Updated: Jul 4, 2018
“Heaven must retain Christ,” said the apostle Peter, “until the times of restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21). And at the conclusion of a panoramic vision of human history, the apostle John heard God declare, “Behold, I make all things new!” (Rev. 21:5). It would seem that nothing is beyond God’s ability to redeem, rebuild, and restore.
The Psalmist said that the Lord rebuilds Jerusalem, regathers the outcasts of Israel, and restores the broken-hearted (Psalm 147:2-3). In fact, a reoccurring theme of the scriptures is: salvation is of the Lord! God, by His very nature, is a saviour and a healer, a deliverer and a restorer. It’s not just something he does, it’s what he is! And when he looked for a name to assign to his Son, he chose Yesu (Jesus), which means ‘saviour’.
Even when he finds a bruised reed that is seemingly beyond repair and good for nothing, he will not break it off and discard it. Even when he finds a dimly burning flax that is seemingly spent and at the end of its usefulness, he will not extinguish it (Isa. 42:3). He rebuilds the wall with the very stones that have been torn down and burned with fire (Neh. 4:2). He is the ultimate recycler – nothing lost, nothing wasted, and nothing discarded.
And when his Spirit comes upon us, a remarkable thing happens: his love is poured out in our hearts and we become partakers of his divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). Through his anointing, we too become healers and deliverers, rebuilders and restorers. The prophet Isaiah put it this way:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor; he has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound. To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion. To give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. And they shall rebuild the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations” (Isaiah 61:1-4)
If you have ever visited Jerusalem, you will have experienced the thrill of ‘walking where Jesus walked’. The only problem is, the terra firma that Jesus walked on is about 20 feet below current ground level! Like any other ancient site, generations of devastation and occupation have resulted in layers of dirt and debris. And sometimes our lives are just like those old ruins, those desolations of many generations.
We’ve been put down, walked over, disenfranchised, oppressed, violated, and humiliated. We feel used and abused, unclean and unwanted, with dim memories of a former glory and no prospect of a better tomorrow. Or, as the apostle Paul put it: “without hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). But God, but God, BUT GOD! “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we are down and out, walked over and trampled upon, makes us alive, raises us up, and causes us to sit in a place of honour and authority in the realm of the Spirit” (Eph. 2:4-6 paraphrased).
A spiritual person is a restorer
In his letter to the churches in Galatia, Paul went to great lengths to distinguish between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit – those who are ruled by their sensual appetites and those who are controlled by the Spirit of God. However, noting the human propensity to sin, Paul admonished:
“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:1-2).
As a fifth generation Pentecostal, I have been privy to endless debates concerning the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Whilst I fervently believe in the value of speaking in tongues or ‘praying in the spirit’, I cannot concur with the notion that spiritual language is the indisputable evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit. At best, it is implied in scripture – not explicitly stated.
What the Bible does clearly state, however, is that the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). Thus, when the Spirit of God fills us, the divine nature, which is love, manifests itself in us (1 John 4:7-8). By virtue of the presence of the Holy Spirit we become healers, deliverers, restorers and rebuilders. This is what Paul meant when he said, “you who are spiritual” or “you who have the Spirit living within you, restore ….”
One of the best examples of a spiritual person is the Samaritan who saw an armed robbery victim lying on the side of the road, stripped of his clothing and seriously injured. Unlike the religious leaders, he took a closer look and got involved. “He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him” (Luke 10:34).
A spiritual person does not stand to one side and pontificate about the whys and wherefores of human suffering. With little regard for personal safety, he or she rushes in and seeks to render assistance in time of need. As Isaiah prophesied, they “rebuild the old waste places, raise up the foundations of many generations, repair the breach, and restore paths to dwell in” (Isa. 58:12).
Six keys to the city
The story of Nehemiah serves as an inspiration to all who seek to restore that which is lost and rebuild that which is broken. Nehemiah was not a prophet or a priest; he was a civic leader who loved God and grieved over the destruction of his city. And when he heard the report of the plight of the Jews and the state of Jerusalem, he took six decisive steps which culminated, some months later, in a reconstruction project of gigantic proportions!
Firstly, he saw things as they really were, not as he would have liked them to have been. He faced the facts; he didn’t distort reality or embellish a fantasy. They said to me, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.” So it was, when I heard these words, I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days…. (Neh. 1:3-4).
Secondly, he took personal responsibility for the situation; he didn’t blame other people or events outside of his control. “…we have sinned against You. Both my father’s house and I have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments …” (Neh. 1:6-7).
Thirdly, he saw the big picture of what he wanted to accomplish. He had a macro view of his overall purpose. He started with the end in mind. I said to the king, “Send me to Judah, to the city of my father’s tombs, that I may rebuild it” … I went out by night and viewed the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down … I went up in the night by the valley and viewed the wall… (Neh. 2:5,13,15).
Fourthly, he had a M.A.P. (a massive action plan) of how to get from where he was to where he wanted to be. He developed a detailed plan, complete with incremental steps, targets, and timelines. The king said to me, “How long will your journey be? And when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me, and I set him a time. And I said to the king, “Let letters be given to me for the governors that they must permit me to pass … and a letter to the keeper of the king’s forest that he must give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel, the city wall, and my house …” (Neh. 2:6-8).
Fifthly, he sold the vision of restoration to other people. He inspired sacrifice and commitment on their part, rather than demanding it. Then I said to them, “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.” And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words …. So they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they set their hands to this good work (Neh. 2:17-18).
Sixthly, he motivated, educated, and delegated: motivated (got people excited), educated (taught people how), and delegated (let people loose). I positioned men behind the lower parts of the wall, at the openings; and I set the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows …. Then I said to the nobles, the rulers, and the rest of the people, “The work is great and extensive, and we are separated far from one another on the wall. Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us!” So we laboured in the work, and half of the men held the spears from daybreak until the stars appeared (Neh. 4:13,19-21).
In reality, the principles of rebuilding and restoration are the same, whether the project be a marriage, a family, a business, a church, or on a more intimate level, a relationship with God. If we will meet his conditions, God promises to restore the lost opportunities of bygone years. He says, “I will restore to you the years that the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25), and again, “The Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people who are left” (Isa. 11:11).
Once again the Lord poses the question: “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for me? …I will cause the captives to return and will rebuild those places as at the first” (Jer. 32:27; 33:7).
With God, all things are possible!