Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 6:33d “. . .the kingdom of God,. . .”
The main business of life is God’s business, the enterprise of extending His kingdom. Life’s ultimate urgency and highest priority is to spread the rule of God into the hearts of as many people as possible. Pray “Lord, Thy kingdom come, beginning with me. Use me to spread Thy word.” Our primary desire should be for God to win over evil in us, in our neighbors, our state, our country, our world.
The obsession needed for God’s kingdom was shown in Paul’s determination to preach in Jerusalem, a city where many wanted him dead. Paul’s friends, knowing his life would be in peril, begged him not to go, but he was determined, “None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself” (AC 20:24). Food, clothing, life–“all these things” (MT 6:32)–meant little. Again they tried to convince him, but Paul replied, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Paul was adamant, and Luke wrote, “Since he would not be persuaded, we fell silent, remarking, “The will of the Lord be done!”” (AC 21:13-14 NAS). What mattered most to Paul was extending God’s kingdom.
Lest our response be ho hum to the Apostle’s fervor for God’s kingdom, I remind us we are here in church today due to his undaunted resolve. His zest for extending the kingdom of God whatever the cost, and his bulldog determination to go boldly where no believer had gone before, brought the Gospel to our ancestors.
Christianity was born in the East, in Asia. Our Master, His disciples, and every Bible writer were Asian. Paul’s first missionary journey was limited to Asia. On his second journey, while crossing the western provinces of Asia, he was “forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia” (AC 16:6b). Paul decided God wanted him to try to go north toward another Asian province, but “the Spirit of Jesus did not permit” (AC 16:7) him. Thus Paul kept walking his original westward direction till he ran out of west-bound roads at the west coast of Asia. He arrived at the city of Troas “under a strange sense of compulsion” (E. M. Blaiklock).
This Asian man, serving an Asian Master and carrying an Asian message and sitting in an Asian city, heard his God say, take My kingdom to Europe. “A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a certain man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them” (AC 16:9-10 NAS).
Putting out to sea from Troas, Paul “ran a straight course to Samothrace” (AC 16:11), the island from which the Greek god Poseidon was said to have surveyed the plains of Troy. Homer called Samothrace Poseidon’s island. Be assured when Poseidon saw the invasion of Paul approaching, his memories of the Trojan War dribbled into insignificance. He screamed an alert to his comrades on Mt. Olympus, “We are doomed, the kingdom of the living God is coming toward us.”
Across Europe’s mythical deity network, news spread to the gods of the German forests, “We are doomed, the invasion from God’s kingdom has begun.” In Gaul (present France) the gods deemed their country’s recent conquest by Julius Caesar as mere child’s play compared to the new onslaught headed their way. The nature gods of the priestly Druids and the Celts fell to their knees in horror, knowing their days of human sacrifice were numbered. Via the Mayflower and ships of the Puritans, God’s kingdom invaded our shores. It migrated overland to our own city, and now we find ourselves caught up in a drama much larger than ourselves.
Many believe it is now time for us Westerners to try to launch a counter-attack, to seek to return the kingdom of God to its Eastern roots. Some believe the third millennium of Christianity will belong to Asia. We will leave that speculation to futurists, but one truth is certain, God demands us to extend His kingdom, and Asia needs it badly. It needs it for the saving of souls from hell, for the enacting of human rights, for the lifting of women and children to higher dignity, for the helping of the poor, for the increasing of benevolent institutions, for the honoring of Jesus, who deserves to be bowed before by the teeming masses of Asia.
The kingdom beckons us to never-reached frontiers, and calls us to regions already touched. God’s kingdom has infiltrated the Western World, but not penetrated every Western heart. Thus, even as we strive to extend His kingdom’s geographical boundaries, we must also seek to strengthen it in places already exposed to it. Pockets of resistance remain everywhere. This is why Jesus’ command to go to Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria is always as needful and relevant as the call to go to earth’s uttermost parts. Thus, Second Baptist Church has committed herself to touch by God’s grace by the year 2020 every continent, every time zone in the USA, every Congressional district in Missouri, and every home in Springfield.
The kingdom motto is ever, “To the ends of the earth, beginning next door.” This is why Ruth and I, in addition to having gone to the other side of the world, are adopting the street nearest our church to prayerwalk, and are committing before you to establish relationships with our neighbors to try to win them to Christ.
The time is right for Second Baptist to seek first the kingdom of God. This is our moment. When Queen Esther wavered due to fear for her life, hesitating to confront the king on behalf of her people, Mordecai tried to embolden her by encouraging her to grasp her God-given moment of destiny, “Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (ES 4:14). She responded to this challenge courageously, sending word to Mordecai, “So will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish” (ES 4:16).
Who knows? Maybe Second Baptist has come to the kingdom for such a time as this. Who knows? Maybe some among us will perish for the cause. We have to leave to God the determining of consequences. Our duty is to commit ourselves to the kingdom of God first, to answer His call with reckless abandon.
At this point you have every right to ask, “Pastor, be specific; exactly what is expected of us?” Rather than garble my answer with generalities, I will seek to be clear and precise. Let us give ourselves no rest till we each find our four niches in God’s kingdom. We each have a niche in our hearts where we commune with the King; use it daily. We each have a niche inside the barracks; find where we are to use our spiritual gifts within the local church to help one another. We each have a niche in Springfield; we are to be evangelizing, witnessing locally. We each have a niche in our Judea (Missouri) or our Samaria (USA) or our uttermost part of the earth; we should all be involved somehow somewhere in missions.
I pray we each will find our four niches in the kingdom of God’s invasion of the kingdom of darkness. Before D-Day, Allied troops amassed in Britain. Hitler later said America and Britain were the only two countries in history who could have trusted each other enough to accomplish such an invasion. The British risked everything, trusting we would not leave our troops as an occupying force on their soil. As the troops gathered, they individually had no idea where they would be sent in the attack, to Omaha Beach, or to Utah Beach, etc. Their task was merely to report for duty and await directions. Sounds like Paul at Troas, and like Second Baptist at Springfield. Report for duty and await directions. Are we willing to risk listening to God or are we afraid of what we might hear? Can we say, “To help God’s kingdom invade the darkness, I am willing to come to church on Saturday night, to prayerwalk my block and test the waters to see if God might open a door for me to win my neighbors. I am willing to learn about Missouri, the USA, the world”? At the core of our being there has to be a huge “Yes” to whatever God may say. This can happen only if our desire is to seek the kingdom of God first.
Horatio Spafford wrote my favorite song, “It Is Well with My Soul,” after his daughters were drowned at sea. His wife survived that disaster and wired her husband, “Saved alone.” The first word was pleasant; the second word dreadful. As your pastor, I will someday stand before the King and answer for how I helped enable the citizens of His kingdom to win others. As God strengthens me, I shall do my best to keep us all from having to stand before Him and say, “Saved alone.”