Looking for the KingdomFor a while now we have been focusing on the prayer Jesus taught us, ‘Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven’. We have talked about longing for the kingdom, about being agents to bring the kingdom in the spheres where Jesus has placed us. We have prayed for the kingdom to come, joining with brothers and sisters across the County in the special time of the 40 Days of Prayer.
At recent prayer meetings we have prayed with folks for healing, one of the most prominent signs of the kingdom in Jesus’ ministry and part of his instruction to the disciples, ‘he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.’ Luke 9:2. And we have seen some healing – improvements, partial healings, small healings – but not much total, major, clearly miraculous healing. I know this is an uncomfortable area for some of us, it is for me.
We believe God can heal, and we even know of folks He has healed. But praying with folks to be healed raises a ton of issues. Should we pray and then claim? How much faith do we need to have, does the sick person need? How long do we keep at it if nothing happens immediately? What if nothing happens at all?
Issues with Healing We are concerned for the person receiving prayer, will they be disappointed or embittered. We are concerned for God’s reputation, will He be seen as impotent or uncaring. Frankly, we are concerned for ourselves, will we look like fools. Most of us have seen situations where these sorts of concerns have distorted the whole process and it has gone terribly wrong. It is no wonder that the churches often feel more comfortable staying away from healing (and other miracles). It is safer to simply ask God to take care of things, pray ‘thy will be done’ and leave it at that.
Healing, Miracles & Message of the Kingdom But Jesus didn’t leave it at that. He told his disciples to go heal, deliver, even raise the dead along with proclaiming the kingdom. They are inextricably tied up with one another. Healing and miracles are not just to grab attention so can get on to the message. They are part of the message of the kingdom – what it means when the King to reign and put thing right. Word and reality welded together.
This is not the time or place to expound at length about healing and miracles. I hope that we will have a lot more reflection of this as the Lord calls us into a deeper kingdom focus. In the meantime there are a few things that I think we can say which will encourage us as we struggle forward:
As we pray and work for the kingdom to come, looking for healing and miracles should be part of what we do.
Not everyone we pray for will be healed or every miracle we ask for come about
More healing and miracles will come about if we are asking for them than if we do not
If we approach praying with people for healing and miracles with humility and love, pointing them to the mercy of God in Jesus Christ, people can experienced being loved by God and us whether the prayer is answered as asked or not.
God will use the tension between healing and miracles we ask for and the level we experience. It will drive us to long more earnestly for the full revelation of His kingdom. It will drive us to remove obstacles and learn how to cooperate with the Spirit more fully. It will drive us to deeper compassion for the suffering of people as we groan with them and all creation for the full coming of the kingdom. Actually, these things are all manifestations of the kingdom, as well!
As we look for the kingdom to break in, we can do it with thanksgiving and rejoicing. Any taste we get here and now is an appetizer to the full banquet which we can be assured awaits us. Living in thanksgiving and joy is another sign of the kingdom in the midst of a world of complaining and despair.
Interplay of Kingdoms
Time is strange. We tend to think of it as a steady, measurable thing. It ticks by at sixty seconds to the minute, sixty minutes to the hour, and so on. But physicists will tell us that it is more complex and elastic than that. We have experienced this elastic nature of time ourselves. ‘It seems like only yesterday’. ‘This afternoon is taking forever.’ Time drags and whizzes, stretches and contracts.
Jesus declared at the start of his ministry, ’the kingdom of God is at hand’, and later, ‘now is the prince of this world cast out’, and then ‘it is finished’. But we all know that there is still a lot of kingdom of this world and prince of this world and unfinishedness all about us. This has been described as the ‘now and not yet’ of the kingdom. You can probably remember laying an overhead sheet on top of the page from which it is made. Shift it just a bit and you get two images overlapping, both there, very confusing to sort out. What Jesus has declared is true. The old is passing away and the new has come. It is here and now, just not completely here and now. I imagine that Jesus’ voice is still ringing ‘it is fini………..’ and we haven’t quite gotten to the final ‘…ished!’ yet.
You may have been swimming in a lake rather than a swimming pool. If so, you have no doubt had the experience of paddling about and all of the sudden coming on a current of cool water, often clearer and feeling different than the rest of the lake. On a hot day this can not only be surprising but very refreshing! I think of our current kingdom situation as something along those lines. We are swimming in the murky, turbid lake waters. But there is stream of fresh spring water flowing into this lake and as we move around we encounter it and are refreshed. What we want to do it to stay in that current as much as possible. Track its direction and flow. Invite others to swim over and join us in it. Learn to live in the clear, clean, life-giving waters in the midst of the lake which is passing away.