Hi everyone. Rob here.
One of the things drilled into us at Bible College was the idea that God’s kingdom was now and not yet. The coming of Jesus Christ, his death, resurrection and ascension meant that the kingdom of God had come among us and through the Spirit’s work is among us still. The kingdom is also yet to come in all its fullness. When Christ returns he will make all things new and the reign of God will be complete. Now and not yet. As I write this the American Election is too close to call. Our attention is drawn to this very consequential event but Scripture tells us that if we want to see the kingdom at work now we have to look away from the headlines. In Matthew 13:31-33 Jesus tells us two short parables to make this point:
He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
When we talk about the kingdom of God we often tend towards words like glorious and grand and majestic. Jesus points us towards small and unseen and subversive. We also tend towards seeing great achievements as evidence for God’s kingdom. Scripture points us towards the development of our character, particularly the ability to love, as the goal for our lives.
This means that if I’m looking for evidence of the kingdom in my own life I can’t point to my achievements. Instead I ask if I’m loving more and loving better? Am I more surrendered to God? Am I helping others to love more and better and give up their agendas? Is the fruit of the Spirit evident in my life or am I being ruled by unhealthy desires or selfish ambition? I found myself doing this as I hiked into the forest two days ago. I allowed God’s Spirit to examine my life deeply. I was taken into old wounds and regrets and I invited God to come into those places and interpret them for me. If I had to repent I would repent, if I had to grieve I would grieve and if I had to forgive I would forgive. In the end the Spirit showed me how all my experiences had been used to deepen my character and my love for God. I was invited to give thanks for my whole life, not just my favourite moments.
I was walking by a typical New Zealand river, flowing down from steep hills, filled with rocks, logs, twists and turns, waterfalls and beauty. The beauty was because of the obstacles in the river not despite them. A smooth flowing river is lovely but most rivers aren’t like that and nor are most lives. If you want to see the kingdom at work in your life look for where the obstacles have been and note how the river of life has flowed around or through them and created something beautiful. Our lives reflect God’s kingdom when difficulties have led us to surrender our own agendas and give everything over to God. The kingdom reigns when we hand over the crown.
The kingdom is often at work in us in quiet moments, in stillness and silence, in the times when we have quieted the voices within and without. The Spirit’s voice will begin to emerge and be heard. It will always be a voice of love not condemnation, invitation not manipulation, grace not law. It will start as yeast or as a mustard seed and will work its way through our hearts and minds until it floods our being. I love those moments when I have died and God is fully alive in me. May all of us know those moments more and more. And may God’s kingdom fill our being and overflow to others.
Grace and peace everyone.