Make God the Hero of Your Story
Founder’s Week 2023 kicks off with opening night message from Dr. Joe Stowell to ‘live a life that glorifies God’
by Linda Piepenbrink
“Down deep inside, we really want to be the hero of our own story—and that’s a problem.”
Speaking on the opening night of Founder’s Week Wednesday, October 18, Dr. Joe Stowell didn’t mince words when addressing an issue that Christians struggle to overcome daily.
“Sometimes when we in our brokenness think we can live for our own glory—check me out—we’ve made a grave mistake and forfeited the privilege to make God the hero of our lives and the hero of the story of our lives,” Dr. Stowell said to a capacity crowd in Torrey-Gray Auditorium on Moody Bible Institute’s Chicago campus.
Dr. Stowell, who served as Moody’s president from 1987 to 2005 and as Cornerstone’s president from 2008 to 2021, recently returned to Moody as global ambassador and special assistant to Moody President Dr. Mark Jobe. He kicked off the first Founder’s Week held during the fall season with a message about how to turn the spotlight back to God and make Him the hero of our story.
Dr. Joe Stowell was the featured speaker for the opening session of Founder’s Week 2023 Wednesday, October 18 on Moody Bible Institute’s Chicago campus.
Our calling to glorify God
“All of us have callings from God,” Dr. Stowell said. “At the top of my list has to be the calling to live a life that glorifies God.”
Referring to the Founder’s Week theme, “Rekindled: Fanning the Flame of Our Calling,” Dr. Stowell said, “Every day you and I have the choice to rekindle our calling to live to glorify God. And it will be up against the tension of living to glorify ourselves.”
That desire to glorify self can show up when we seek glory in how many followers we have on social media, how we look and dress, the kind of car we drive, or the zip code in which we live, he explained.
Dr. Stowell turned to Numbers 20 for an example of how Moses forfeited the opportunity to glorify God—and forfeited entering the Promised Land. When the congregation of Israel complained in the wilderness that they had no water, God told Moses to take his staff—the same staff that miraculously turned into a snake in Egypt—and speak to the rock to yield its water for the people. Instead, Moses used the rod—symbolizing his authority and power—to strike the rock and said, “Shall we bring you water out of this rock?”
Water gushed out of the rock, but the Lord told Moses, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” Moses was thus disqualified from the Promised Land for not putting God’s holiness on display—for not making God the hero to celebrate and worship.
A capacity crowd of Moody alumni, students, faculty, staff, and members of the public attended the opening night of Founder’s Week 2023 at Moody Bible Institute’s Torrey-Gray Auditorium.
The infraction wasn’t that Moses got angry, Dr. Stowell added, but that he spoke unwisely with his lips. Moses’ words, “Must we give you water from this rock?” indicate he took the glory to himself.
Turn the spotlight back on God
Instead, he suggests we think about glorifying God in what we say, think, and do.
For example, when complimented on a sermon, Dr. Stowell has learned to resist the urge to take credit.
“If God hadn’t given me the gifts he’s given to me, the education He permitted me to have, the family I grew up in, and all the influences on my life, and if he hadn’t given me the Holy Spirit who energizes His Word and if he hadn’t given me this book, I would be nothing,” he said. “For me to assume that somehow I did a great sermon would be violating the glory of God.”
Instead, Dr. Stowell said he tries to “turn the spotlight on God” with words to the effect of “See how much God loves you? I had no idea, but God knew you were coming and laid that sermon on my heart so that you would hear it.”
Founder’s Week, the largest and longest-running free Bible conference in the US, kicked off its first week as a fall event October 18 with its annual international student flag procession in Moody Bible Institute’s Torrey-Gray Auditorium.
We can also glorify God with our words in the darkest of times. Dr. Stowell referred to Scott and Jan Willis, who after escaping a vehicle fire but losing six of their nine kids in the inferno, astonished the media in a news conference. “I know God has purposes and God has reasons,” Scott said. “God has demonstrated love to us in our family. There is no question in our mind that God is good, and we praise Him in all things.”
We can also be an instrument of God’s glory when we do acts of kindness and good works to meet the needs in our community or workplace. Dr. Stowell explains, “When your boss says, ‘I don’t get Christians, but my office is a lot better place because they work here,’ that’s what you ought to hear.”
After golfer Bernhard Langer won the coveted Green Jacket in a Masters tournament, the press asked him if this was the greatest day of his life. Langer responded, “It’s probably the greatest day of my golfing career, but it doesn’t compare to the fact that 2,000 years ago today, my Lord and Savior rose from the grave to give me eternal life.”
Stowell was amazed “because he took the spotlight and took it off himself and put it on Jesus, his redeemer, and glorified Christ. . . . Get out of the way and turn the spotlight off—and live for the joy of glorifying Him and making God the hero of your story.”
Autumn Briggs, a senior majoring in Children and Family Ministry, said the message hit home with her. As a future children’s teacher in churches, she said, “It’s so easy when you know that you had a really good lesson to internalize that and use that for glory for yourself—as opposed to being like, ‘God, thank you for making this work out well.’”