Hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and now, mass violence. Shocked and reeling, we cry and pray, but truthfully, we also doubt and rage. Once again, we’re united with all others in the suffering that goes on throughout the world and has been since the first murder of an innocent person (Abel) by his enraged brother (Cain).
A few weeks ago, in the midst of Houston’s great flood I commented on the soul-level impact of tragedy even when we are on the outskirts. I think it bears repeating:
I discovered I was almost afraid to take significant time out to read my Bible and write in my journal. Maybe I was hiding from my conflicted feelings, not ready to bring my doubts and fears before God. I’m not exactly sure. Probably I was just completely overwhelmed like everyone else. Whatever the reason, that fear of taking time out to read, reflect, pray, and worship was something that needed to be addressed. That was the need of the day. I found Christ still there waiting for me and more than willing to restore my soul.
Psalm 116:7 would call this returning to the soul’s resting place. We draw close to Jesus and let His presence become bigger than our need to have all the answers. As we do so, we also find ourselves able to lift our heads and look for others. Yes, for those we can help in tangible, practical ways, but also for those who comprise our dream teams.
I’ve begun calling my group of fellow faith-warriors, encouragers, I’ve-got-your-back kind of people the dream team because we are the ones who, when monsters loom large, remind each other that God has a larger dream and bolder plan at work. After all that is good and right seems to have gone down in flames, we point each other back to Jesus who came to “destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8). When one of us is too weak to stand, we show up to let her know we will be there holding her up.
We refuse to let each other quit on the dreams God births within us, not so we can all reach some kind of “self-actualization” but because those dreams bring God’s kingdom from heaven to earth. Dream teams are the ones we charge into battle alongside as we set out to change our world.
I want to look at some passages in Philippians together this month, but I’d like us to keep that dream team concept in our thoughts. Perhaps like me, you can begin thinking about the people who’ve encouraged you as you’ve grown in faith and pursued your calling. The apostle Paul certainly knew who his dream team was, and he counted them among the people who gave him the greatest joy on earth.
However, they weren’t only the heavy hitters that traveled with him or became preachers and leaders themselves. Yes, his dream team included people like Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Lydia, Aquila and Priscilla, but they were also a host of everyday-kinds-of-saints. These were fellow believers who lived ordinary lives, buying and selling at the market, raising their kids, helping their neighbors.
Of them Paul says this:
I thank my God every time I remember you. I always pray with joy in my every prayer for all of you because of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. Phil 1:3-5 NET
That and the passages that follow recently jolted me. In no other letter does Paul so effusively rejoice over a group of people. And he’s rejoicing at a time when light-weights like me would probably be prompted to give up. He’s in prison with execution looming as a very real monster on the horizon. He was put there for spreading the gospel, and some people, out of spite and jealousy, were dragging his reputation through the mud to make a name for themselves. Yet he was still able to thank God for the indwelling Spirit of Christ and for the joy-givers in his life.
So here’s what I journaled:
Who are the joy givers in my life? When was the last time I made a list of all the people that have supported me or supported the ministries that I care about and just spent time being thankful and praying with joy for them? Here is a man who has devoted his life to the spread of the gospel and is now in prison for it. We know from chapter four that the joy of the Lord is his strength, that he rejoices in the Lord, and calls us to do the same thing. But one of the reasons that he rejoices in the Lord is because of the joy he feels over these generous, gracious sisters and brothers in Christ. He can’t stop thanking God and praying for them!
Who’s on your dream team? Who can you thank for their role in your life? I’m thinking my list is going to be pretty long so I better get started.