Most tension in life isn’t healthy. Tension is usually a sign that things are not as they should be, but living with tension in the Kingdom of God is a sign of health and maturity. Let me explain why.
In the early formative years of my faith, I was saved into a church that was experiencing the back end of a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit, with signs and wonders of many sorts following. It was a special time, and one I came to accept and expect as normal. And then, over the course of a few years, things happened in our church community that really shook me, and many others. Here are some of the things which happened:
• There was the drowning of a child in the pool of a church member.
• A friend died in a car accident.
• A leader was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease, and despite prayer, fasting, and everything in between, the person passed on into glory.
• The list goes on.
How did these tragic events fit with a God and Father that I had always known to break in and manifest the power and glory of His Kingdom?
A New Set of Eyes
In Isaiah 55:8-9 we read,
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
What I needed was a new set of spiritual eyes, or in other words, a new view of God and of life which would allow me to more fully grasp and understand the Father’s ways. I needed a perspective which would allow me to live with wisdom and anticipation of what He is doing on the earth. As it says in 2 Corinthian 2:12, “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given to us by God”
The Dimensions of the Kingdom
There are four aspects of the Kingdom of God that we as believers presently experience. These four aspects can be divided into two major dimensions of the Kingdom which I have labeled “Manifestation” and “Mystery”.
This dimension points to the reality of the in-breaking of the eternal Kingdom of God on earth. There are two main aspects that I see with regard to this reality.
1. The Kingdom is Present
As we read through the New Testament it is quite clear that we are taught to understand the Kingdom of God as a present reality. The following Scriptures, in particular, make this point clearly:
• “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come on you.” (Matthew 12:28)
• “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” (Colossians 1:13)
2. The Kingdom is Near
Other parts of the New Testament are equally emphatic that we are to understand that the Kingdom of God has come near to us, that it is imminent and that we should expect it to come crashing in at any moment:
• “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10)
• “Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” (Luke 10:9 )
Both of these points speak about the “manifestation” dimension of the Kingdom. Living with this understanding of the imminent “in-breaking” of the Kingdom keeps us fresh, hopeful, trusting, praying, believing and expectant for the miraculous in our lives here on earth.
This other dimension is equally important to understand. It speaks of the fact that we don’t always see the Kingdom manifest in our lives in the way that we hope that it will. We don’t always see things from God’s perspective, which is that His Kingdom is eternal and it is entirely up to Him to decide when to manifest it on the earth.
This means that there are two further aspects to the Kingdom to consider:
1. The Kingdom is Delayed
Jesus taught us to believe that His Kingdom is being delayed, and there is a warning attached with this:
• “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept.” (Matthew 25:1-5 )
2. The Kingdom is future
Jesus taught us to live with the understanding of the distinctive futuristic aspect to his Kingdom which we look forward to with an eager longing:
• “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19)
•”‘He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 )
It’s important to understand that not always receiving breakthrough in this life, or when we expect it, keeps us honest before God. This helps us to avoid presuming upon the grace of God. Presumption is a potentially dangerous thing which can quickly develop into a prideful and arrogant posture. This posture can lead to offence, not only with people around us but ultimately with God
Living in the Tension
It is the Father’s desire that as we mature in faith, we understand more and more that we are present/near/delayed/future Kingdom people. That said, the reality is that most of our daily walk of faith will be lived in the “delayed” dimension of the mystery of the Kingdom.
This is why being a disciple of Christ is both exhilarating and excruciating! There is going to be a whole lot of living-like-never-before, as God breaks in; and there is going to be a whole lot of dying-like-never-before, as we wrestle with and then learn to rest in the mystery of the Kingdom.
This is the journey of sanctification. By learning to live with Spirit-birthed wisdom and faith, we will increasingly experience the Kingdom of God being extended through our lives.
If this is the biblical understanding of the Kingdom of God, what should our response be to our God, Father, and King? First, God would have us be seekers. He says, “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me” (Proverbs 8:17). Second, He would have us commit our hearts and our lives completely to Him. He says, “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act” (Psalms 37:5). Third, we are called to persevere, strong to the end and not grow weary -“Count it all joy my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
And lastly, God has given us the wonderful privilege of partnering with him in seeing his Kingdom come on earth, so he wants us to participate! Let us take our cue from the early church in the book of Acts and pray bold prayers of faith, as they did, and delight when God does wonderful works in our generation –
“And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.“(Acts 4:29-31)
Derek Morphew, Breakthrough – Discovering the Kingdom