The Big Story: How the Bible Makes Sense out of Life [NOOK Book]


What is your story?
When strangers meet today they often ask not, "What do you do?," but "What is your story?" Everybody has a story. And everybody on the planet believes some larger story in order to make sense of the smaller story of their life. We want our lives to fit within a larger ...

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The Big Story: How the Bible Makes Sense out of Life

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What is your story?
When strangers meet today they often ask not, "What do you do?," but "What is your story?" Everybody has a story. And everybody on the planet believes some larger story in order to make sense of the smaller story of their life. We want our lives to fit within a larger plot-complete with a sense of history, conflict resolution, forward movement, and future.
So, the better question to ask is, "What sort of story are you in?"
Most people believe false stories that leave them disillusioned, enslaved, and hopeless. Secular stories of chasing success and religious stories of doing good works can both leave us feeling exhausted and empty. Only Christianity, only the old and ongoing story of the Bible, offers a story that's big enough to make sense of both the beauty and brokenness in our lives and in our world. At the center of this story is a God who disturbs our life in order to set us free.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

To write a book with two distinct audiences in mind-Christian and non-Christian-is no easy task, but Buzzard has done a fine job. Believers in particular will find helpful tips for using "the big story" to frame evangelistic conversations. Non-Christian readers should benefit from its generally solid overview of the major beats of the story of redemption. This is a good book that will hopefully be used to strengthen many and bring others to their knees in faith before Jesus.
Aaron Armstrong, review for The Gospel Coalition

The Big Story has a powerful message for young adults searching for a connection between their own lives and the message of the Scriptures. Buzzard highlights his main points by using the Bible as well as personal examples and quotations from men and women throughout history. This book challenges readers to learn about their faith and put it into action.
Congregational Libraries Today, Volume XIVII, Number 1

Buzzard gets it right. Life is Story. And he connects that to the Big Story of the Gospel in helping readers find the purpose and direction their lives.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802484178
  • Publisher: Moody Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/15/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 871,399
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

JUSTIN BUZZARD is founder and lead pastor of Garden City Church, a new church in Silicon Valley. He speaks widely, writes at, and is the author of Date Your Wife and Why Cities Matter. Justin and his wife, Taylor, live in Silicon Valley with their three sons: Cru, Hudson, and Gus.
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Read an Excerpt

The Big Story

How the Bible Makes Sense Out of Life

By Justin Buzzard, Bailey Utecht

Moody Publishers

Copyright © 2013 Justin Buzzard
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8024-8417-8



Recently I was invited by an old friend to join him and six other men and climb Mount Rainier outside of Seattle, Washington—all 14,410 feet of it. I flew north and joined them, strapped on my crampons and backpack, hoisted my ice axe, and started climbing.

It was the hardest thing I have ever done.

This mountain is covered in ice, blanketed in glaciers, with crevasses hundreds of feet deep. Some people might try to convince you those are called crevices, but I'm telling you, those on Mount Rainier are crevasses, and they will kill a man. Toting dozens of pounds of clothing and gear up that mountain was exhausting, petrifying, and thrilling.

The main reason my old friend asked me to join him and the other guys on the climb was to talk about Jesus. See, these other guys don't know Jesus, and he wanted me to tell them about Him. My old friend is a former Marine and he figured the best place to have good conversation about Jesus with a bunch of tough guys was on top of a freezing mountain. So, when I wasn't terrified of falling into a crevasse and dying, I told these men what I know about Jesus.


Everyone has a reaction to Jesus. He isn't someone who can be ignored. Love Him or hate Him, you must respond to Him.

Here are some examples of how a few famous people thought of Jesus.

"I love the idea of the teachings of Jesus Christ and the beautiful stories about it, which I loved in Sunday school and I collected all the little stickers and put them in my book. But the reality is that organized religion doesn't seem to work. It turns people into hateful lemmings and it's not really compassionate." —Elton John

"The example of Jesus suffering is a factor in the composition of my un-dying faith in non-violence. What then does Jesus mean to me? To me, He was one of the greatest teachers humanity has ever had." —Mahatma Gandhi

"Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue with that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first—rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary." —John Lennon

"I'm a Muslim, but I think Jesus would have a drink with me. He would be cool. He would talk to me." —Mike Tyson

So Jesus is a good idea even if His followers aren't so great. Or maybe He is a fantastic example and a dynamic teacher. It could be that He is just a passing fad who will fade away. (It seems like two thousand years of popularity indicate that's not the case.) Or maybe, regardless of our worldview, Jesus is a cool guy to hang out with. That's what these guys thought.

How do you react to Jesus? We are all looking for someone or something to follow. What do you think about the idea of following Jesus?


The reason Jesus elicits such powerful reactions is simple and profound: Jesus disturbs our lives. To disturb means "to interfere with the normal arrangement." People have to respond to Jesus because He shows up in their lives and starts to interfere. Jesus doesn't leave things as they are; He both attracts people to Himself and meddles with their lives.

The Bible contains four biographies (also called "Gospels") about the life of Jesus. In one of those biographies, the book of Mark, we see Jesus doing His disturbing work of simultaneously attracting people to Himself and meddling with their lives. Feel free to read this part of the Bible as I've printed it below, or get your hands on a Bible and read these verses—and all following verses—from the pages of your own Bible (that way you can better explore the surrounding context).

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him. (Mark 1:14–20)

Jesus arrives on the scene with a message, an attractive message. It's a message people can't get enough of. He comes "proclaiming the gospel of God," that is, the good news of God.

Most people in your context think that Christianity is all about advice—that it's a list of "dos and don'ts." They couldn't be more wrong.

We react far differently to news than we do to advice. Imagine a young wife who, nine months earlier, sent her husband off to war. It's been a devastating, frightening, and lonely nine months. But a good friend gives her some sound and helpful advice to help her through. The friend tells her, "Be patient. Stay busy. Find yourself a good hobby and some projects to fill your time until your husband comes home. Keep writing him those letters. Stay strong."

How is the young wife going to react? She'll likely appreciate the advice and try to absorb it. It will be a help of sorts, but the advice doesn't produce joy or relief.

Imagine, though, the same young wife in the same situation. Imagine that same friend coming over, but instead of offering good advice she speaks good news: "Did you hear the news? The war is over! Your husband is coming home! He's coming back!"

How will that young wife respond? Will she break down and cry tears of relief? Will she run into her friend's arms, screaming and celebrating? One thing is certain, she will rejoice! People react differently to hearing good news than they do when hearing good advice. Advice gives people more work to do. Good news gives people freedom.

Jesus didn't come with advice for us to absorb and follow; He came with news. The word gospel means "good news." It is news that brings joy. The gospel is history-making, life-shaping, paradigm-shattering news. It is news about something done in history that changes you, that changes everything, forever. Jesus does something so radical, so violent, so dramatic, and it seals this good news and makes a way for us to join the Big Story.

It is this news that makes Jesus so attractive and that separates Him from all other religions. He didn't come dispensing advice on how to clean yourself up and make yourself better. He didn't offer a list of action items or set of instructions about things you must do to find God, freedom, rest, or peace. No. Jesus came saying that you can be known, loved, set free, forgiven, and made new.

This new life is open to anyone. Anyone can be made new, made clean, set free, given a relationship with the living God. And it is free. There is no earning it. It is yours, no strings attached. The gospel says all this has been done. There isn't any more doing to do. It's not advice, so don't treat the gospel like mere advice. Jesus came, lived, died, and rose again to earn the way to God, freedom, rest, and peace for you.

Nobody else has ever spoken this way, arriving on the scene and offering news of a new life instead of advice on how to achieve a better life. Founders of other religions and worldviews ask you to do something—to perform and obey—to bring your doing to the table in order to enjoy the benefits of karma, nirvana, inner peace, a better future, salvation, or whatever the benefit might be. Christianity is the one faith whose founder tells us not to bring Him our doing, but our need.

The Search for a True Story

But there is more to this story. It is not enough to merely say that Jesus brings true news and good news. No, we must know His story—how His existence, arrival, teaching, and deeds fit within human history.

Jesus is part of a much larger story, an epic story. This story has all the makings of the best, truest stories—conflict, tension, and drama. It comes with that essential, "Uh-oh, how will this be resolved?" ingredient that all the best books and movies have.

When Jesus shows up in Mark 1, He says, "The time is fulfilled" (v. 15). What is fulfilled? What time? See, God has been doing something throughout all of history, through this Big Story told in the Bible, and Jesus is the apex and fulfillment of that story. All the "uh-oh" moments are resolved in Jesus Christ.

Each one of us has a story that we believe, one we use to make sense of our lives and our world. Some of us draw our stories from family legacy while others try to escape the story of their family. Some live the stories of pursuing success, fame, or wealth. Some of us want to live the story of a hero but are stuck in what seems like a boring story. Some of us fit our lives into a story taught by a religion or a philosopher or thinker we admire. Some of us attach ourselves to the dominant storyline of the city we live in, chasing pleasure in Las Vegas or power in Washington, D.C. We may not even be aware of it or ever have even thought of it in those terms, but it is true. We can't live without a sense of story. The best way I know to get this across is to again share a quote from the Introduction:

The same impulse that makes us want our books to have a plot makes us want our lives to have a plot. We need to feel that we are getting somewhere, making progress. There is something in us that is not satisfied with a merely psychological explanation of our lives. It doesn't do justice to our conviction that we are on some kind of journey or quest, that there must be some deeper meaning to our lives than whether we feel good about ourselves. Only people who have lost the sense of adventure, mystery, and romance worry about their self-esteem. And at that point what they need is not a good therapist, but a good story. Or more precisely, the central question for us should not be, "What personality dynamics explain my behavior?" but rather, "What sort of story am I in?"

There is only one true story that can make sense of all we encounter in this broken and beautiful world. I call this the Big Story. It's the story of the Scriptures. I am going to lay all my cards on the table and state clearly what Jesus tells us, what the Scriptures tell us, and what I have come to believe: You cannot be free until you come under the reign of the Scriptures, until you accept and live into the Big Story. For those of you who don't believe this story, I'm not asking you to accept it right now. What I am asking is for you to consider this story, to examine it and try it on. Explore and see if this story is true. I want you to test the Big Story against whatever story you're using right now to make sense out of your life.

Your Story and Starting in the Middle

Some of the best stories are ones that don't start at the beginning. They jump in at the middle and draw us in by introducing the best characters and the most dramatic moments without revealing the beginning or the ending just yet. Jesus is the most important character in our stories. His life dramatically shapes our stories. There is no happy ending (or happy middle) without Jesus being the main character in our story, the leading man, the driving force.

And so, in one sense, this book starts in the middle of the story so that you can meet the main character and begin to know Him and trust Him. I want to give away the climax, the most important and dramatic part of this story, but this story needs a beginning, so we will go there next. Because every great story needs not only a great main character, but a strong start. Let's take the first step of our climb up the mountain, and begin Act 1.

STORY CONTRAST (JESUS VS.______________): At the center of the big story stands Jesus, whose love both disturbs us and frees us. What, or who, stands at the center of the stories people around you believe? In what ways does having Jesus at the center of the story make for a better story?

ACTION STEP: Draw your life story. Get out a piece of paper, draw a line across the center of the page, and graph the most significant moments of your life. Aim to graph about ten significant moments, like in the example below. What patterns do you notice? Who or what has most significantly shaped your story? How does your story fit within the Big Story?

RECOMMENDED READING: Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters (Dutton, 2009). My friend Eric bought about one thousand copies of this book, and he gives copies away to everyone he can. You'd like my friend Eric, and you'd like this book.

"I had always felt life a story, and if there is a story there is a storyteller."

G. K. Chesterton

* * *

"The world does not revolve around you."




Have you ever read a book that changed your life? Sometimes it doesn't take a whole book, but just a sentence. When I was twenty years old, I asked for cash for Christmas, but instead my mom gave me a book. At first I was disappointed, but then I began reading. The book was by A. W. Tozer and was called The Knowledge of the Holy, and on the first page sat a sentence that changed my life.

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

This is a bold claim. It makes sense. Think about it. What you think about God is the most important thing about you because it shapes everything else in your life. What you believe (or don't believe) about God drives how you live. If you think of God as a thunderbolt-throwing deity, watching everything you do and waiting for you to misbehave so He can blast you, that's going to cause you to live with quite a bit of fear and anxiety. Or if you think of God as a Santa Claus in the sky who exists to give you gifts and entertain, that's going to cause you to live as though God exists to serve your every wish and need. But if you have a true view of God, a biblical view, that will greatly affect how you live as well. A true view of God will both radically disturb your life and set you free. What comes into your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you. It will shape your life and shape the epitaph written on your gravestone.


Recently while I was working on some ideas for a sermon, I walked to a cemetery about a half-mile from my house. I'm a little odd that way; when I want ideas, I take walks where people are buried. In the corner of this old cemetery, there were two gravestones that caught my attention. The first was a large marble gravestone that read:

Mrs. Susan Armes

Born 1787

And Passed to Higher Life 1875

Just a few yards away from this stone was a small, simple gravestone that had this inscription:

Little Ernest

Beloved son of J & L Rockwell


Do you ever think about what happened to the people buried in cemeteries? Where did they go once they quit breathing? Mrs. Susan Armes lived eighty-eight years on this earth, and Little Ernest lived eleven years—then what? Little Ernest's gravestone says nothing about life after death, but the eighty-eight-year-old's gravestone says that she "Passed to Higher Life." Do we believe that, that there is a higher life on the other side of death? Every thinking person should have a list of life questions, and at the top of that list should be the question, "Does God exist, and if so, what is He like?"

Does God exist?

If so, what is He like?

We started exploring the Big Story in Chapter 1, but we didn't start at the beginning. We started with Jesus. Like many moviemakers do, we started with a key point in the plot of this story, and now we're going to go back to the beginning and see how it's all set up. I laid out the premise that all people live their lives believing some kind of story to make sense out of their life. Where I live is a lot like where you live—it's a mixture of stories. My city is a mixture of people who all believe very different stories that give very different answers to questions about life, death, and divinity. Amid this diversity, for thousands of years, men and women from all corners of the globe have discovered that the God revealed in the Bible is the one Storyteller whose storytelling rings true and satisfying. This storytelling begins with the first four words of the Bible.

Act 1: God

A book can change your life. A sentence can change your life. And sometimes just four words can change your life. The Bible begins with four powerful words that affect everything:

Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning, God ..."

This is Act 1 of the Bible. Act 1 is about God. Every act of the Big Story is mainly about God (instead of being mainly about us), but four acts are about both God and us. Act 1 is unique. Act 1 is exclusively about God.

We often insist on living as if we are the beginning, the origin, the primary character. We live life under the banner of "In the beginning, me." But the Bible doesn't begin with "In the beginning, Justin," or "In the beginning, [insert your name here]." It boldly states, "In the beginning, God."


Excerpted from The Big Story by Justin Buzzard, Bailey Utecht. Copyright © 2013 Justin Buzzard. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

1. Jesus
2. Act 1: God
3. Act 2: Creation
4. Act 3: Rebellion
5. Act 4: Rescue
6. Intermission
7. Act 5: Home
8. Life
Appendix: How to Retell Other People's Stories with the Big Story
Special Thanks

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