in my last post i shared with you my findings of what the Kingdom of God looks like according to the bible. i realize that that post title was misleading in that some, including myself, want to know what the Kingdom of God looks like…unfolding in the 21st century, in the here and now…in real life. my friend A.R. reminded me that those stories would be helpful examples. with that in mind, i hope to take the 7 aspects of the Kingdom of God i (re)discovered and “flesh them out” with what i have witnessed myself of the Kingdom of God breaking through in our midst. halfway into drafting the first “story” it dawned on me that this task may be more than 1 post could handle so i plan to publish a total of 7 posts over the course of the next couple months for each principle and its corresponding true story from my experience that illustrates the principle.
here goes the 1st: so what does the Kingdom of God look like…in real life?
for me discovering the value of the treasure of the Kingdom was a process. i received the King into my life around 7th grade. the deeper understanding of the Kingdom and its worth, especially the giving up stuff, came after that. there have been different things and relationships i’ve had to lay down in order to “seek first the Kingdom” and, i suspect, i will continue to this side of heaven.
but the most significant thing that comes to mind that God led me to give up, in my journey thus far, was the security of my job. i was 8 years into my career as a public high school teacher when my wife and i sensed God calling us to move into the inner city for the work of His Kingdom. it was not a decision we came to easily, but it was confirmed by multiple convictions and events. we had no idea what this ministry would really look like and what exactly God was calling me into but, one thing was clear, i would have to leave my job and the security my salary represented. i had to take a step of faith into the unknown because Jesus, my King, was calling me to move out of what was familiar to me. i put in my resignation at locke high school in the spring of 2011. i joined an unpaid internship to learn about living amongst the poor that fall. we found out that my wife was pregnant. i was unemployed for months and could only find a job as a substitute teacher. it was a humiliating step down for me who used to be a full time teacher.
then in the beginning of 2012 i sensed God was calling me to be a pastor of outcasts full-time. but to be a pastor in the neighborhood i now lived in meant that i would need to fundraise my salary (which at most would only be half of what i was paid as a teacher), not only because our church could barely pay the rent but because anything raised by our church we believe should go to a local leader that is raised up, not a “relocator” like me. then my father-in-law saw my fundraising letter. he was furious. he could not believe what i was doing and what i was about to put his daughter and his grandchild through. he yelled “are you a beggar?”, “you are a fool to think people would support you in this work!” needless to say, the Kingdom of God did not feel like a treasure to me at that point.
so, i prayed, “God, if this is the work you want me to do, please provide the $2000 of monthly support our family needs within the next 6 months. please vindicate me.”
and He did. and then some.
you see, it was not just the money he provided to meet that initial goal (which God provided within 6 months!) through generous supporters who believed in this work of expanding the Kingdom of God; he was giving me and my family so much more than we had imagined. what we give up for the Kingdom, we get Kingdom treasure in return. i had left my locke II community of teachers, one of the most amazing staffs I have EVER had the privilege to work with. we had left our church community at wlah, who commissioned us with such grace, love, and support (they are still our biggest supporters). we have now gained spiritual family i never would have gained, if we had clung to our familiar comfort. spiritual family members that come from different backgrounds, social classes, and races than my family. spiritual family that prays for us so faithfully and with so much more faith and desperation (with tears) than we have. spiritual family that God speaks to with things for us that we never even told them.
you see, we may have thought we were moving into a neighborhood to help those in need but God was moving us into the neighborhood for our growth, for our healing, for our wholeness. we think we are making a sacrifice to serve others but God uses that process and those in need to turn around and bless us with what no money can buy. it may not come in the timing or manner that we may expect but, in God’s Kingdom, the blessings go ALL around and are shared with ALL.
you see, Jesus was telling the truth that what we give up for the Kingdom is not worth comparing to what we gain in the Kingdom. it is something that rewards “many times more” in this life as well as the life to come…indeed with his Kingdom, we’re still witnessing the treasure unfold.
nothing that we could ever own nor any intimate human relationship we could ever have surpasses the Kingdom of God in worth.