Needs of the Kingdom
The early Apostles, men of faith, men of renown, men who manifested the apes of Christian faith, were real people like us. Many Christian denominations practice as a part of their liturgy the reverence of these fathers of the faith, but this veneration has entreated the average Christian to perceive them as men of super human abilities and faith. But the Bible and church history does not validate these sentiments. The common practice is to transmit to the ministers of Christ this same type of reverence. I believe it is right to honor and respect the anointed ministers of God, but we should never forget that they are people who have needs and desires like us. On numerous occasions I have observed fellow Christians stutter in disbelief when confronted with the fact that their Pastors have human needs like they do. In ignorance the average church goer does not believe the ministers of the Gospel hurt3 hunger or thirst. People are people, no matter their place or calling of the Lord, all have needs, and all must look to the Lord as their source of provision. This lesson is designed to examine the principle of the Lord being the provision of your personal needs. Read this lesson carefully and slowly, and seek to place yourself in the situations presented.
Paul, A Man Of Need
The second epistle of Paul written to Timothy provides us with a portrait of the Apostle Paul that is not seen in his other epistles. Paul was a simple man with simple personal needs. He was not a self indulgent man who was concerned with the materialism of his society, instead he devoted himself to his ministry, and provided for his own substance with his tent making skills. 2Timotly 4:13 provides a shadowed glimpse in to the heart of Paul. His request for Timothy to bring his books and parchments revealed Paul's intense love for Bible study. Also this verse portrays Paul's need for simple necessities. A cloak does seem like much of a need, but to a man imprisoned in the Mamertine prison with winter approaching, a cloak could determine life or death. It is believed by Bible scholars that 2nd Timothy was the last epistle written by Paul. Paul knew that the time for his martyrdom was at hand, he had fought the good fight, he had finished the course, and he had kept the faith (2Tim 4:6-8). Paul, a mighty father of the faith, he who had established innumerable number of churches was being tried for treason, and he was imprisoned in the infamous Mamertine prison in Rome. Even though this epistle is a sure word of encouragement there is a subtle under current of loneliness and forlorn in Paul's words. 2Timothy 1:16-18 and 4:10-11 reveal a vivid depiction of a Paul who needed personal support and encouragement from his friends. Paul needed people and friendship, but during his greatest trial all his friends deserted him, with the exceptions of Luke and Onesiphorus. It is sad to consider that Paul, a great father of our faith died alone crying out for love and compassion from the body of Christ. Don't be to hard on the followers of Paul, because to have stood with Paul during his trial would have resulted in their executions.
Why have I presented this brief portrait of Paul? What concern does the recognition of Paul's personal needs have with understanding the needs of the Kingdom? Let me state one thing, Paul was not alone during his final ordeal of faith; according to Paul's own words the Lord stood with him, and strengthened him. Paul knew the eternal comfort of the Lord, because these encounters with the Lord had convinced him that he would be preserved unto Christ's heavenly kingdom 2Tim 4:1718). The first impression we have of this portrait of Paul would be that the Lord failed to meet his needs and he suffered needlessly. Paul's suffering could create a theological paradox for the church today. Much has been taught about the Lord providing for our personal needs. We read in Philippians 4:19 that God shall supply all our according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. I honestly believe this is true, the Lord has been and will always be the source of supply for all saints. There is a striking difference between needs and desires. Typical Christian thinking has confused desire with need; in reality we don't need the things we desire. The Lord is obligated by His word to meet our needs not our desires, wants or lusts. The Lord Jesus is a loving Savior, often He has graciously given to me things I did not need but I desired. Please remember that He is not obligated to appease our desires, should we receive a gift from the Lord then rejoice in His merciful love.
Christians often quote verse 19, but seldom do we hear them quote verse 12; lets read this verse.
Philippians 4:12 "I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to SUFFER NEED."
(Amplified Bible) "I know how to be abased and live humble in straitened circumstances, and I know also how to enjoy plenty and live in abundance. I have learned in any and all circumstances, the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and to spare or going without and being in want."
Paul understood the hidden principle of facing every situation with faith in the Lord. Paul knew how to be humble and in need, and to rejoice in prosperity. Paul also realized how to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and suffer need. Paul understood that temporal things are truly temporary; no human condition is forever. Rejoice when prosperity comes your way, but also rejoice when hardship occurs. Consider this thought: If God is to supply all our needs, then why did the Apostle Paul suffer need? Do we have a contradiction between the promises of the Lord and the situations we experience? Lets seek to answer these questions, and in doing so, lets identify the secret which the Apostle Paul learned in his suffering
The Needs Of The Kingdom
Matthew 6:33 admonishes us to seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness then we can expect the Lord's provision to bountifully flow in our lives. Does this scripture allude to the possibility that the kingdom of God has needs also? Could we assume that righteous attitudes are a need of the kingdom? If our answer to both of these questions is yes, then what befalls our lives when the needs of the kingdom conflict with our personal needs? Let me superimpose this thought into our question; their is a striking difference between the Lord's perception of our personal needs and our perception of our personal needs. Lets be honest with ourselves we all enjoy a life of basic comfort. We have a clearly defined opinion as to what we need in order to maintain our current lifestyle. Again let me reiterate, what will happen in our lives when our apparent personal needs come into conflict with the needs of the kingdom? I wish to answer this question by using a few selected examples from the Bible and church history.
In the last twelve chapters of the book of Genesis we have recorded the life of Joseph, the son of Jacob. The portrait presented in these chapters dearly demonstrate the conflict which can occur when the needs of the kingdom conflict with our perception of need. Ponder for a moment these facts concerning Joseph.
Joseph was the son Jacob loved more than all his other children, because he was the son of his old age. According to Genesis 37:3 Joseph was also given, by his father, a coat of many colors. According to historical evidence this gift would indicate that Joseph was being recognized as the inheritor of the Abrahamic promise. This type of coat was usually worn as a royal garment, therefore Israel was conveying to Joseph a position of authority in the family which should have been the inheritance of the first born. Genesis 37:5-10 also teaches us that Joseph was flowing in the gift of prophetic dream and interpretation. In Jacob's house Joseph was the blessed of his father; he exercised the authority of his father, and the gifts of the Spirit were in operation also. From Joseph's perspective their was no reason for him to leave this house of blessing.
God in His wisdom realized that a horrible famine was coming to the Fertile Crescent. The need of the kingdom was for Joseph to be in Egypt in order for God to preserve Jacob's family. Contemplate this thought, if Joseph had his way he would have stayed in the home of his father, and eventually his family would have died of starvation. It was not enough for Joseph to be moved to Egypt, but the need of the kingdom was for Joseph to be imprisoned in this foreign land. On the surface it would appear that God ceased to meet Joseph's personal needs: little did he realize that his chains and bars were the provision of the Lord. While Joseph was in prison he had the opportunity to exercise his spiritual gift of prophetic dream interpretation for Pharaoh's butler and baker. Scripture alludes to the fact that Joseph's &Ise imprisonment lasted for two years, but his unique prophetic gift eventually resulted in his promotion to the second in command in all of Egypt. (Genesis 40:1-23 41:1-57)
What fate would befall Joseph should he have been angry and bitter with God for his circumstance? Anger and self pit destroys the anointing of God, therefore these attitudes would have hardened Joseph's heart to the plight of the officials of Pharaoh, and he would have not exercised his spiritual gifts. Ponder for a moment how much God risked with Joseph that he would have the right attitude on that fateful night in prison. Should Joseph had failed to interpret those dreams he would have died in prison, his family would have died of starvation, and the world would not have a food supply in Egypt and millions would have died needlessly.
Mary & Joseph
Consider with me the circumstances associated with the birth of Jesus. Mary is approximately 8 112 months pregnant, and she lived in Nazareth with Joseph The birth of Jesus was drawing near, and Micah, the Prophet prophesied that the birth place of the Messiah would be in Bethlehem approximately 75 miles south of Nazareth The scriptures allude to the supposition that the general public was ambiguous in their knowledge of where the Messiah would be born. It was needful even for Herod, the supposed king of the Jews, to question the chief priests and the scribes to determine where the Christ was to be born. If this hypothesis is correct we can assume that Mary and Joseph did not totally realize that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem.
Even though human flesh didn't realize the prophetic importance of the Messiah's birth, God realized that His Christ must be born in Bethlehem. We can also assume that Mary and Joseph would not journey to Bethlehem voluntarily during this critical time of her pregnancy. Consider for a moment Mary's point of perspective. Mary probably interpreted her personal needs as being in the home of her parents, near her mother, during the final weeks of her pregnancy. The last thing Mary would aspire to do would be to journey to Bethlehem on the back of a donkey. Even with a donkey, this journey would require three days on the road. Even though Mary would have interpreted her need to be in the home of her mother, the need of the kingdom was for her to be in Bethlehem.
God was confronted with a dilemma, how would He motivate Mary and Joseph to endure a difficult journey which would be contrary to human reason and logic. No pregnant woman in her right mind would attempt this type of journey. In order to bring about this journey God moved the entire world. The Roman government ordered all the world to be taxed, and each family was to journey to their ancestral home. Since Mary and Joseph were of the ancestral house of David they would have to journey to Bethlehem in order to comply with the Roman edict. I am convinced God inspired Caesar Augustus to issue this decree to move one family approximately 75 miles south.
The Lord had an ulterior motive when He inspired the taxation edict. Should you survey the Gospels an interesting case can be developed establishing the birth place of Jesus from the lack of evidence. At no time does the Sanhedrin accuse Jesus of being a false Messiah because He was not born in Bethlehem. The intellectual priesthood would clearly have understood that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, the first verification they would have made of Jesus' claim to Messiahship would be His place of birth. The fact that the Sanhedrin did not publicly denounce Jesus for not being born in Bethlehem is confirming evidence of His place of birth. The only notable exception is recorded in John 7:52, where Jesus' claim was challenged based on the fact that He was from Galilee. It should be noted that the intellectual challenge of Jesus' place of origin did not reference His birth place. According to Luke 2:21-50 Jesus was circumcised on His eighth day, and this rite of circumcision was preformed in the temple in Jerusalem. When the ceremony was completed Jesus' birth would be recorded in the temple records, and these records would verify His place of birth. The taxation of Rome generated another legal document establishing the birthplace of Jesus. Who could accuse Jesus of not being born in Bethlehem, since He had temple birth records and Roman tax records to authenticate His place of birth.
When we compare the lives of these saints of God with the needs of the kingdom, we should realize that the needs of the kingdom always have precedent over what we interpret to be our needs. At this point lets return to Matthew 6:33; most Christians have this verse memorized, but how many have memorized verse 34. Lets read this verse!
Matthew 6:34 (Amplified Bible) "So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own, Sufficient for each day is its own trouble."
We are admonished in this verse not to worry about trial or tribulation; each new day has its own troubles to be dealt with. So often we associate with this scripture the blessings of the kingdom of God, but the kingdom also has responsibilities which can put righteous demands on our lives. The lives of the great men and women of God demonstrate that the kingdom of God can place requirements on our lives, and these requirements may conflict with our understanding of personal need. Is it possible that God may require us to suffer for the need and glory of His kingdom?
2Thessalonians 1:4-5 So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom, for which ye also suffer:"
Church history is filled with accounts of righteous saints who suffered and endured much for the sake of the kingdom of God. Martyrdom was often required of the saints of God who sought first the kingdom of God. Ponder for a moment what it cost the kingdom of God in blood to provide us with a Bible in the English language. In 303 AD, Emperor Diocletian issued edicts which ordered the destruction of all church buildings, the confiscation of Christian books, the dismissal of Christians from the government and the army, and the imprisonment of the clergy. A further edict was issued in 304 AD which ordered all Christians to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods. The early church refused to surrender the hoh,7 manuscripts, and these books eventually formulated the New Testament. The blood of these dear saints purchased our Bible for us, but these martyrs were not the only ones required to lay down their lives for the sake of our Holy Scriptures. John Wycliff (1329-84) had the vision of producing the Bible in the English language in order that the common people of England could read the Holy Bible in their native tongue. Wycliff was severally persecuted and exiled for his unorthodox actions; he died of natural causes in 1384, but his remains were exhumed in 1428 on orders from Pope Martin V, burned and scattered on the waters of the River Swift. Wycliff's followers, who were called Lollards, were cruelly repressed, persecuted, and martyred for their faith. The only crime the Lollards committed was the propagation of the Bible in the English language: for this horrendous offense they were burned at the stake. Our precious Bible cost the Lord much in the blood of His dear saints, when we hold these sacred Scriptures in our hands ponder for a moment what it required our fore fathers to give us these holy words. Nearly every part of our Christian faith was purchased by our fore fathers with their blood; from our communion service, to our baptism of immersion; their blood built and e6tablished our Christian faith Lets put ourselves into the situations of these brothers and sisters in Christ. Doesn't it seem reasonable that these men and women were normal Christians? I am sure they fought with the natural human desire for self survival. If we gave the Lollards a choice of life or death and still allow them to spread the Gospel, I am sure they would have chosen life. But should we require the denial of their spiritual vision and direction as a condition for life, I am certain they would chose death In fact church history records these type of conditions for their survival, and the Lollards chose death For these saints seeking first the kingdom of God required the laying down of life and limb. Death is not a fearful enemy when we are driven by a vision of the kingdom.
What did our fore fathers have in common? What scarlet thread bound together their determined will? It is hard to imagine, but church history records the fact that millions of brothers and sisters were martyred for their faith Each of these dear brothers and sisters were absolutely assured of their salvation. They did not question the reality of Jesus, or the power of His blood to save. Their Christian faith was not built on a religion or theology concerning Christ, but it was established on the reality of an intimate relationship. Jesus was real, He was not a myth or a lifeless doctrine. In the same way that Jesus comforted the Apostle Paul during his final hours, He also comforted our fore fathers when their hour of martyrdom came. The life blood of spiritual maturity flows from our assurance of salvation. Should we desire to grow in Christ, then it is paramount that we cultivate our assurance of salvation. Only when we are sure of our position in Christ will we dare to endure the righteous demands of the kingdom of God.
Revelation 12:11 (Amplified Bible) "And they have overcome (conquered) him by means of the blood of the Lamb and by the utterance of their testimony, for they did not love and cling to life even when faced with death holding their lives cheap till they had to die [for their witnessing].
The greatest obstacle to the kingdom of God is not the spiritual struggle caused by the devil. The one human factor which causes conflict with the kingdom is our comfort zone. Each and every Christian is surrounded by a comfort (safe) zone. This zone is the attitude which determines the degree we will endure discomfort for the common good. Each and every one of us is motivated by our self interests and desires; when confronted with choices concerning the kingdom of God, often we embrace the easy, comfortable lifestyle which doesn't place any demands or discipline on our way of life. The root of our comfort zone in human pride. Pride always expresses itself is selfish lifestyles and self centered interests.
Let me now express this principle in a graphic way. Please refer to the comfort zone chart presented in this lesson. On the chart please notice their are two triangles, the inverted triangle represents the influence the kingdom of God has in our lives. The second triangle illustrates the influence the comfort zone exerts in our lives. The triangles are depicted with a mirrored effect to communicate the biblical law of degree. In reference to our chart the law is stated as such; to the degree we surrender our comfort zones is to the degree the kingdom of God can manifest in our lives. The carnal Christian lifestyle is depicted by the bottom line of the normal triangle, while the total committed lifestyle of a Christian martyr is depicted by the inverted triangle. The further we journey up the inverted triangle our comfort zone is decreasing while the kingdom of God is increasing in our lives. Another application of this principle is characterized this way: the normal triangle represents our comfort, while the inverted triangle illustrates our character in Christ. To the degree we are willing to lose our comfort in Jesus is to the degree we will manifest His character. Let me emphatically state that the Lord is not as concerned about our comfort as He is concerned about our character. We are admonished to count the cost required of discipleship. Comfort and discipleship do not flow well together, they do not sprout from the same spiritual root. The desire for a life of comfort and repose is rooted in the fallen Adamic nature, while the hunger for discipleship is birthed by the Holy Spirit. We have a choice which triangle will depict our spiritual walk. Every facet of Christian life is filled with this basic struggle and decision. Should we desire to walk in the life of the Spirit, then is will cost us our comfort zones. Let me speak directly to you, dear reader; the decision to surrender your comfort zone is an individual one. No one can motivate you or make this decision for you, only you can reach into the depths of your heart to find the faith and courage to allow the Lord to crucify your self centered nature.
The Apostle Paul discovered a secret, and it was a life dedicated to the kingdom of God. He understood that the kingdom also has responsibilities which would place righteous demands on his life. Paul centered his life on meeting the needs of the kingdom, and he placed his own personal needs behind those of the kingdom. The secret of Paul is not a secret which no other person can learn. There is nothing mythical about Paul's secret, it is a principle which any saint of God can operate. In fact, striving to meet the needs of the kingdom is the true application of Matthew 6:33. The needs of the kingdom must become our needs, when we give pre-eminence to our responsibilities and commitment to the kingdom of God, then we will be surprised to discover that all our personal needs are being met also. Let me stress that the needs of the kingdom will always supersede our apparent personal needs when the two conflict. The Lord will use us to further His kingdom, therefore when change occurs in our lives, even though is may cause personal pain and suffering, seek for the needs of the kingdom. Let me conclude this lesson with an allegory.
In a small valley in India stood a regal grove of bamboo. A sign was affixed to the grove identifying the bamboo as being owned by the wise and loving husbandman of the district In the evenings, when the gentle breezes rustled the tops of the bamboo, a faint whisper could be heard. The bamboo were singing in unison the praises and the accolades of their loving master. How he cared for them? Often he would come and speak kind and tender words to them. The bamboo dearly loved the fellowship they had with their master. Also the bamboo rejoiced in their brotherhood, they would stand together and be strong for the master. Their love for each other was strong, nothing could separate them from their brotherhood. In the center of the grove stood one massive, majestic bamboo, truly he was the eldest of all the brotherhood. He held a position of honor and respect in the grove, and all the bamboo followed his lead when the breezes rustled their leaves.
One day the grove noticed their loving master approaching, and an excitement grew in their midst, because the master was coming to abide in their worship. They all noticed that the face of the master looked saddened, his eyes did not sparkle with joy, but a serious countenance covered his face. What could sadden the master this way? Slowly the master journeyed to the center of his grove and stood in front of the tall elder brother, and after a few moments of mournful reflection he said:
"I have need of thee for my kingdom elder brother, it will cost you everything you have, and you wi11 suffer much to fulfill my will. The choice is yours my son, I will honor your decision".
These words burned like coal in the ears of the elder brother. "What could my wise and loving master want for me to do?", thought the elder bamboo. After a few moments which seemed like hours the elder bamboo, in a somber tone, said:
"I am yours, dear master, to do with as you see fit, I do not understand what you require of me, but I will trust you."
A smile came across the face of the wise master which communicated his pleasure with the words spoken by the elder bamboo. Slowly he removed his machete from its sheath, and with one strong blow the elder bamboo fell to the ground. Softly in the air could be heard the whispering cries of pain and the words of loving trust The wise master gently carried the bleeding bamboo out of the grove, and laid him by a fire, and in the fire where long iron rods glowing red hot The master stopped for a moment, and with tears streaming down his cheeks, said:
"Prepare yourself my son, now you must endure much suffering, but remember that I dearly love you."
At this point fear and confusion filled the mind of the elder bamboo, but he would trust his wise and loving master. The master grabbed the first rod, and with hard and sure thrusts, he rammed the searing rod up the heart of the bamboo. The pain was excruciating, it seemed like his inner most being was being torn asunder. Harder and harder the torrid rods where rammed up the center of the bamboo, and each thrust broke his heart further. But amidst the smoke and fire the bamboo could be heard reaffirming his trust in the master. Eternity seemed to pass for the bamboo, but eventually the master spoke with a quite and calm tone:
"I am finished my son, rest now for your work is at hand."
The elder bamboo laid on the ground broken and hollow, loneliness filled his heart and mind. How he desired for the communion of the brotherhood, but he would trust his master. With love and compassion the wise master picked up the elder bamboo, and carried him a far distance from the pit of fire. When he arrived at his destination, he noticed that the land look arid and dry. Very little grew their because the parcel of land lacked water. The wise master placed one end of the elder bamboo on the parched and arid land, and he placed the other end in a spring flowing with living water. Through the center of the elder bamboo ran this life-giving water, and the once arid and dry land became a luscious garden.