Find New Life: The Upside Down Kingdom

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When he became ill while treating Ebola patients in Liberia, the first American flown back from Africa to battle the disease in the U.S. told Matt Lauer in an interview for NBC news that at first he prayed it was malaria. When that test came back negative, his friends and family prayed it was dengue fever. But it was the third blood draw that told him what he feared most. He had the Ebola virus.

Dr. Kent Brantly, who was serving a two-year fellowship through a Samaritan’s Purse post-residency program, knew what he was up against. He had spent the prior month and a half treating patients with the illness. In that time, he told a Senate hearing panel who are examining the Ebola outbreak, there was only one survivor.

There is no known vaccine or cure for Ebola, and it has a mortality rate of up to 90 percent. But Dr. Brantly survived. He’s been sharing his experience to encourage officials in the United States to take the lead in the response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa.


This week at The High Calling we’ve been talking about what it means to find new life in Christ. Here we are, months after the stone was rolled away, months after Jesus first appeared to his disciples, and we take you back to Easter, to the message of resurrection. But Dr. Brantly’s story reminds me that the message of new life has no season. Life in Christ is always about resurrection.

We read in Acts 5 that after an angel of the Lord frees the apostles from prison, he says to them, “Go, stand in the temple courts and tell the people the full message of this new life” [emphasis mine].

Don’t you wish you were there? A fly on the wall of those temple courts? Don’t you wish you heard Peter and the others give the full message of this new life? Because sometimes I’m not so sure I know what that means—I’m not so sure what it’s supposed to look like, this new life. What does a life in Christ look like really?

New Life

So I go to my Strong’s concordance and look up the original Greek language for that word, “life.” The word for life used in Acts 5 is the Greek word—zóé. But when I look up the meaning, I accidentally look in the Hebrew section of my concordance instead of the Greek. Isn’t that just like me to make a silly mistake like that? But here is what I found under the Hebrew definition for the Strong’s number for the word: to flow; a pouring rain—water. Does that sound anything like life to you?

I thought this definition rather beautiful, but it confused me. So I emailed one of my mentors, and he pointed out my error. I felt very foolish—this is what comes from not studying the ancient languages, I told him. But he had another thought. This may not be a mistake, he said, it might just be inspired serendipity.

My mentor said, “Those folks who explored the region we now call Appalachia quickly learned that if you want to find a way, follow a river. Rivers know the way through mountains. Rivers know the way to the next town or village or the best fields for growing crops. They rarely move in straight lines but they find the best path. Why should rivers of living water be different?”

Isn’t this the life in Christ? The power of such a thing can seem to ebb and flow, but it’s hardly the easiest way, is it? And not likely the one I would choose for myself. This twisty, turny path—one that strikes hard up against rock and silt, one that picks up and carries rubbish it encounters along the way, one that is forced to change directions more times than one can count.

Happy Ending

I heard a sermon by Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City in which he refers to this new life in Christ as “The Upside Down Kingdom.” This because this is a life that rejects what the world values—turns the values of the world completely upside down.

Some people have questioned why Kent Brantly would put himself at such risk, caring for Ebola patients. He would say it’s because God called him to serve the people of Liberia. Even now, still recovering, he’s doing so through telling his story.

Life in Christ. It turns the world upside down.


Find New Life

Feeling lost? God invites you to inhabit new life. Wherever you find yourself on the journey, God is always calling us to something even more. The Bible reassures us that God is doing a new thing (Isa. 43:19), and yet we sometimes pass over the new thing in search of the next thing. But what if what God has for you is in the letting go of what you know and what you've already done? To find life, we must first lose it (Matt. 10:39). But what does that mean, really? Join us for this series, Find New Life. Together, let's find our footing. Let's embrace the new thing God has for each of us.

Featured image by Mike Bitzenhofer. Used with Permission. Source via Flickr.