Q. Clare, please help me better understand the people in my sub-kingdom?
A. It may help to think of your sub-kingdom as four concentric circles of people over whom you have authority or influence and I’ve listed them in what I believe are the priorities given in scripture.
1. My family 2. Fellow Christians 3. The poor, aliens, the hopeless and helpless 4. My non-Christian friends and acquaintances.
All of these people who I personally know or will know in the future have been put in my life for a reason and with each circle, I have diminishing authority and influence. Nevertheless Jesus has entrusted them to my care (and he’s undoubtedly entrusted other believers with overlapping influence with the same people.)
Q. How does sin affect our sub-kingdoms?
A. A few years back I sat with the teenage children of a woman who left her husband for another man. I’m confident she still loves her children and divorce is not the unforgivable sin, but she no longer holds the same, high moral ground to inspire them to take the high moral ground. She used to lead Bible studies and was active in ministries but she’s backed off from all of that now. Her kids live with her but no longer respect her as much. Of course much of her influence can be won back over time by heartfelt confession, repentance and virtuous living – but for now her once growing, vibrant sub-kingdom is in retreat. She got what she wanted – but lost what she had.
“He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.” Luke 19:26
When I’m short tempered with my children, I diminish my ability to influence them, because their admiration for me dims, even if only for a few days. When I tell a lie and I’m found out, people trust me less. When I use my strong will to bully someone into doing something, their respect for me erodes. To be sure, I can recover, but each time it happens, something about my influence as Jesus’ surrogate diminishes. It doesn’t take outright sin to do that. Through laziness or indifference I can fail to accomplish all I might have if I’d been more faithful and diligent with all Jesus entrusted to me.
Q. How does laziness or indifference affect our sub-kingdoms?
A. Even when sin or a moral failure is not public, we still grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30) which hinders our relationship with God, leaving us weak, lacking in confidence both in ourselves and with God.
Believers will be held accountable to God for how they used their retirement years, which ought to give them freedom to actually increase their ministry in the kingdom.
When prosperity seduces a believer into a life of luxury and leisure, the influence they may have had or resources they may have used for the kingdom are lost, or squandered.
When a believer fails to grow spiritually and in the knowledge and wisdom of God, their ability to impact others with God’s truth is limited.
When a believer’s life primarily revolves around activities and people who can serve them and meet their needs, they distort the image of the servant Jesus we’re supposed to imitate and thereby reduce their credibility to those in their sub-kingdom.
Q. Can I expand my sub-kingdom?
A. I’ll tell you a story about how this works in evangelism, particularly when you think of the kingdom as the family business. I live in Ada, Michigan, the home of Amway. While Amway obviously isn’t evangelistic in the Christian sense, their sales people have one goal in mind to make Amway, its philosophy and products known and respected the world over. Twenty five years ago, the “kingdom of Amway” had no “believers” in China – no one in China knew about Amway or used their products.
Then Amway “missionaries” came to China. As people were introduced to the company, its founders and products, the kingdom of Amway grew until today there are tens of millions of converts. But, even among those who haven’t yet purchased Amway products, hopefully they still think well of the company and its distributors.
So, when you and I introduce Jesus and the teachings of Jesus to people who either don’t know him or have never felt his love, the kingdom of God expands. Even if they never become true believers themselves, hopefully because of how we act they’ll admire God more.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
Q. What if I don’t have as many talents or gifts as others do?
A. It’s clear from the Bible that some have been great responsibilities, money, or influence “five talent Christians” (Matt. 25). Others are “one talent” Christians. It’s a real temptation to admire the five talent types, the folks with lots of money, high profile pastors – leaders of big ministries. The truth is it really doesn’t matter how many gifts we’ve been given, it’s only what we do to bring God glory, with whatever gifts he has entrusted to us that really counts.
There’s probably a lift truck operator, working in a warehouse somewhere, shy and a high school dropout, who though scared to death, led two kids to Christ in a backyard Bible club, who will be Billy Graham’s boss in the new kingdom someday. In God’s economy, that may be how it works.
“To whom much is given, much is expected.”
It’s been my experience that if we’re faithful with the people and resources we’ve been given, God will often entrust us with even more responsibility and authority. I’ve met people with what I’d judge to have very little talent, but were bold for God, who’ve accomplished many amazing things for the kingdom. Faithfulness trumps talent in this kingdom.
Q. Does anyone know where the kingdom of Heaven is?
A. Most of us picture God living in heaven somewhere in space, in a galaxy, far, far, away. The danger with that notion is that it distances us mentally from God and the kingdom over which he presently reigns. As children we heard stories of Jesus “preparing mansions” for us, which only re-enforces the idea that Jesus and the Father are working on projects away up in heaven, making sure things are ready when we arrive and making preparations for the future kingdom, when Jesus returns.
It is true; the Bible teaches God is omnipresent which means he is present everywhere in the universe simultaneously, including galaxies far, far away. But more importantly for us, Paul, at Mars hill told the Athenians, “God… is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) It is from the space immediately around us that God through his angels, watches, acts, and interacts with his people and all he’s created. The membrane between God and you is thinner than you may have ever imagined!
Then, if that weren’t close enough, we have the stunning reality of God – the Spirit of Christ – the Holy Spirit actually living in us!
“I have been crucified with Christ, I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Gal. 2:20a
NEXT WEEK: The Incredible Value of Having a Personal Mission Statement.