Expectations of Kingdom Living

The Bible has a lot to say about the blessings that flow from our alignment with God’s Kingdom agenda, but He wants us to trust him even when outcomes are not what we expect. When it seems like He is being indifferent or not even there, we must remember that He has not forsaken us. Trusting Him and His ways presents us with the best opportunities to flourish, yet we are still not guaranteed abundance and freedom from suffering (John 16:33).  Becoming a Christian does not mean we are suddenly spared from heartache and pain.  Some of the most respected Christ followers in history have suffered the most, and we would do well to inspect their lives closely. Consider the words of Brother Lawrence of seventeenth century France, “It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.”  In the midst of power struggles, debts, and endless troubles of the time, the lay monk’s devotion to Jesus showed others the way of life, freedom, and peace.  Though only a lowly kitchen aide, he was sought out for his wisdom.  Ponder the life and words of Jim Elliott, one of five missionaries slain by the Huaoroni people of Ecuador, “God always gives his best to those who leave the choice with him.”

Many things in this fallen world are simply beyond our control.  We do not determine all economic, political, health, or relational inputs or outcomes.  We can eat well and exercise yet still get sick or have an accident.  We can do all of the right things financially yet still end up broke.  We can invest heavily into our relationships yet still be forsaken by others.  We are not in control; God is. When we accept this simple fact in the depth of our souls, it frees us from worry and fear like nothing else can, because we come to realize we live in a strong tower (Psalm 61:3).

The uncertainty and lack of guarantees of life can be impossible obstacles to our flourishing and abundance if we allow them to.  The unknown can cause us to stay stuck, turn away, or even turn back.  In part, this is tied to the natural man’s “fear of loss,” because the scarcity mindset steals our gratitude and keeps us from exploring our fullest potential of mind, body, and spirit.  Giving in to fear, instead of believing God’s promises, can causes believers to mindlessly allow internal and external forces to dictate our limits for us and to question why we are underutilized, unproductive, and unhappy.  It does not have to be this way.  Guaranteed outcomes are not a prerequisite to having a life full of meaning and purpose.  Our Father knows we crave adventure yet dislike uncertainty, and He is ready to show us things beyond our imagination, but we must first let go of our own agendas and embrace His.  We know we are getting it right when we find ourselves trusting our King with abandon.

Kingdom living must be accepted as an end unto itself and not simply a means to an end. We don’t get to pick and choose which parts to accept and which parts to embrace. Kingdom living is a way of life that invites each of us to take up his cross, yet doing so means we get to experience life more abundantly.  Taking up our cross means we are committed to our Father’s will and not our own.   We must be ever mindful that this world is not our home (1 John 2:15), and our life is short like a vapor (James 4:14).  If we don’t, we can lose sight of our first love and be drawn away by the temporal.

Doing things God’s way by aligning our choices, processes, and systems with His natural laws, does make abundance and flourishing more likely (Psalm 1:1-6).  In many cases, people will get wealthy, have great health, and experience more satisfied lives by applying Kingdom principles, but these things should be viewed as byproducts of our deepest aspirations.  Our relationship with God should be our highest calling and pursuit (Deuteronomy 6:5).  This relationship with our Father should be characterized by trust, fellowship, hope, faith, time, obedience, and especially reverent love.  When our relationship with God becomes our highest priority, it changes our thinking, words, and actions.  Yet, a relationship with God must be on His terms alone (Job 38:1-42:17).  We must remember our place in the Kingdom order.  Everyone who humbly submits to the authority of God proves himself wise (Proverbs 9:10).

Our Heavenly Father uses things like the Bible, nature, emotions, and reason to reveal Himself to us.  He invites us into His story by presenting us with His son, Jesus, who died on a cross to take our sins away (John 3:16). We must never forget the suffering God endured to redeem us from our sin.  When we accept Jesus, we are born again and adopted by God into His family.  Our Heavenly Father delights in us as a doting parent.   Only enlightened hearts understand this.  Not everyone has ears to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Since a calibrated Kingdom life is about our relationship with God and His relationship with us, it should never simply become a task-oriented list of rules, comparisons, or transactional conditions.  The Kingdom agenda is not about a list of dos and don’ts.  We must constantly guard against legalism which is little more than trying to earn love, salvation, or meaning.  We work because we have relationship and not to earn a relationship.  God loved us while we were yet only sinners. (Romans 5:8)

A Kingdom life’s default setting is freedom and joy regardless of circumstances.  With this in mind, as we run away from legalism, we must avoid running into the waiting arms of license.   Instead, we must run to Jesus, for only He is life (John 14:6). Being a Jesus Follower is neither a life of slavery and bondage to rule keeping nor does it promote sinful behavior.  Things don’t always go our way, but we can have confidence knowing we matter as adopted children (Romans 8:17).  We are the apple of our Father’s eyes.  The Kingdom life is about spiritual principles being practiced in the physical world because of love.   When we do things God’s way, we are applying principles that work to bring about optimal conditions for human flourishing for ourselves and others.  When we trust God with the outcomes by choosing a Kingdom lifestyle, things may be different than we expect, because our fondest aspirations are but shadows of things to come for the faithful.  Our Father knows how to give good gifts to His children and exceed our expectations (Luke 11:13).

Richard Harwood from The Guild


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