Realizing the Kingdom (8)
No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Romans 4.20, 21
The way to realize the Kingdom of God – that righteousness, peace, and joy that come to all who dwell in, are filled by, and walk in the Spirit of God – is along the road of promises. God has given us very great and precious promises by which He intends to draw us into Himself and His glory (2 Pet. 1.4). He has called us to His Kingdom and glory (1 Thess. 2.12), and He has lined the way to that precious boon with the promises made to Abram and extended now to all who share in the faith of that great patriarch.
All the promises of God dissolve into one: “I will be your God, and you will be My people.” As the little child, misquoting the Shepherd’s Psalm put it, “The Lord is my Shepherd; He’s all I want.” In the Lord’s presence are fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16.11). As we seek the Lord’s Kingdom and enter into His glory, we will find everything for which we have been created and redeemed.
The key to realizing the Kingdom of God is thus to lay hold, day by day, on the precious and very great promises of God. In Romans 4, Paul holds forth the example of Abraham in order to teach us how to claim the promises of God for ourselves.
We note six steps in the process of laying hold on the promises of God, journeying the road of promise to the realization of Christ’s presence, power, and rule.
Make sure you understand the promises (Rom. 4.16, 17). As we saw in our previous installment, all the promises of Scripture may be arranged under the six headings first spoken by God to Abram in Genesis 12.1-3. These, in turn, are all fulfilled and realized in our relationship with Jesus Christ.
But we need to work hard at understanding these promises, especially at their implications for us in our day. What it meant for Abraham to enjoy a relationship of blessedness with God will have much in common with how we pursue that relationship. However, we need to make sure just what that will mean for how we use our time, the disciplines we take up in pursuit of God, and the areas in our own lives where blessing needs to replace the lingering effects of the law of sin, and so forth.
Unless we understand this, and all the promises of God, in ways unique to our own circumstances and needs, we will not be able to lay hold on them in meaningful and transformative ways. This requires ongoing study, meditation, prayer, and reflection on our daily circumstances and needs.
Focus on God (vv. 17, 21). God, Abraham knew, gives life to the dead. Any God Who can do that can fulfill the promises He has made, no matter how extravagant and unlikely they may appear.
It is not our responsibility to fulfill the promises God has made to us. We must work to understand the promises in all their majesty, grandeur, and glory. Then we need to look to the Lord and consider His power, His goodness, His unchanging steadfast love, and His faithfulness to His own Word. His Word will not fail. He will not abandon us. He will bring to fulfillment the good work He has begun in us.
But we must look to Him, always striving to increase our vision of God, our focus on our exalted King and Savior, and our confidence in His ability to what He has promised.
If we look to ourselves, our experience, our resources or connections, or anything related to ourselves – if look to any of these to fulfill what God has promised, we usurp the place and prerogative of the Lord, and we cannot expect Him to honor such faithlessness.
Understand what God has promised, and, like Abraham, look to Him to fulfill it.
Envision the promise in hand (v. 18). Abraham had to believe that he would be the father of a son. He had to see himself holding that boy, teaching him the ropes toward manhood, telling him the stories of God and His promises. He had to look beyond his and Sarah’s barren past and sterile, aging present, and become enthralled and captivated by, and convinced of a vision of himself as a father of one who would become a father of many nations. The more clearly he saw that vision, the greater would have been his desire to realize it.
It is important that we “see”, if only with the “eye of the heart” (Eph. 1.18), what our lives might look like as the Lord begins to bring His promises to fruition in us. Everyone lives this way. We all envision what our futures are going to be like – where we’ll live, what kind of work we’ll do, our family lives and possessions, what our retirement will look like, and so on. But these “visions” derive from promises embedded in our backgrounds, upbringing, training, likes and dislikes, and so forth.
What would it be like to envision a future in which all the promises of God, which are becoming increasingly clear in your understanding, were coming to ever greater fullness in your daily experience? This is a discipline in which Christians need much more exercise, and which is crucial for laying hold on the promises of God.
Dismiss all obstacles (v. 19). Abraham’s greatest obstacle was his failed past attempts to have a child with Sarah. That, combined with their old age and deteriorating vigor, might have discouraged him from taking the necessary steps for Sarah to conceive a child.
But he did not allow himself to be deterred by his experience or his failings. He went into Sarah, setting all the obstacles of failure and unlikelihood behind him, to take the next step toward the realization of what God had promised.
This step of faith – the next step, every day, always toward the vision of the promises and in the power of God’s Word and Spirit – is the crucial point in the process. For unless we are willing to move toward that which we envision, consistently, albeit in small steps, even unlikely steps, we will not be showing faith in God or confidence in His Word.
Give glory to God (v. 21). Giving glory to God means worshiping Him with gratitude and expectation, talking about Him and boasting in His promises, explaining to others what God has said and how you are preparing to lay hold on what He has promised.
We don’t boast about ourselves or seek honor for ourselves in this. Rather, we want to glorify God in advance of His blessing us, for this is an act of faith and trust, which always finds a favorable place with God (Heb. 11.6).
If we can boast and thank and praise Him before He brings the promises to fruition for us, imagine how much more we – and those to whom we’ve boasted of Him – will be able to glorify Him when the promises begin to be ours with greater power and reality.
Do what you need to do (v. 22). If this process were the label on a bottle of shampoo, it would end with the word, “Repeat.” Abraham’s faith came to expression in works directed toward realizing the promises of God, directed, that is, toward knowing God and becoming immersed in His presence, glory, and rule. This process of laying hold on the promises of God is a perpetual one. It must be renewed, repeated, and advanced every day, in every situation of our lives. Each day of our lives finds us repeating the same rituals and routines we went through the day before – getting ready for the day, taking meals, going to work, and all the rest. When our journey toward the Kingdom along the pathway of God’s promises becomes an integrating force amid all our daily routines, then we will begin to realize more of the Kingdom we earnestly seek.
The way to the Kingdom of God is marked out by the promises of God. We journey along that way, following the example of Abraham, each day of our lives.
For a fuller treatment of this theme, order a copy of T. M.’s book, I Will Be Your God, from our online store.
For more insight to the character of the Kingdom of God and its impact on our lives, enroll in the course, PT 1 Spiritual Maturity 1: Revival. This free online course will help you to realize more of the presence and power of the Kingdom of God in your everyday life.