Editor's note:

James Bryan Smith joined Nathan Foster on the Renovaré Podcast this past Monday to share a little about his new book The Magnificent Story: Uncovering a Gospel of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth

Today, we are sharing an excerpt with you. 

—Renovaré Team

Excerpt from The Magnificent Story

I met a man who watches The Lord of the Rings movies every night. When he told me this I pushed back, “Every night?” He said when he gets off work he goes home, fixes his dinner, and turns on the movie and watches until he gets sleepy. He stops the movie, and resumes in the same spot the next night. I was stunned by this, but in a way I understand. Great stories filled with adventure, with an epic battle of good versus evil, where tragedy ends in triumph, do something to our soul nothing else can.

We are creatures with a mystery in our heart that is bigger than ourselves. We may think we can find ultimate pleasure, satisfaction, and meaning in alcohol, sex, money, or power, but in reality those have never satisfied anyone. They are too small for our massive souls. We were designed to take part in a divine drama, an epic story. We were made not merely to hear it but to be in it. We are, indeed, stories. But in truth we are not the protagonist of the real story, the story we long to take part in. God is the hero of the only story that will satisfy us.

The thesis of this book is that there is a magnificent story, which is the most important thing happening on this earth. It is our only hope as individuals, communities, countries, and a species. But for a variety of reasons the gospel message we often hear, the story often told, is shrunken and distorted. This is why we see so many frustrated, disappointed Christians. It is not that they are bad people, but they have never heard the magnificent story in its fullness.

The good news of the gospel is similar to crying over the beauty of heavenly music. The good news of the gospel is similar to feeling glad when we see someone perform an unexpected act of kindness for a stranger. The greatest news is that this is what God is like.

To discover this we need to look at the story—the gospel—through the lenses of beauty, goodness, and truth.

My friend Trevor stated it well: “In order to see beauty, goodness, and truth, I have to have humble eyes.” Our eyes can be humble only when we get ourselves out of the way and focus on the beauty all around us. And we see God best when we learn to see and experience beauty, goodness, and truth. When we see them, we get a glimpse of God. We not only see them, we hear them, we smell them, we touch them, and we taste them. God gave us all of our senses—physical and spiritual—to feel God’s love.

God sings his love to you in birdsong. God smiles at you in maple trees. God charms you with the color green. He gave you eyes to see sunsets, ears to hear rainfall, a nose to smell a rose. God’s massive love appears in the small fragments. God is loving you in these moments, even if you don’t know it.

Now Underway: The 2018-19 Renovaré Book Club

How do we read for transformation, not just information? First, choose books that stir the soul and have an enduring quality. Then read with God and others at an unhurried pace, attentive to what the Holy Spirit wants to teach. The Renovaré Book Club is designed for transformative reading. It runs October 2018—May 2019.

Learn more >

Excerpted from “Longing for a Magnificent Story,” The Magnificent Story by James Bryan Smith (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2017).