There is poignant scene in the movie “Amazing Grace” that pans onto a country field in which William Wilberforce is lying on the wet grass contemplating the magnificence of God. He is mesmerized by the dew on a spider web as evidence of God’s handiwork. In this instant he feels the inner tension between staying in the moment, meditating on God and returning to ongoing struggle in politics. He cannot discern which is better: to sit in solitude with God or enter the realm of politics where he is seeking to bring God’s justice? It is only later that some abolitionist ministers suggest that he could do both: seek to be with God and serve God – at the same time. It is this special combination that I believe is the key to living for God’s Kingdom - not at a glorious future in heaven above, but now in this broken world in need of God’s redeeming justice and hope!
Too many of us still wrestle with Wilberforce’s tension. We are tempted to either retreat into the peaceful sanctuary of our Christian “walls” (whether an amazing school like Biola or a fellowship such as your local church) to enjoy God unto ourselves, or immerse ourselves in society’s needs (often neglecting the power of the Gospel available to us). I have come up “short” too often trying to keep my feet in both worlds because I have seen these as separate activities. However, the key to living for God’s Kingdom is to see that in Christ these activities are “two sides of the same coin”. For in God’s Kingdom – God’s presence is always accompanied by God’s power! And His power always brings change to a broken life seeking to be redeemed.
Is it no wonder that Jesus states the only task we need to worry about is to seek first God’s kingdom (Matthew 6:25-34). For in this quest to be about God’s kingdom we seek to do the work of God in the power of God, with all the benefits this entails. William Carey, the famous missionary to India once said, “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.” He was challenging his generation to sacrificial mission service, believing God would provide despite the risk. I believe living for God’s Kingdom requires similar perspective. Living for God’s Kingdom starts with a belief I can expect great things from God. To demonstrate the kingdom of God had come the Gospel of Matthew records, “Jesus went through Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people” (4:23). The presence and power of God had come to meet mankind’s needs; it is no different for you and I today. I can expect my Heavenly Father to give me the strength to be still in the midst of a personal “storm”, as I can also expect Him to hold me close as an adopted child, an heir to glories of heaven (Rom. 8:15-17).
Because I can expect great things from God, I am empowered to attempt great things for God. These attempts are not just the once in a lifetime short-term mission experience to some foreign country, but are rather to be in the regular and routine challenges we find ourselves in. Whether is it the struggle to find food, or fight against slavery, Jesus instructs his disciples – including us today – to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” (Matthew 6:20). As we seek to live this way, in the daily grind of Life, we need not worry about the task but rather trust God for his provision. In seeking to meet our need for food and clothes or our need for significance and purpose, God is able to provide and therefore, Jesus summarizes his instruction to “seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (6:33).
Paul’s promise-filled prayer for the Ephesian church (Eph. 3:20-21) combines the expectation from God and our attempts for God. In this passage we are affirmed of God’s exceedingly abundant power, that is able to do more than we could imagine or attempt, is at work “within us” – for His purpose, and “glory in the church and in Christ Jesus”. Living for God’s Kingdom is not an “either-or” proposition: should I spend time in solitude with God or should I seek to care for child abandoned due to the AIDS crisis in South Africa? YES! As the ministers said to William Wilberforce, you can do both as we live out the mantra: Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God. For in doing so, we will be Living for God’s Kingdom in all that we do!
What are you expecting from God today?
What are you attempting for God today?