The Kingdom; January 1, 2019

Luke 12:32 Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.

When I felt God was directing me to use this verse as the Scripture for the Year, I really didn’t think that deeply about it. However, looking at it now in context, all sorts of things are coming to me. From verse 22 through 31, we have Luke’s version of Jesus’ famous teaching that Matthew records in Matthew 6:25-34. Whether these record different occasions or separate accounts of the same occasion is unimportant. It is entirely possible that Jesus taught the same content on multiple occasions, as most teachers do. It is also possible that Luke, not having been present at the time, was using someone else’s notes of what Jesus said, and that person hadn’t picked up on the same points as Matthew. That said, it is this verse that is strikingly unique to Luke’s version. Matthew and Luke both record Jesus as telling us to seek God’s kingdom, but only Luke tells us not to worry about it, because God’s got it all worked out. That’s entirely consistent with what Matthew records, but it puts the point on God’s kingdom being God’s business, and He’s giving it to us. We can’t earn God’s kingdom, nor even get there by our own labors. However, that doesn’t change the fact that it needs to be our first priority, our final goal. Paul famously pointed out, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no-one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10) In other words, God is giving us His kingdom out of His own mercy and love, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have anything to do. That’s why Jesus told us to “seek” the kingdom. We aren’t to take God’s grace for granted, but we are to be supremely grateful for it, responding to Him with the obedience that comes from love. The devil wants us to be anxious, afraid that we’re going to lose it all, but God wants us to have none of the devil’s lies. We aren’t to focus on our weaknesses and failures, but rather on the omnipotent grace and love of God.

I’m very grateful God directed me to this verse for this year. We certainly qualify as a “little flock!” I have been hit with all sorts of anxieties, virtually all coming from human weakness, either in me or in someone else. I worry about individuals’ faithfulness to the Lord, when I can’t control that in any case. I worry about a successor, since I am already past what many people consider retirement age, but this is Jesus’ church, and not mine or a denomination’s. I worry about health, in my wife and in myself, when, as it says in verses 25 and 26 of this same chapter, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” (I am to be a faithful steward of this body I’ve been given, but not be anxious about it.) I don’t know what God’s plans for us are in this new year, but I can have peace and joy in the assurance that they are good. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Father, thank You for this glorious reminder on the first day of a new year. Thank You for the two totally new people who showed up around 11:30 last night for our Watchnight service. I don’t know how You plan to bless them, or us, but I thank You for that very real encouragement. I pray that throughout this year we would indeed seek Your kingdom, with all that means, for Your plans to be fulfilled in and through us, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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