2020 has been a unique year, to say the least. One of the most common responses I get when I ask people how they are doing is, “I am surviving.” I certainly understand the sentiment. But, as I look at Scripture, it is clear that God wants more for us than merely to survive, He wants us to thrive. This is not only His desire for us, He actually has provided the pathway to thriving amidst all the ups and downs of life. As we explore God’s Word, we discover the divinely laid path we are called to walk. This path empowers us to thrive in Him. Community is an important part of God’s plan for us to thrive.
I have seen pictures of the huge redwood trees in California, and they are amazing. They are the largest living things on earth and the tallest trees in the world. Some of them are 300 feet high, and more than 2,500 years old. You would think that trees that large would have a tremendous root system, reaching down hundreds of feet into the earth. But that is not the case. Redwoods have a very shallow root system. The roots of these trees are, however, intertwined. They are tied in with each other, interlocked. Thus, when the storms come, and the winds blow, the redwoods still stand. With an interlocking root system, they support and sustain each other. They need one another to survive and thrive.
Similarly, the picture of the longevity, beauty, and survival and thriving of redwood trees is a picture of our community through Christ. This begins to become clearer when we realize that the ultimate destination of all our lives is God’s presence to know Him and make Him known. We read in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Jesus shares these words with His disciples after He has addressed how to deal with a brother or sister in Christ who sins against you. He speaks of the power of forgiveness, then speaks these words on unity.
Take a second to think about what Jesus is proclaiming in these words. Remember, the ultimate destination of everyone’s life is God’s presence, to know God and make Him known. In essence, we are to live in the presence of God, and as His ambassadors, image-bearers of His, usher His presence into the world around us through sharing His message and love with others. Therefore, as we look upon these words of Christ, found in Matthew 18:20, we discover that community has a bigger role than we ever imagined. When God’s children gather together, His church, His body, a spiritual dynamic takes place that is designed to change lives.
Community is used by God to help us thrive. Now, you don’t need me to tell you that community is difficult. But, it is worth all the effort and commitment. Community benefits the individual, but will not allow one to genuinely thrive unless it is sought and built upon Christ and for God’s glory. The community God calls us to, the community that enables us to thrive, is called to be focused on Christ. When the focus of our community is someone or something other than Christ, we will not thrive. In fact, we will barely even survive.
The community God calls us to is focused on Christ and characterized by abundant life. Jesus proclaimed, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b). Jesus’ promise of abundant life begins in the here and now and extends to the unforeseen future. Community, built upon Christ, is alive, together, walking in a God-given direction, being used to change lives for the sake of Christ. If we focus on Christ and build our community upon Him, our perspective, language, and actions change. In part, God uses community to assist us in thriving and uses a thriving community, a thriving church family, to make an eternal impact on others.
I believe God desires for another great awakening to spread across this region. God offers us His blessing of thriving and His presence to those who genuinely seek to know Him. In Jeremiah 29:13, we read, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Revival comes when the heart of a single individual is transformed by God, but it also comes in a people living in authentic Christ-focused community seeking to know Him and make Him known.
Interestingly, trees are mentioned in the Bible more than any living thing other than God and people. We discover in Psalm 1:1-3 that a person, focused on the Lord, thrives like a tree planted by streams of water and bears much fruit. Such a community of trees is used by God to help us thrive. God uses community, in part, to help a person thrive. Are you willing to live in genuine Christ-focused community with God and others? I hope and pray that each of us answer yes and amen. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!