I love a good story. I don’t mean just any story, but the kind that has you on the edge of your seat awaiting the outcome. Will good triumph over evil? Will love conquer all? Will adversity be overcome? There you sit, heart in your throat, because it looks like all hope is lost … and then.

I love the “and then” part of a story. In a good story, you never see it coming. It sneaks up on you like a cloudburst, appearing when you least expect it. When it comes, the emotions burst forth like a Fourth of July rocket, and you can’t contain your response.

That response may come in a cheer like those that accompany the movie, “Rocky.” You remember the scene: Rocky Balboa is down on the mat, and the referee begins his slow count to 10. You’re pumping your fists and yelling, “Get up!” as the numbers slowly come, “Five, six.” You’re still yelling, but Rocky remains still. “Seven.” Your heart’s pounding. This could be it. As the referee counts “Eight,” you’ve reached the climax of all good stories, the moment where the best of the best meets the worst of the worst. Now the crowd is chanting, “Rocky, Rocky.” You join in and hear the official count: “Nine.”

Then you see it. A barely perceptible movement of one finger. At first you think your eyes are playing tricks, but then you see it again. Rocky pushes himself up on one knee, and you know everything will be all right.

Of course, the best stories are God stories. Did you know everything God does creates a story? The Bible is a book of stories about Him interacting with His creation. David and Goliath: what a story. And then there’s Jonah and the Whale (or Big Fish, or Big Creature, depending on how many seminary degrees the preacher has), also a great story. Joseph and his Coat of Many Colors: another incredible story.

Stories are an important part of the Kingdom. Your children need to know the stories of the Bible. And as they grow older, they need to understand the predominant attribute of God behind each one.

But Bible stories are not enough. Every believer needs his own story of how a holy God intervened in his life. Your children need to tell their stories of how God saved them. Of all the stories in my life, the greatest one recounts the day God convicted me of my sins and gave me an invitation to become part of His royal family. My life has never been the same. As I remember it, I still get emotional. And all my other God stories are built upon this foundation.

If you’ve ever heard me preach, you know I can’t help but share the God stories. One of the issues I have with today’s generation is that many young people don’t have a clear grasp on that first story. When I take students on the mission field, they all give their testimony multiple times in front of a group of people who don’t know Jesus. We spend a good deal of time teaching these young missionaries how to craft their salvation stories. They all want to talk about “walking an aisle. “No, no, no!” and again I say, “No!”

Salvation is so much more than walking down an aisle. It begins and ends with the God of all creation Who illuminated a need deep in the innermost part of your soul. He put a disturbance in you that all is not well, one that says, “You need a Savior.” Without Him, all is lost. But our society has taken so great a salvation and reduced it to walking an aisle.

After helping your children get that first story down, the second greatest thing you can do is to give them their second story. The second story seals the first. I give students a second story by taking them on a journey around the world. In fact, I believe every child who turns 13 should have the opportunity to take at least a month-long mission trip. Why a month? It takes that long to move them away from the culture they live in and put them into one where they can deepen their first story and find a second, a third and more. These stories not only help them get through the difficult teenage years but also prepare them for true adulthood.

Yes, the greatest thing you can do for your children is to help them to find salvation in Christ, but the second greatest thing is to release them to go to the mission field and find their second story. This Christmas, give your children a gift that lasts for eternity. Give them a mission trip.