Last night I had dinner with a good friend. Between bites of margherita pizza, we doted on her baby boy and talked about life. Our conversation covered a range of topics–from motherhood to career, and thoughts on food, money and faith. This friend and I have been in a small group together with our husbands and a few other couples for almost five years now. The group is currently studying Francis Chan’s Crazy Love, a book that has spurred on many challenging and thought-provoking discussions over the past couple months. We’ve wrestled with deciphering what a gospel-centered, passionate love for God looks like in our day and age, and we’ve wondered how we can live Biblically and counter-culturally for Him.
One of the (many) underlying topics that is woven throughout the book is giving. What does it looks like to give of our time and resources, knowing that all we have is already from God? Chan cites several examples of believers who gave away everything and went to the mission field, or who regularly spend their resources on furthering the work of the Lord here at home. These stories are of real people, and they have challenged me, to the core. Each time the truth of the Gospel is revealed anew to me, I realize the depth of my waywardness, and above all, my selfishness. So often I am thinking of and living for me and only me. I don’t do radical things for God, and I don’t live as if He is the source of all I could ever need or want in this life. My gaze is often horizontal instead of vertical, and it makes me realize how desperately sinful I am when my heart longs for the trifles of this world and yet spurns my holy Savior.
A couple months back, our pastor preached a sermon titled “The Absurdity of Power“. One line in particular has stuck with me and come to mind over and over again. He said, “At every turn you’re engaged in some kind of kingdom-building activity. The question is: whose kingdom? Is it the kingdom of God or the kingdom of self?” Later in the same sermon, my pastor went on to say,
…because kingdom-building doesn’t take place in a singular and sweeping, momentous act, but in a series of simple and mundane acts, your own battle between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of self in your heart can go undetected. No one says, “I’m bent on building my own kingdom – and I will destroy anyone who gets in my way!” No one says that – not explicitly. Instead, by a thousand tiny thoughts and behaviors and decisions we live that way.
Wow, right? That is what I would call a spot on diagnosis of the infection that is thriving in heart and mind. This question really gets to the base of the matter. I know that 98% of the time I am living to build my kingdom. On a daily basis, I am more concerned about my health, fitness, future goals, home, career, vacations, agenda, and to-do list than I am about anything else. God’s command to love Him above all, and love our neighbors as ourselves rarely penetrates the heavy cloud of “ME” that shrouds my thoughts and actions. I am living to build the kingdom of Bethany, and it’s not happening in any momentous act, but instead in the decisions I make and conversations I have on a daily basis.
So what does it looks like to be wholly consumed with kingdom-building for God? I think the right place to start is with the recognition that everything comes from Him. Reminding yourself daily of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the fact that he willingly gave his life for us will change everything. Each breath that we take, our very being and existence is from the hand of God. The knowledge of this truth will be a magnifier for the reality that we are small and powerless, and that building our own kingdoms is a meaningless and sinful pursuit. What’s more, as we continue to look to Him, we will realize that everything we need is found in God, and so giving ourselves and our stuff away with reckless abandon won’t seem so odd or painful. The meaninglessness of our vain pursuits and our own kingdom-building will be magnified when we realize the greatness of our Savior’s love and the sacrifice he made to purchase our eternal salvation.