“Thy Kingdom come.”
It’s a phrase I’ve repeated 1000s of times in the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:2-4). From personal devotional times to the chorus of prayer in worship services, my lips have uttered these words. Many a time I’ve prayed this prayer at 3:00am when all is quiet but my mind is not. The words comfort my soul as I cling to Jesus’ relationship with the Father… which is now my relationship with God Almighty.
I must admit, though, that section of the Lord’s prayer about “your kingdom come” has always puzzled me. The concept of Jesus’ kingdom as here and yet not yet here pushes my brain into mental gymnastics too complex to follow. Then I must also resolve the follow-up, practical question: How does the kingdom of God impact my everyday decisions?
Beginning in mid-February, I followed Margaret Feinberg’s Lent Challenge to read the books of Luke and Acts. I broke out my colored pencils and journaling Bible to highlight verbs, names, places, and observations. A slower pace and lots of color created the perfect environment to explore God’s Word in a unique way.
The kingdom of God emerged as a focus time and time again.
What is the kingdom of God?
I found mention of the kingdom of God throughout the chapters of Luke and Acts. It would not be an understatement to suggest it might be the central theme of both books.
In the opening chapter of Luke, the angel announces that God’s kingdom will never end (Luke 1:33). Then in the closing verses of Acts, Paul is preaching the kingdom from his prison cell in Rome (Acts 28:31). The chapters in between color a three-dimensional diorama to reveal the model of the kingdom of God. But it’s so much more than a museum diorama exhibit or a mini peephole show. It’s the way we are to live.
Jesus’ primary message was the kingdom of God. He told the disciples that his purpose first and foremost was to “preach the kingdom of God” (Luke 4:43). Starting with the Jewish nation, Jesus told stories drawn from their everyday life to describe the coming of God’s kingdom. He sought to change the black-and-white mindset of a nation stuck on rules and the misunderstandings of prophesies. They expected a finite, geographic reality. Jesus offered an eternal place of peace, no passport required.
- Jesus told them how the kingdom belongs to those who have simple, childlike faith (Luke 18:16).
- He compared the kingdom to mustard seeds and leaven and how they grow and spread in humble, unnoticed ways (Luke 13:18-21).
- He explained how difficult it is to grasp, as difficult as a camel passing through the eye of a needle (Luke 18:24).
- He said it is compelling and people want to know more about it (Luke 16:16).
- Yet, make no mistake, it is God’s kingdom as much as a vineyard owner holds the deed to his family fields (Luke 20:9-18).
My Lenten studies on the kingdom of God helped me step into a better understanding of the kingdom of God: It is God’s reign on earth. It sounds simple enough. But in practice, I still struggled.
How do I journey in this kingdom? How do I live under God’s reign while not existing within physical boundaries of His royal territory? Life is messy. Tension mounts: care for others while looking out for personal needs, physical safety versus responding to impoverished nations, comfort and contentment while living in hardship. Too many questions.
Then I read about Jesus’ final days on earth. He spent his last hours on our planet still teaching and explaining the kingdom (Acts 1:3). The disciples apparently struggled with similar questions. So good to hear that these men and women who lived and walked with Jesus also needed further clarification. He invested valuable time to help them understand.
How God Established His Kingdom
God’s kingdom rule broke into human history with the birth of Jesus Christ. In humble flesh of man, Jesus taught kingdom principles of love, joy, and peace. He did indeed do miraculous healings yet they were not His primary purpose (Luke 4:43). Jesus literally embodied God’s kingdom through the power and authority of His teachings and in His actions. The darkness of the enemy and the deceit of humans became evident in the comparison with these kingdom principles.
Through the passion of the cross, Jesus then gave the ultimate sacrifice to bring redemption for the world. His resurrection after three days revealed God’s authority over even death itself. Jesus returned to the divine throne and sits now at the right hand of God. Restored relationship with the Father is available for all who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Gospel that we now preach is the message from the King of Kings. Stunning. We are His ambassadors. My knees quake at the responsibility and the privilege.
How to Live in the Kingdom of God
The kingdom represents Jesus’ reign on earth. Although Jesus is not with us physically anymore, He remains the King. As subjects of the King, we are not in charge. This is where my independent self struggles with the concept of kingdom.
My individualistic nature objects to the obedience required in a monarchy. The reign of a king feels oppressive to my democracy-leaning self. Yet, this is the very nature of our faith. We worship the Messiah, the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings. Jesus came to proclaim His kingdom.
Jesus demonstrated values of the kingdom:
restoration of relationship with God
God’s power continues in the kingdom of God through:
softening of hearts
forgiveness of sins
healing of bodies
renewing of souls
restoration of relationships
peace that passes understanding
As He asked of the Pharisees, Jesus calls us to live beyond a lengthy list of rules. We will never have enough rules to rule every situation. Jesus resisted the black-and-white rules. He instead modeled living a life that glorified and honored God. Yes, it’s exhausting. We will want to withdraw or compromise. Thankfully, the Lord gave us a divine travel guide in His Holy Spirit. The Spirit lives within each believer to guide, comfort, and prompt actions and words.
Discovering Adventure in Kingdom Life
The kingdom of God is the exercise of God’s power and dominion here on earth. The adventures, therefore, are limitless! As Christ-followers, we may be called to go most anywhere anytime to put His ways into action. Let’s find God at work and get involved! The Lord is working within our families, churches, communities, and nations.
Please know that as God calls each of us to serve in the kingdom, He will be working within our own hearts as well. Heart transformation is His specialty after all. Every time I cede new heart territory to the Lord, He blesses me. Every time I withhold territory, a battle ensues.
Here are the questions I keep before me as I seek to stay on the kingdom path:
Where is the spiritual result/proof of the power of the King in my life?
Am I living this day under the sovereignty of our Lord and King?
What parts of my daily routine have I not ceded to the King?
Why am I not able to surrender that territory?
The kingdom of God is not too foreign to grasp. It’s worth giving up entire fortunes and life itself. Tribulations and the trials pale in comparison to the abundant life awaiting us when we reside in the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).
How about you? What helps you stay on the kingdom path?
What does the kingdom of God look in your daily choices?