When speaking of the Kingdom of God, Jesus said that it is forcefully advancing. He said it has already come. It is here, now. It has been given to us. If we look back we are not fit for service in the Kingdom of God. It is a matter of action, not a matter of talk.
Whenever we do good for another person we are contributing to the Kingdom of God whether we realize it or not. In the Old Testament we are told of Cyrus, King of Persia. He was not a follower or even a believer in the God of Israel. Yet, God refers to him as “My Shepherd” for his role in releasing the people of Israel from captivity. He is the one who released them from Babylon and sent them to their homeland. He was participating in God’s plan even though that was not his intention.
In the New Testament, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. He was just a man who saw a fellow human being in need and did something about it. I don’t know if he was aware that God was using him to make a difference in someone else’s life. He just did what he thought was right.
When I was a kid my mother used to make me go with her to do things for some elderly neighbors that lived across the woods from us. Neither of them were able to bring in coal from the coal pile to keep the heater going all night when it was cold. So when it turned cold we would go over and I would bring in enough coal to keep them warm until we returned. I used to think it was just a good deed, being neighborly. Now I realize it was more than that. It was actually participating in the Kingdom of God right there at the coal pile.
Somehow through the years we lost our focus. The church itself became our primary focus instead of the Kingdom of God. Everything became about the church. How many people can we get to come to church? How many people can we get to come to programs at the church? It all became about the church. People became bored with that and stopped coming. So we started trying to figure out ways to win them back, to get them to come back to the church. We spawned an entire church growth industry learning how to market and brand and entertain people back to church. We forgot it is not about the church. It is about the Kingdom of God.
Making a positive difference in the lives of other people isn’t easy. Don’t give up when you face opposition. You remember the story of Joseph in the Old Testament? His brothers in a fit of jealousy and selfishness sold him into slavery. They had no desire to do the right thing or to help anyone other than themselves. Joseph suffered through slavery and then prison. But, God used Joseph where Joseph was. As it turned out Joseph rose to a position of great power in Egypt. God through Joseph maneuvered an entire continent though a great drought. Millions of lives were saved. When Joseph’s brothers were finally confronted with who Joseph was they were afraid he would get even with them for what they had done. Joseph’s response was,
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”
Of course, the supreme example is Jesus himself. He was teaching about the Kingdom of God. He was living out the Kingdom of God. He healed, he taught, he loved, he brought life. But, there were those who opposed what he was doing. They set out to stop him. He ended up nailed to a cross, dying on hard wood. It looked as if the Kingdom he was such a part of had come to an end.
But, you know the rest of the story. It was through the cross that the Kingdom of God really burst through. It was through the cross that the doors opened for God’s grace to redeem all of life. They worked against the Kingdom and God took their efforts and made the Kingdom stronger because of their opposition.
Make no mistake; there are forces that oppose the Kingdom of God. There always have been. There are those who will work against it out of self-interest. But, don’t worry about that. God will have the last word. God will even take opposition to His Kingdom and turn it around for good. That is how God works.
The Kingdom of God is here. We can choose to be a part of what God is doing. We can learn to work with people who are enhancing the lives of other people even if they don’t realize God is at work through them. We can stay confident when it gets hard to do Gods’ work. We can stay faithful when people oppose us, because God can use even opposition for his glory and his kingdom.
This is a big part of what it means when we pray “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”