We live in the Kingdom of God, even when pain overwhelms us.
Christine’s mom had been sick for a long time, so hospice sent her home to be comfortable and surrounded by family. We’d had numerous conversations with Christine and her siblings. We knew there was no way to prepare for the moment when their mom breathed her last. When we got the call that she’d passed away, we headed to their home to be a couple of more shoulders to cry on.
Christine’s dad gathered the family and friends into the front yard and asked me to pray. I spoke what overflowed from my heart: “Lord, this isn’t the way things are supposed to be.” I don’t recall anything else I prayed that day, and I remember that opening sentence only because Christine shared how meaningful it was to hear in that moment. After religious platitudes and tired clichés, it was a refreshing reminder that God didn’t plan, coordinate, or enjoy her sweet mom’s fight with cancer.
Sometimes when we’re trying to know what something is, it helps to first understand what it is not. Death isn’t part of God’s Kingdom. Neither are sickness, mourning, despair, insecurity, bullying, or fear. Or bondage, selfishness, or loneliness. Nor marginalization, separation, or pain of any kind.
The Kingdom of God is about community, freedom, and peace.
It is also health, wholeness, and flourishing. And security and identity in Christ. And love, oneness, and life to the full. (For fun, do a word study on shalom.)
Genesis 1 and 2 reveal God’s design for life. Adam and Eve enjoy perfect oneness with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; perfect oneness with one another; and perfect oneness with the created world around them. One chapter later, sin breaks everything. The rest of the Old Testament reveals God trying to love his people back into a trusting relationship with him.
In the New Testament, Jesus perfectly models loving obedience to God. His miracles offer glimpses into how God designed life to be lived. The Kingdom of God was breaking in! Jesus’ death and resurrection demonstrate the power of God’s Kingdom to overcome evil, separation, and death. His ascension initiates the release of the Holy Spirit to empower his followers to continue living the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ commission and the New Testament writers remind us that we live the Kingdom of God. And we reveal it to others while inviting them to be part of it.
The Kingdom of God—as he intended it—is the best life we can live, and it’s what teenagers long for in their deepest selves.Click to tweet
The Kingdom of God is the only pursuit that’s best for you and for everyone around you. It’s the life Jesus calls us to chase as the most excellent pursuit.
The Kingdom of God is like…..
- The middle schooler who makes space for a not-so-cool classmate at her lunch table because she remembers the day when Jesus made space for her in his Kingdom.
- A high schooler who opts out of the “party of the year” because he trusts that Jesus’ plans for his life are better than his friends’ plans.
- One college student who risks getting a lower grade for sharing her worldview in her coursework.
- The young couple who has little money but gives each other small Christmas gifts so they can give presents to children in the foster-care system.
- Divorced parents who choose to co-parent their teenagers from a place of grace and forgiveness because they’ve experienced grace and forgiveness from Jesus.
- A retired couple who finds joy in serving Jesus daily because they understand that no one ever “retires” from following him.
Our friend Steve recently died of cancer at age 39. He was a husband, father, children’s pastor, and high school basketball coach. Steve was too young and too good to die. He should’ve been at the top of God’s list to heal. However, when asked to share about his health struggles, Steve said, “Faith in Jesus Christ has to be fixed on an outlook. It can’t be tied to a specific outcome. No matter what we endure, if we concentrate on the eternal outlook, we can fully trust that Jesus will take care of our outcomes.”
The Kingdom of God is like…..
- The children’s pastor who plans his own funeral so attendees can have a healthy outlook on Jesus.
- A youth pastor who weeps over teenagers who haven’t surrendered their lives to Jesus.
- A pastor who leads from a place of passion and tender strength in a world that doesn’t want to be led.
The Kingdom of God is like you. How will you live and reveal God’s Kingdom? It’s the best life you can live, and it’s the best life you can give.