The Story of Life

In many literary works where there is a great conflict as the main theme of the story, the author may use characters that serve as either the protagonist or antagonist, and each is opposed to the other as they both strive for mastery and victory over the other in seeking to achieve their goals. As the story unfolds, the goals of each are revealed — often the same goal but with different reasons and intentions — and the main characters are also revealed, along with their character traits, their background, and why they are striving for the revealed goals and, inevitably, the story reveals to the reader why each is opposed to the other.

      There is no greater story than the story of man — the story of life itself. It is this story that reveals to us our origin, why we are here, and where we all are headed. This story, as revealed by the greatest Author of all time [God], also reveals to us the two great characters that appear throughout the revealed story of man: God Himself, and Satan. Unlike the majority of stories with the expected protagonist and antagonist, this story is completely and absolutely nonfiction. This story is as real as it gets because it includes and involves you and me and every human being who has walked, or will ever walk, the face of this Earth.

      The Protagonists. In literature, the protagonist is the main character in the story who is almost always the one who is seeking to do good, or who does some heroic act to save others. In the great story of life, we must list this in the plural because we have the triune Godhead as the one working for good: The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

      Within God’s record of the story of mankind — the story of life — we find that He has always worked for our good. The Scriptures teach us God had conceived the plan for our salvation “according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:8-10). Peter also reveals to us that Christ “was foreordained [as Savior] before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1 Pet. 1:18-20). We see from this revelation that our salvation was not a spur-of-the-moment decision or action, but part of the plan that God had in place and intended since before we even existed. No one can say God did not care about our condition!

      From this alone, we may know God is on the side of good, and has always been. Who has not heard, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16)? In that well-known passage, Jesus emphasizes the love God had for the world as the motivation for sending His Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish; that is, that they might be saved. This idea is repeated over and over, and it should be clear when Peter wrote that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

      Obviously, Jesus was working for our good, too, for Paul reminds us He “has loved us and given Himself for us” (Eph. 5:2). Paul also put it in very personal terms when he wrote that Christ “loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). And let us acknowledge, too, that this was done willingly by Christ — not out of obligation or by coercion — for Jesus would say, “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself” (John 10:18).

      The Holy Spirit also played a part in our good, too, for it was by His work that this plan was revealed to man, and by that revelation man now has knowledge of his true spiritual condition and the opportunity to know what has been done by God and Christ, and what needs to be done by one that he might be saved. We see the work of the Spirit in the revelation of this plan to mankind, as it was first preached in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), but we also see it in the words of the apostle Paul, who reminded the Christians at Ephesus that the plan for our salvation “has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Eph. 3:6), and that he had written of this plan to these brethren who could then understand it when they read it (Eph. 3:4, 5). He also reminded the Christians at Corinth, regarding the promise of salvation — once said to be “The things which God has prepared for those who love Him” — that God “has revealed them to us through His Spirit” and Paul could then say, “These things we also speak” (1 Cor. 2:9-13). In revealing God’s plan for our salvation, the Holy Spirit, too, sought our good.

      The Antagonist. It is hopefully no surprise that the opposing character in the story of life is the devil himself — Satan. We find in the record of man and his dealings with God [the Bible], he enters the story early, and is working against God from the beginning. It was he who tempted Eve, but it was also he who began by contradicting God’s statement, telling Eve, “You will not surely die,” and then laid the seeds of doubt and distrust of God in her mind, further telling her, “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God” (Gen. 3:4, 5) — making it sound like God was unfairly prohibiting something that would actually be good. It should be noted here that the serpent [the devil] was lying; God was telling the truth. This tells us, from the beginning, the character traits that will define who is the protagonist and who is the antagonist — who is for good and who opposes good.

      But this character trait of the devil is what makes him the opposing character to God; he is called by Jesus the father of lies (John 8:44) because he is the very source and origin of untruth. On the other hand, we have God, “who cannot lie” (Titus 1:2), and of whom it is said, “it is impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18). Just this difference alone should make it clear who is working for our good, and who is working against good.

      The Battle. In this nonfiction story of life, the struggle between the protagonist [God] and the antagonist [the devil] has one thing in common: They are both seeking our souls. God wants to save us and the devil wants us lost! The devil is the one who is behind every temptation, seeking to get us to sin and turn against God (cf. Matt. 4:1-11), and he will use our own desires against us to accomplish his goal (Jas. 1:13-15). He knows that sin separates us from God, but he will only tell us sin is “fun” or “a personal choice” or even something “everybody is doing” in his effort to get us to do that which will lead to our destruction and eternal condemnation. He knows his destiny is already sealed (cf. Matt. 25:41), so he is trying desperately to deceive many into thinking it doesn’t matter how they live, or even that the life they are now living is pleasing to God when, in reality, it is not.

      He will make himself appear as “an angel of light” and will use other evil ones who appear to be “ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:14, 15), all in an effort to deceive and cause souls to be lost. He has sent out “many false prophets…into the world” (1 John 4:1), and will even send “false teachers among” believers (2 Pet. 2:1-3), so it is important that those who seek truth and who love the Lord are properly prepared for battle (Eph. 6:10-16).

            This story is real.        — Steven Harper