Vol. 12 No. 3 March 2010
By Ed Benesh
Of all the concepts Jesus Christ ever talked about, this one, perhaps, was more baffling and confusing to not only the religious leaders of the day, but His own followers. “What do you mean the kingdom is within us? We thought you were going to actually build something and actually put us in positions of power!” To men like the Pharisees, who failed to understand this notion, it was a threat of being removed from their positions. “What! A new kingdom—without us?” For such, they sought to kill him, loving the chief seats among the people.
Yet, if He said it once, He said it a thousand times, His kingdom is not a physical thing, but spiritual, that will not “come with observation.” Think about it in some more mundane terms. Each of us has or at least has ridden in a car. As you are riding along, you do not see the vital fluids of that vehicle coursing through the metallic, venous system to lubricate and cool the engine, do you? Of course not! To disturb it would be to interrupt the functioning of the vehicle. Yet, it is essential. No oil, no go! You can put it on the outside of the engine all you want, where it can be observed, but it will only smoke smell and—well, your engine will burn up anyway. It is that simple.
The same is true with the kingdom of God. It is within us. It renews us, refreshes us, invigorates and makes us spiritually alive. Later in Scripture, we are told always to be “ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us.” Make no mistake, the kingdom will be readily seen in us. Are we friendly to others, across the board, regardless of who they are? Can we, from the tower of that kingdom within us, see clearly enough to empathize and sympathize with others in their plights? Will people see something more in you than simply another smiling face? Or, perhaps they will see an anxious, worried I-do-not-really-rely-on-God face that is quicker to tear apart others than to help them? Who we are will readily be seen, though the “why” must be explained and defended. It must be taught. Even then, not all will understand, being deceived by the notion that “I have to see to believe.”
Christianity is not centered on a building, preacher, pulpit or budget. These are simply the tangible necessities that stem from the kingdom within us. You can have none of the former and still be a Christian with the kingdom in your heart. People might see your building, pulpit or preacher, but if they never see Christ in your life, then they will never see the kingdom.
In this day, be sure that kingdom is within you first. Read His Word, submit to His will and let your heart (mind) be transformed and renewed. Then let that light shine with a heart bursting with care, love and joy of the kingdom.
Whenever I find myself wading through the pity pool, whining about how hard I have it, how unfair life can be, I am reminded of a phone call that took place several years ago. My cousin, my best friend since childhood, was in the Army, and he and his wife were expecting their second child. After getting word of the birth, I waited a day, then two, then three—but no word from him. So I phoned and teasingly asked, “Well, Bubba, just when were you gonna call and share the good news with your little brother?”
The pause was deafening. His response was crushing. “Matthew has Down Syndrome,” he said. I choked my tears and said, “I am so sorry, Bubba. Can I do anything to help?”
His response humbled me beyond belief and gave me cause to again look at him with great respect. He said, “God saw me through the death of Mom, Army training, combat in Iraq, the deaths of several friends and the loss of my dad. My Heavenly Father would never burden me with more than I can bear. [See 1 Corinthians 10:13.] I will gladly shoulder my cross and continue to praise Him.” “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2-3).