The Power of Story
(Listen by clicking the white play button at the top of this post. You can read the transcript of the story below.)
I’m Tyler D. Smith, and I’m a youth pastor and a girls basketball coach and sports writer for the Indiana Pacers. I have a wife and two daughters. I just recently wrote a book called Searching For Seven. It’s about the journey of seeking God seven days a week.
I’ve had so many opportunities in my life, so many great blessings, one of them is I get to be a sports writer. I cover the NBA, the Indiana Pacers, and IU basketball–college and through that experience, I’ve been able to meet all these athletes. In the NBA, we have locker room access and we get interviews, but here’s something I try to help people understand. There’s a lot of these athletes that know who I am and I’ve talked to them. But it would be a lie for me to say, I’ve been in the same room as LeBron James many times, so we’re like best friends, that’s just not accurate. And in a similar way, I feel like people sometimes treat God in that way where they say, “I’ve been in a church building many times. I’m tight with God”. The truth is, there’s a big difference between knowing of God and really knowing Him. I fully believe that God seeks us and pursues us. He’ll do anything for us to know Him. But like any relationship, it’s gotta be a two way street at some point. One of the ways to really get to know Him is to have that awareness of His presence, being aware of, you know, seeking Him in all things.
So I set out on my own personal journey to search for God, seven days a week. You look at people and in many other countries, or even the early church in the book of Acts, they had to rely on God for their next breath, their next meal, persecution, the things that they faced. So in some ways, they were very blessed by that, to be able to live every breath as if they rely on God. And so that’s the mindset that I want to have in my life. In a lot of the stories and things that have happened in my life, I’ve kind of related back to that.
This is not really a church example or a church story. This is the story of, you know, a basketball story, or a story from a trip, or time of friends or something from school, all these different things, all these stories were kind of coming together and I just realized that they all were cohesive in that way of that mindset of looking for God. And I tell my students this all the time. You know, when you go to like a camp or a conference or a concert, oftentimes you’re really impacted by that. But it’s not just because of the speaker or the artist, a lot of times it’s because of your mindset. You go to camp or conference and you know, Okay, I’m going to be hearing about Jesus, cut off from the outside world. So Alright, let’s do this. You’re kind of in that right frame of mind to hear from God. A lot of times though, your, your pastor, or your parent or your coach, or your Christian friend, has been telling you some of those very things that you just heard at camp, but it was at camp that you really heard it.
So the question is, how do I get to be in that mindset?
When I’m at home, me personally, I am big into podcasts and Christian concerts and conversations with other Christians. For you it may be something entirely different. But how do you get to that place, that mindset of hearing from God and looking for Him in all of life’s aspects. One of the chapters is called “Just Say Yes.” I started to say, “Yes” to more things in my life that were faith related and I realized that, you know, faith is meant to be put to action. And you know, the Holy Spirit is the Helper to us and the Holy Spirit’s gonna show up and work and do amazing things.
I have a scooter that I keep in my shed at my house, just for fun to ride once in a while. What happens is, though, if I don’t, if I don’t ride it regularly, it’s one of those that it’ll stop working. I believe we are wired in a similar way in our faith. It says in Ephesians that we are actually created in Christ to do good works, which He prepared in advance for us to do. So we are created to serve. We are created to do ministry, things He prepared in advance and if we don’t do those things, if we don’t put action to our faith, I feel like we’re like the scooter in the shed. Where we’re just going to rot.
And I want to encourage people with this thought…Serving, it’s what we’re created to do, but it’s, honestly it can be a remedy to so many things. I don’t have the knowledge or the power to speak on something as serious as depression or suicidal thoughts or things of that nature. But I, if someone were to ask me, “Hey, I’ve been depressed, what should I do? One of the things I would tell them as advice and encouragement is, “Go serve.” Because when you feel like you can pour your life into others you begin to feel like I have a purpose. Maybe my life is meant to be, you know, an offering and give it to others. Maybe you feel like God is distant. You feel like, I don’t, I can’t hear from Him. I don’t know what He wants. I don’t even know if He’s there. Go serve somewhere. Go where He, where He is working, and see if you feel differently. I have, I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone come back from a mission trip or, you know, serve in a homeless kitchen and then come back and say, I don’t know where God is. You know, usually, it’s, I felt God’s presence, I see God working. And it’s just that whole mindset of serving.
There’s an incredible quote from Charles Spurgeon, where he said, “The point of contact between the patient and the physician is the disease.” So you can take it two ways there. You can think, you know, sin is the disease, and that’s why we need Him. Also, like, when you go through some hard times, whether it was your own doing or, or just something that happened to you. If my life was great all the time, I’m not sure I would ever call out to God. I’m not sure. And yeah, some people do blame God in those moments and maybe turn away. But I think more often than not, people realize in their brokenness, This is when I need Him. It says in, in Psalms, you know, the Lord is close to the brokenhearted. So in some ways, it can be a benefit. You know, when I’m, when I am brokenhearted, and when I am feeling weak, I cry out to my Father and maybe, maybe I am more aware of His presence in those moments.
The final chapter of the book is about, it’s called, “Storytime.” It’s about, you know, realizing every part of your story matters. And there’s no one like, no one like you and the things that you go through. I believe we’re called to use our gifts and talents, to create stories and find ways to share God. But also I think He’s called us to use us in our weakness, to not hide our scars, but to show them, God heals them. God shows up. God does amazing things even when I’m weak. And that’s when I rely on Him even more.
But yeah, as a sports writer and pastor, I’m constantly looking for stories because, you know, that’s what Jesus did, shared stories all the time. And if I can be, you know, even a little bit like Him, that’s what I’m going to try to do. I’m very inspired by writers like Bob Goff, as an example. I tried to write my book in a similar way to him. He’s been through some crazy things. It’s like every chapter there’s a story from his life and then he relates it–here’s what God taught me, here’s scripture–you can learn things from it. And that’s what I want to do with my life. Every time I speak a message to students or a church, I want to have a lot of stories that they can relate to.
One, one scripture that is very dear to me is the person that was healed. He was blind and some other people were asking him about who healed you? Do you know anything about Him? And he said, I don’t really know if He’s a sinner or not, I don’t know much about Him. All I know is I was blind and now I see. And I want to have that. I want people to know, you don’t have to have a Bible degree, you don’t have to have all this Bible knowledge to share your story. You know, if you were blind, and now you see, share that! Shout it from the rooftop! Think of the woman at the well, what did she want to do after meeting Jesus? She wanted to go into town and she was no longer ashamed, she wanted to share, here’s my past, but I’ve been healed from it. So for us, instead of being ashamed, maybe you made a big mistake in life, but maybe God’s forgiven you and taught you from it, share that story, you know. Share triumphs and failures, strengths and weaknesses. But, you know, whatever you can do to share it.
You know, as a church we try to–in small group situations–we try to do this thing called, “Story” instead of necessarily “teaching.” We try to look over a scripture, a story and share it from memory, and then say, “Alright, now let’s read it. What did you get from it? Who are you in this story? Who relates to you and why?” And those kind of discussions are often way more impactful than just somebody, you know, sharing or teaching.
I think there’s a time and a place for both, but the more stories you can share and the more, again, awareness of, Hey, this, this thing that happened to me, I can share that. I can relate to somebody else who may be going through something similar. Stories are good, the greatest storyteller of all time shared them often. So I think we should follow suit.