The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is within you. Luke 17:20-21
Jesus said people miss out on what God is doing in and around them because they fail to detect or discern what the Lord desires to accomplish in them personally. In this verse Jesus calls His followers to become Kingdom Aware.
So are you Kingdom Aware? Are you looking for the Lord to work outside you or inside? When we are looking for the Lord’s action some other place rather than inside ourselves, we will probably miss the Lord’s movements. I wear glasses. Occasionally, I misplace them and go searching for them. In desperation, I will finally ask my wife… “Have you see my glasses?” She will give me one of those looks and say… “They are on top of your head!” It is embarrassing. It must have been embarrassing for Jesus’ followers to hear Him say, “Stop looking and expecting the Kingdom of God to arrive with physical signs…The Kingdom of God is within you.” Jesus could have said, “Hey, stupid… the Kingdom is starring you in the face… can you feel me now?” Jesus is, was, and will continue to be a perfect gentleman.
The major focus for Jesus was the Kingdom of God. It still is! The power of Rome and its occupying force was hardly a blip on the radar for Jesus, even though it was foremost in the minds of almost everyone else. Jesus wasn’t concerned with the power of Herod, the Jewish leaders or even Pilate. In fact, when Jesus was being questioned by Pilate at His trial, Pilate said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above” (John 19:10-11).
Jesus’ focus was not on the power of the government, but on the power of God. He stood before Pilate in complete confidence. What was it that freed Jesus from fear and gave Him such confidence? It was the constant awareness of the presence of the kingdom of God. The same Kingdom that ruled and reigned in Jesus’ heart and life should be ruling and reigning in ours as well.
Unfortunately, we miss Kingdom’s movements all the time. Most of our favorite Bible characters did too. It started in the garden with Adam and Eve. God told the first couple they could do anything they wanted and eat anything they wanted except for one small item. As soon as they thought God was off somewhere snoozing, they proceeded to make a dinner of the forbidden fruit. They acted as if God didn’t exist anymore. Because God was absent, His presence didn’t seem to appear as important. Bottom-line, the first couple didn’t value the Presence of God or His Kingdom.
God broke into the world of both Abraham and his son. He made special promises to both generations. Apart from these special visitations, they seem to be unaware that the Lord was continually with them. It was mainly during down times of testings and trials in which they doubted God’s word and forgot His promises.
Abraham’s grandson, Jacob was on the run when God spoke to him in a dramatic way. While he was sleeping, the Lord revealed to him that earth and heaven were not two separate places, but connected. Jacob saw a ladder connecting heaven and earth with angels traversing in between. Jacob called the place “Bethel”, which means “house of God.” He was partly correct. God did live there, but He also lived everywhere. This dream was not a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence…. it was an eternal truth about the Presence and Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is always waiting to be discovered by seekers. Bethel was not an unusual experience for one man way back in history, but a reality for every person, in every place, in every time. How many of us have had times when God’s presence broke through into our everyday lives? These experiences should have made us want more of God and His Kingdom.
I have had Bethel type experiences in prayer or when reading the Scripture, and I have had them when I least expected it. The point is, God is always trying to break through our world, if we will only be aware of Him. I believe God had been attempting to speak to Jacob many times earlier in his life, but he was not ready to experience Him. It was only until Jacob became desperate enough and needed the Lord that the Lord was able to capture his heart.
At first Moses tried to force the Kingdom of God into action and killed a man in the process. It was not until Moses had spent a long time away from Egypt, and came to the point of desperation that he was ready for God to speak to him.
The Bible says, “There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up… When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’ And Moses said, ‘Here I am.’ ‘Do not come any closer,’ God said. ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:2-5).
I believe that every place can be holy ground, and the only thing that keeps us from experiencing God is our willingness and readiness to experience Him.
Elijah may offer the best example of how the Kingdom of God should move in our life. Elijah knew and experienced the power of God. He had witnessed God consume the sacrifice on Mount Carmel. Immediately following this great victory, Queen Jezebel sought to kill him. Feeling dejected and depressed Elijah ran. At this point he desperately needed a word but couldn’t get one from the Lord.
- God sent a great a powerful cyclone, but the Lord voice couldn’t be heard in the cyclone.
- God sent a great earthquake, but God’s voice was absent here as well.
- Then the Lord sent a consuming fire that ravaged the area, but God was not in the fire.
NOTE: This is why it is never a good idea to attempt to discern God’s will right after a natural disaster. Yet, you hear people all the time attempting to do so. If you find it difficult to hear God in peaceful quiet times, how much more difficult do you think it will be to discern His voice when melee ensues.
Finally, Elijah heard God’s voice in a gentle whisper (small voice). This gentle, small voice was so holy and full of the presence of God, it made Elijah pull his cloak over his head, cover his face and fall on his knees.
Maybe you have been in this place? You desperately needed a word from the Lord, but couldn’t hear. You sought for the Lord to speak in a big way, but heard nothing. Later, God spoke in a still small voice. Why does God move in this way? Because the Kingdom of God will not arrive with signs to be observed… the Kingdom of God is within you.
The Good News is the Kingdom of God is coming! The better news is even though God’s Kingdom arrives in small ways… it doesn’t have to stay small. Jesus confirms to us that God’s Kingdom will grow if we water, nourish, and allow it to grow within us. It is a mistake to believe that just because the Lord is quiet at times, He is not with us. Our job is to be constantly Kingdom aware. We bless the Lord when we value His presence whether we sense it or not. Keep Seeking!
Blessings – From God’s Incubator,
"In the name of Christ stop, Colosseum, dangerous believer, emperor, entertainment for the crowd, gladiators, hear God speak, Jim Eliot quote, monk, Rome, spiritual pacifists, standing alone, Telemachus, the world cannot hate us
One of my favorite stories to hear retold is about Telemachus, a 4th century Christian monk. He lived a life of no importance in a small remote village in Asia Minor. Like most monks of his day he spent his time tending the garden and most of the time in prayer. One day he thought he heard the voice of God telling him to go to Rome. So he obeyed the voice and quickly set out for Rome on foot.
After a long, weary journey, Telemachus arrived in the huge city of Rome during a time of great festivity. It was easy for the little monk to know what to do and where to go…. follow the crowds. The city was like the circulatory system of a wild animal. The surge of the crowds quickly led Telemachus around the city and into its heart, the Colosseum.
Soon the lone monk saw the gladiators stand before the emperor and say, “We who are about to die salute you.” It was then he realized these warriors were going to fight to the death…all for the entertainment of the crowd. The little monk was in shock. Telemachus cried out, “In the name of Christ, stop!”
As the games began, he pushed his way through the crowd crying over and over again, “In the name of Christ, stop!” Eventually the little monk made his way to the wall crying even louder, “In the name of Christ, stop!” He climbed his way over the wall, and dropped to the floor of the arena. When the crowd saw this tiny figure rushing to the gladiators and saying, “In the name of Christ, stop!”, they thought it was part of the show and began laughing. When they realized it wasn’t a part of the show but only a protester, the laughter turned to anger. As Telemachus was pleading with the gladiators to stop, one of them plunged a sword into the monk’s body. He immediately fell to the sand. As he was dying, his last words were, “In the name of Christ, stop!”
Then a strange thing happened that day on the Colosseum floor. The gladiators stood looking at the tiny figure lying there. A hush fell over the Colosseum. Way up in the upper rows, a man stood and made his way to the exit. Others began to follow. In dead silence, everyone left the Colosseum. The year was 391 AD, and that was the last battle to the death between gladiators in the Roman Colosseum. Never again in the great stadium did men kill each other for the entertainment of the crowd. The course of history was changed promptly by one tiny voice which could hardly be heard above the roar of the crowds. This one voice was prompted by God to speak truth and make a difference.
This is a true story and is found in the writings of Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrrhus in Syria (393-457 A.D.) When I share it… I like to embellish it a bit.
Another martyr, Jim Eliot spoke succinctly and clearly about this same issue. “While we profess to know a power the 20th century cannot reckon with, we are all side-liners. Coaching and criticizing the real wrestlers while content to set by and leave the enemies of God unchallenged. We are spiritual pacifists, conscientious objectors in the Battle-of-the-Death, with principalities and powers in the heavenly places. The world cannot hate us: we are too much like its own. Oh that God would make us dangerous.”
It is difficult many times being a lone voice. Maybe you’re a lone voice about the injustices you discern. The crowds around you believe and are flowing one direction, but you stand alone and are going the opposite way. It takes heart to speak out when it’s easier to keep quiet. It takes courage to stand up when you’re standing alone.
Whether you are mislabeled, misunderstood, isolated, or just afraid…don’t let the flow of the crowd define who you are and what God has called you to be. I think one of the most important points of Telemachus’ life was not that he went to Rome and stood in protest in the Colosseum. No, one day in the quietness of his garden and prayer time…he heard God speak and followed Him in obedience. People don’t stand alone for very long without fully knowing “why” they are standing in that place. The most dangerous people in the world are those folks who have a word and take their stand. How about you… are you dangerous?
Be Blessed and Dangerous,