We are almost a week into 2021 and most of us are grateful to see the old one gone. How are you approaching this year? With caution? Hope?
Have you made any New Year’s resolutions?
It seems the Babylonians started this tradition 4,000 years ago, resolving to return borrowed farm equipment. Whether you borrowed farm equipment last year or not, you may have made some resolutions for the new year. I’m told that about 60% make these resolutions, but less than 10% actually achieve them.
Why? Something in us knows that we’re not all we should be. Do you believe you are doing all God intends you to do with the life he has given you, that your life has completely fulfilled its God-given purpose?
If you are like most of us, likely not.
So what is your purpose, your reason for being? This William Barclay quote has been crucial to my life: “A man will never become outstandingly good at anything unless that thing is his ruling passion. There must be something of which he can say, ‘For me to live is this.’” Do you know your reason to live? What should it be?
I have resolved this year to make Christ my king more fully than ever before and invite you to join me in this life-transforming commitment. The “kingdom of God,” that realm where his will is done on earth as it is in heaven, was the passion of Jesus. And it should still define everything that matters to you and me.
When we open the New Testament, these are the first public words we hear from Jesus: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). The first request he taught us to pray is “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). This was the substance and essence of his preaching and teaching—108 times in the gospels our Lord spoke of the kingdom of God.
He promised that one day he would return to consummate his kingdom: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne” (Matthew 25:31). Revelation promises his glorious rule: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). When he returns he will come as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16).
So what is this “Kingdom of God”? Jesus gave us its simplest definition in the Model Prayer: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). God’s kingdom comes wherever his will is done, wherever he is King, whenever we serve him as our sovereign Lord and Master. Doing God’s will on earth as it is in heaven was Jesus’ “one thing.” It should be ours as well.
As we begin this new year with smaller or no congregations meeting together in person, how can we still carry out God’s will and make his kingdom come on earth? What can God accomplish through his presence in us during the continuing pandemic?
The Church, God’s people, had some of its most effective times during dark days of history. The early church did not have all the resources we have today. The first Christians waited as instructed by Jesus for the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). And it was with this power that they “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).
The believers distributed what they had to any who had needs (Acts 2:45), and “the Lord added to their numbers day by day those who were being saved” (v.47).
They made God’s kingdom theirs. They were aware of needs and met them, they made their neighbors their focus. We can do the same. With jobs lost, families hurting, and everyone around us touched in some way by the pandemic, everyone has needs.
More people than ever before are searching for hope. The Light we have through Jesus can speak into their darkness. But we have to shine it into their lives. We have to take it to them.
Eternity has become more of a focus during the pandemic. Most of us have been directly touched, or know someone who has been touched, by death this past year. We have an opportunity, even an obligation, to share the Gospel with those whose hearts have been touched by grief.
The best way to live in this new year, to do ministry and to pray effectively is to make Jesus King of every day.
I have said many times, prayer does not earn us favor with God, but puts us in the position to receive all he has to give. The Lord’s Prayer rings with more clarity than ever before in these challenging days.
The model prayer Jesus gave his disciples and us offers us guidelines for making God’s kingdom ours and making Jesus King. Join me in looking at this model here.