Inspiration, Encouragement & Instructions
". . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. (Revelation 12:11)
When God works in the life of an individual–-saving her from sin, rescuing her from a lifestyle of painful choices, bringing her out her darkness and into his marvelous light–it is called a testimony. And these testimonies are used by the Holy Spirit to point eyes and hearts to the goodness, greatness and power of Savior-God.
Testimonies are powerful. Through the work of the Holy Spirit and the obedience in believers' lives, testimonies can change one’s eternal trajectory.
As Americans, raised in a culture hyper-focussed on the individual, we gravitate toward and find inspiration from the testimony of individuals, as we should. God deserves all the glory and praise for every single life saved from destruction–he will stop at nothing to reach “the one” in the 99.
What we hear about less often is God’s same redemption, restoration and rebuilding of the collective–churches, ministries, organizations, schools, teams.
When was the last time an organization’s story of brokenness and failure was later followed by a testimony of God’s passionate pursuit of restoring the organization (not just the individuals or the leader of the organization, but the collective purpose and work of the organization)?
When was the last time you heard the testimony of a “community” trumpeting the redemptive power of God to rebuild and renew (not just the individuals or the leader of the organization, but the collective purpose and work of the organization)?
Why don’t we hear these kinds of stories more?
I relish the testimony of the collective. Perhaps because my life’s testimony with Jesus isn’t of the “drugs to Jesus” type. Or perhaps because from a very young age family, team, community, church, school were the agents of change in my life. Or perhaps because as an adult, my seasons of intense growth and deepening faith were set alongside a crisis season of the “collective” in which I was working.
The restoration of the collective displays so vividly the redemptive compassion and immeasurable patience of a God who sees wholeness in the whole-ness of his people. In my life, God’s hand in restoring the collective mission and work of organizations (schools to be more specific) has been obvious and miraculous! (Well, to be totally honest, painful and heart-wrenching as well.)
More than a decade ago my husband and I worked at a school that very unexpectedly (like the craziest circumstances you can even imagine) entered a season of financial and location crisis–the future looked bleak in so many ways.
But God, through people, did what he does to save that which he has called his own–he redeemed, restored and rebuilt. The collective met the crisis with prayer-walks, parents paying years ahead on tuition, and everyone committing to keeping the doors open no matter what. All for the kids! We would literally take prayer walks (run, stroll, or bike) from the campus we were needing to move out of to the campus that building had begun on before the crisis hit.
God moved, and over the course of many years, and through collective work of those within the organization, he restored and rebuilt. As a result, hundreds of students have received a top-notch Christian education and 100s of educators have had the honor and privilege of investing in the lives of the next generation.
More recently I have again been witness to circumstances crumbling a ministry’s infrastructure–the future looked bleak. But God, through his people, is again doing what he does to save what he has called his own–-redeeming, restoring and rebuilding from the inside out.
As I consider where I am now, I can’t help but notice the fruit of God’s redemption is in full bloom at the school I worked at years ago. And it is often this experience and their redemptive story that helps me to believe, remember and persevere in the work required to live again in the restore and rebuild season–knowing full well that God’s promises and provisions never run short and are always right on time.
We often tell people (individuals) in the messy middle season of redemption:
And yet, when we are in the midst of (or are merely observers to) organizations in the process of being redeemed, restored and rebuilt, we are all too often tempted to judge, blame, and walk away. The restoration of the collective seems nearly impossible, right?
But a little trip back through the Bible reveals that the heart of God is to do his miraculous work, not just in the lives of individuals, but also among the collective–the nation, the tribe, the people group, the disciples, the Church. Thus, we can also apply every statement we voice to the individual saved by grace, walking out of brokenness and into effectiveness to the organizations, schools, churches and ministries we belong to. God is, and has always been, in the business of using the collective (the body) to tell the world he is a redeemer, restorer and rebuilder.
The Bible and my personal experiences affirms that all these things we say to the individual he is able, willing and delighted to do for communities, organizations, churches, schools, teams, villages and families. And the impact of his redemptive work for the collective spans nations and generations.
Fire fell on the Church in Acts and it still falls today. The shared experience of the Holy Spirit empowered the first Christians to die for Christ. The shared experience of the Holy Spirit propelled these men and women to fulfill the “Great Commission” in their time and in their places–as the Church. You and I wouldn’t be standing in churches on Sunday morning if they hadn’t found the courage and strength as a collective to “do even greater things” because Jesus told them to do so.
How about you and me?
God is good. He is good to us, the broken, the needy who make-up the communities, tribes, villages and churches of the world. He invites us in so we can invite others into the work he is doing on the earth. This is his way, the way of multiplication and unity. It can be messy and heart-breaking, but that is also the way of the cross–-to lay down our lives for our friends and choose to participate in the restoration process available through the power, strength, grace and self-control available to us through the Holy Spirit.
Friend, I don’t know what you are walking through with "the collectives" of your life . But can I encourage you to press on to pursue to understand the heart of God in the work he is able and willing to do through the redemption, restoration and rebuilding of any of the communities in which you are experiencing brokenness, disunity and hurt. There is nothing God cannot heal and restore, and the glory he gets when the collective of his people come together after being tempted to be torn apart and separated is worth every ounce of energy it will take to get there.
Lean in. Run the race. Fight the good fight. Not just in your own life, but also within and for the collectives to which you belong. The world will be full of testimonies of God's redemption, restoration and rebuilding when you do.
Her family and friends know her as, Jaci. She is the wife of a pastor, a mom of four, writing and communications education instructor, a visionary and an avid runner. As a firm believer in the power and effectiveness of the body of Christ united together to live out the Great Commission, she holds fast to this verse, "Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). Of equal importance to her are these words, "...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1).
Posts in the Run for Your Life, series: