? Life is very confusing if you do not take into account that there is a Villain. That you, my friend, have an enemy. 

Act 3: The Battle for the Heart

When God created the heaven and the earth ~ Genesis 1:1

We have grown dull toward this world in which we live; we have forgotten that it is not normal or scientific in any sense of the word. It is fantastic. It is fairy tale through and through. 

Born into a world made for romance. 

We are haunted by Eden. It finds its way into nearly every story. 

We were glorious, “statues of God walking about in a Garden” as Chesterton says. 

God enables us to love. He gives us the greatest treasure in all creation: a heart. For he intends that we should be his intimate allies who join in the Sacred Circle of intimacy that is the core of the universe, to share in this great Romance. 

Just as we have lost our wonder at the world around us, we have forgotten what a treasure the human heart is. 

And God gives us the freedom to reject him. Why? 

If you want a world where love is real, you must allow each person the freedom to choose. 

Power can do everything but the most important thing: it cannot control love. 

We fail when it comes to loving. 

Haven’t you ever wondered, if only for a moment, why life comes nowhere close to the desires that are written in your heart? 

Paradise has been lost. 

Every great story has a rescue. Why does every great story have a rescue? Because yours does. God came looking for Adam and Eve after they fell. Rescuing the human heart is the hardest mission in the world. Rescue is God’s plan. 

The dilemma of the story is this: we don’t know if we want to be rescued. The challenge God faces is rescuing a people who have no idea how captive they are; no real idea how desperate they are. 

Soren Kierkegaard, The King and the Maiden story – great metaphor

Have you noticed that in the great stories the hero must often die to win the freedom of his beloved? 

The coming of Jesus of Nazareth was from more like an opening scene from Saving Private Ryan. 

“He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves…” (Colossians 1:13)

The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth answer once and for all the question, “What is God’s heart toward me?” 

Act 3 is still under way and we are caught up in it. 

But now let us lift our eyes to the horizon and see what the future holds in store. 

Act 4: The Kingdom Restored

“And they lived happily ever after”. 

Why does the end of a great story leave us with a lump in our throats and an ache in our hearts? Because God has set eternity in our hearts. ~ John Eldredge

The final enemy is death. It will come. Is there no way out? Do we have a future? 

Wherever humanity was broken, Jesus restored it. 

“Behold, I make all things new.” ~ Revelation 21:5

The world in all its beauty shall be ours again — forever. 

The resurrection of Jesus was the first of many, the forerunner of our own. He paved the way. So we, too, shall live and never die. Creation will be restored, and we will be restored. And we shall share it together. 

Now for a sobering truth, more sobering than any other we have considered. To be honest, we must understand that not everyone lives happily ever after, not in any tale. Hell is not God’s intention for mankind. But remember — he gave us free will. He gave us a choice. 

Act 4 is the restoration of life as it was always meant to be. 

“I am going there to prepare a place for you” Jesus said. 

Epilogue: The Road Before Us

We are now living somewhere between Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. Near the end of Act 3. 

We love these stories because they remind us of the Epic we were created for. 

What is my role in this story? Let’s ask the Author — Jesus. 

Jesus reminds us of 3 great truths.

  1. Things are not as they seem. We live in a world with two halves, on part that we can see and another part that we cannot. We must live as though the unseen world is more weighty and more real and more dangerous than the part of reality we can see.
  2. We are at war. we must take this battle seriously. This is no child’s game. This is war — a battle for the human heart. 
  3. You have a crucial role to play. This is our most desperate hour. You are needed. Jesus calls you to be his intimate ally once more. There are great things to be done and great sacrifices to be made. 

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