A Resurrection Kind of Life

On this month’s theme of “Resurrection Moments,” I kept coming back to the idea of new life out of death. That is the nature of resurrection—not resurrection as a historical fact as much as resurrection as a spiritual formation dynamic. Watchman Nee said it like this:

“Everything that is really of value to us, even the work God gives us, and even our knowledge of God’s will, must go through death to resurrection. In resurrection we know it to be something so miraculously of God that we can never again take it possessively into our hands. Resurrection puts it out of our reach.” (Watchman Nee. Changed Into His Likeness. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1967, 1978, p. 91)

 At InterVarsity’s URBANA 1990 conference, my wife, Gem, and I received a vision about our future ministry in a moment of guided silence during one of the main sessions. By vision, I mean what seemed to be a Spirit-inspired view of our future. Gem saw us sharing our lives with Christian leaders. I saw a graphical image of a map grid with one small corner highlighted and the rest grayed out. I intuitively knew it was an image of expansion. Our combined vision spoke to us about a sense of expanded scope of ministry revolving around sharing our lives with Christian leaders.

At the time, we were in our late twenties. We led a church ministry to 80-100 college students. I remember sitting with a mentor a few weeks later and sharing the vision. I was looking for help with how to “make the vision happen.” My mentor wisely suggested, “Maybe you need to let God season you a little more.” Looking back now from the vantage point of twenty years, those were sage words that I couldn’t hear then.

The trajectory of our ministry journey after that was 1) leaving our large church college ministry in 1993 for a smaller local church young adult ministry, transitioning in 1997 to a new church plant in Orange county concurrent with my joining the staff of The Leadership Institute TLI), then moving into a one-year sabbatical in 2000-2001 after which I joined TLI full-time. None of this could be in any way construed as an expansion of ministry among Christian leaders, even though the ministry focus of TLI was to Christian leaders.

Experientially, it really felt like the vision we were so excited about was dying a slow death. We had little expectation that it would ever be fulfilled to any significant degree. But as our outward ministry seemed to be more downwardly mobile than we wanted, God seemed to be doing deep work within us. Originally, we thought the vision was something God gave us to somehow make happen around us. We came to find that He intended to develop us into the shape of that vision. In recent years, with little apparent intentionality or promotional efforts, doors have been opening to share our lives with Christian leaders and the ministry of The Leadership Institute has begun to expand internationally over the last few years. It all has the feel and flavor of resurrection.

So, do you have a similar “life, death, resurrection” story to tell? Maybe you’re only aware of the life, death” part. We’d love to hear it. Consider these reflection questions as a way to enter in:

 Join the Conversation

  • What good gifts has God given you? List them. Give thanks for them.
  • What would happen if one of these gifts were taken away or seemed to die? How would you feel? How would you respond to God?
  • If you think about recent losses you have experienced, how might they be an empty place God has been wanting to fill with Himself?
  • Where have you felt more of a sense of death than of life? Can you envision or imagine the possibility that this is only a precursor to a different kind of life—a resurrection kind of life?
Alan Fadling:
fadlingAlan Fadling serves as Executive Director of The Leadership Institute in Orange, CA, training Christian leaders to integrate spiritual formation and leadership development. He serves as a frequent speaker and consultant and is the author of An Unhurried Life (IVP, 2013). He is a certified spiritual director living in Mission Viejo, California, with his wife Gem, and their three sons.  
    • Godincidentally, I was meeting just this morning with Benjamin Patrick (Malaysian) who had a true physical “resurrection” of sorts, and was able to share my own physical “near death” moment with him. So, yes, have had such a moment along the journey, but also experienced the death of visions during life as well. I have learned (heart knowledge) to trust God with everything, (though still worry from time to time), and also have lost the fear of death . . . replaced with His Peace that passes understanding. HOPE indeed lies in that other life . . . Eternity in all things made new.

      Say “Hello” to Danny Wallen for me. 🙂

      • Appreciate your response, Patrick. There are moments, aren’t there, when we find ourselves awake to deeper, greater reality. And when I cross paths with Danny, I’ll pass along your greeting…

    • Gwynne Johnson

      Your experience reminds me of these verses:
      For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry.
      Habakkuk 2:2-4

    • Gwynne – this is wonderfully fitting. So appreciate your taking a moment to contribute this passage to the conversation…

    • Christina Paul

      Thanks for sharing! Dreams and visions are hard to surrender, but when resurrected by God they are truly powerful. I especially loved the quote by Watchman Nee!

      • You bet, Christina. I’ve learned a lot over the years from Watchman Nee. The path of death and resurrection is a hard and good one.

    • More than once I’ve experienced the “death” of a friendship. In one case, nine years after no contact I ran into the person unexpectedly at, of all places, a funeral. I thought it might be the resurrection of that relationship, but it wasn’t. I asked God how I could be a better friend to her. His answer: “Step back.” So, though that particular relationship did not resurrect (thus far), still, because of the lessons I learned, future friendships remain intact and healthy because I’m not making the same mistakes (expectations too high, etc.).