Kingdom Principle: Kingdom living requires an undivided life, yet will potentially separate everything else from you.
My wife and I, celebrated 17 years of marriage, with three kids (10, 12 & almost 14), a dog, 2 cars, a house, and a little bit of money in the bank. This past year, we set up a Living Trust. It is not because we have so much (in comparison to others in this world) and yet we do – especially when you factor in a couple of life insurance policies, and all the impending realities of this world. It was an daunting task – and yet it was a true gift to look at the value of all that you posses and to assign it a role in our death. We resisted the process of creating a Trust, holding to the excuse that our life and our possessions are the in the “Lord’s hands”, and yet convinced of that we need not deny death is inevitable and with that comes the real potential for others to fight (disagree) over the realities of this world we leave behind. This all leads to “Why I am no longer fighting for my marriage”…
The simply answer is that instead of fighting for, I am enjoying the fruits of the relationship…Fighting for my marriage, is a good intention, but in the wrong direction. The battle is not for my marriage, it is for our sanctification and holiness. Marriage is not a pursuit of happiness, it is a pursuit of holiness, and in this our brokenness is part of the process. The actual release from the need to save or build your marriage is the only way to move into the true joy of being in a relationship. I am not saying that marriage is not worth fighting for; rather that when we truly enjoy God’s blessings, we no longer fight against flesh & blood. (Eph. 5:21-33, 6:10-12) A prayer based, intimate relationship filled with joy of the Kingdom is the best prevention for divorce. (Read – the “7 Principles of Making Marriage Last” by Dr. John Gottman and Francis Chan’s book “You & Me forever” will echo what I am saying here as well.)
To have heart of the Kingdom of God – is to be unmoved by the kingdoms of this world. Kingdoms of this world can be anything from an individual to an institution. Even when churches, marriages, and even our identities are formed and tied to this world and not that which is established for the Kingdom of God it will cause an divided heart. In Paul’s words this work “the time is short” it has been fulfilled, this does not mean to abandoned institutions (such as marriage) rather it means to see them as what they are – a tool and means by which God can and will assist you to be about what is greater; that is the Kingdom of God.
This concept of commitment and level of devotion seems complicated to many of us, yet we come to see it clearly, it is the calling and life of a solider trained for war. When a solider returns from war, we call them a veteran. For some this is simply a way to acknowledge the service they have given, but for others it doesn’t begin to capture the sacrifice they have given. This sacrifice is not simply time away from their families, risk of life, training and the traumatic experiences – the sacrifice is their very identity with no option to return to life as they once knew it. They have completely given over their lives – whether they die or not, they have die to themselves. (Luke 9:23, John 12:24, Romans 6:11, Gal. 2:20, 5:24; Col. 3:5) Their training is a conversion of national allegiance – where their will is redefined to charge ahead in the face of death and to value the lives of people they do not know by name more than their own life. Their tongue is disciplined to answer in submission and respect to the commanding officer at all times. It is no wonder that when Jesus is approached by a soldier (Luke 7:1-10) who understood this level of conversion and faith –Jesus said none in Israel believed as he had.
Christians are called to this same devotion and commitment; we are in a battle. There is a war going on, and it is a matter of life and death. Unfortunately, many Christians go through the motions of their faith without the slightest awareness or appreciation for the battle that they have been enlisted to fight. This battle will tear your family apart, it will require you to give your life, it will demand your attention and discipline or else when the battle is faced – you will either cower in fear or face destruction and death unless you have trained for such a time as this.
The Kingdom of God is – a Kingdom with a King not of this world – and we are called to be the servants, soldiers and heirs of this great Kingdom. While we are enlisted into this battle which is not of flesh and blood – or even of this world for that matter. The effects of the battle are not only experienced in this world, they are as tangible and impact anything we do or do not do in this world. We can pretend that there is no war, we can separate ourselves from society, we can attempt to balance how much we let it affect us – but we live in denial if we are going to give our lives to the King and pretend that it will not affect every aspect of our lives. (think wholeness/holistic)
So – what do we do with our lives….. Our marriages, our families, our friendships, our possessions, our jobs, and the institution we have come to call the church? All of these are rooted in the soil of this world. When we count any of these things as more precious or valuable than our service to the King we have committed the error of Jonah – Not wanting to acknowledge the larger lens and more powerful love of God than we can control and contain. For Jonah this was a national issue, and yet still today there are those who make God’s Kingdom a nationally aligned issue– (no room here for commentary on the current state of the Middle East…)
At the same time – We have experiences which are rooted in this world, that we bring to the table when enter to the Kingdom to fight for the King. Are we to simply leave behind all that we have in this world? NO – Are we to give all that we have in this world over to the King? YES… in choosing this we are choosing to live a life that is undivided, this is God’s redeeming act of Mercy & Grace. Whatever you have to leave behind or to give to the King is in your life for the purposes of the King. The our journey is to discover how we can use all things for the Kingdom and not our own comfort or gain. Our Strengths are for the King as well as are our Weaknesses. When we wrestle with this – it takes us to the core of repentance– “A turning away from what once was – to what will be so”. The repentance is connected by Jesus with believing in the good news. This Good News is at the heart of the Kingdom – salvation is found only with Jesus as our King – all things have been redeemed.
If the concepts of the passage in 1 Corinthians are challenging to you today – you are living into the tension of the Kingdom of God being in this world, but not of this world. (John 3:27-36, 15:19, 17:16, Romans 12:2)
If it is not challenging to you; either you are not in touch with what it costs to be a servant of the Kingdom or your have chosen to divide your life into what is the King’s and what is not – and the impact that decision is yet to be realized. (2 Tim. 4:1-6, 1 John 2:15-17, Matthew 16:24-28, 19:23-30)
Questions to further ponder:
- Where does your time seem divided amongst many responsibility and passions? – as if you are going in different directions all the time? (the key is to find the flow, rather than being busy)
- Cor. 1:29 is not a call for divorce. Yet Idolatry is loving anything more than God as Lord & King. Connecting last week – Do you and your spouse share an undivided heart (for the two shall become one flesh) in following the Spirit?
- When have you felt powerful for the Kingdom of God? (Review today’s Psalm)
- What makes a person powerful in the kingdoms of this world? Does power in the World prevent power in the Kingdom of God – if not how do you reconcile these two answers?