Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany:“The Kingdom Is Profitable”
Micah 6: 1-8
1 Corinthians 1: 2-5
Matthew 5: 1-12
I ask you this question: what is your favorite Scripture concerning the kingdom of God? There are a lot of Scriptures about the kingdom of God because the whole Bible is basically the kingdom of God. Your favorite Scripture may be Matthew 6:33, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added to you.” It could be Romans 14:17, “For the kingdom of God are righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” These are some of the Scriptures that we love to claim and we love to quote and talk about. It is a good thing because they are talking about that side of the kingdom of God that we all like to embrace and to relate to.
How many people would pick Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven?” How many of us are being excited of being poor in spirit or poor in anything? Usually, we don’t want to claim poverty so much. Poor in spirit is not something that we wear as a badge on our sleeve. We don’t look for a potential friend that is poor in spirit or one who mourns all the time. Neither do we say that a friend should be one who is meek that never raises his voice, one who doesn’t get hungry or thirsty all the time, and one who doesn’t mind people yelling at him or throwing rocks at him or persecuting him.
And yet, Jesus says that it is those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness who can claim the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The kingdom of God is not the way we understand it sometimes – where everything is good, perfect, and just the way we want it. We have an awkward understanding of the kingdom of God – an unbiblical understanding.
In this city, in this year, we had a volcano that erupted. If there is any place that should avoid the volcano erupting, it is Tagaytay City because there are more spiritual retreat centers per capita in Tagaytay than probably any city in the world. And yet, there are a lot of major evacuees because the volcano could erupt any time. Is this the kingdom of God? In this day, throughout the world, one tiny virus that looks like a crown (not the King of kings) is existent to make people sick. Some people had perished because of this little crown. Does this sound like the kingdom of God? Does this look like our perception of the kingdom of God? If this is really the kingdom of God, then, rebuke it and make it disappear!
Is it the kingdom of God when someone dear to us dies? Does this sound like the way we want things? But yet, we need to understand that this is part of the kingdom of God, too.
I have seen five or six different Facebook posts saying, “Let us do over January. Let us pretend January did not happen. New Year starts now, February.” January has been rough, but God made January. Every day is the day the Lord has made. Every year is the year that the Lord has made. Every month is the month that Lord has made. Whatever purposes God had for January, He had purposes and He fulfilled them.
We need to understand that the kingdom of God is not always about receiving everything we claim, getting everything the way we want it, and everything working according to our plan. The kingdom of God is all about His plan. In the story of Abraham and Sarah who were living in Canaan, the Promised Land, the land of milk and honey, and yet, they had to go down to Egypt because there was famine in Canaan. So what kind of Promised Land was this? In the next generation, Isaac faced the same thing in Canaan and he had to leave. During the next generation, there was a famine in the whole world and Jacob and the whole family of seventy had to leave and again go to Egypt. Few generations later, Naomi and her husband, Elimelech, had to leave Canaan because of massive famine. They travelled to Moab and stayed there for years. In the Promised Land, there was a famine. Does this sound like the promises of God? Actually, it is the will of God because it happened.
Everything isn’t the way it should be in this world where we live in. Is this the fault of the kingdom of God? Is God not yet quite finished with the kingdom of God? No, the kingdom of God is complete. Jesus completed His work on earth in ushering and bringing in the kingdom of God. It is finished! There is nothing left to be done. Death has been conquered by Him and one day, we will all follow in this, so what is left? What’s wrong? Nothing is wrong, but the problem is that we live in a unique day and age where it is the kingdom of God, the kingdom age, but it is also the remnants of the age of man. It is the remnants of the day of Adam, the kingdom of man, where it is ruled by sin, rebellion, stubbornness, greed, and death. This kingdom is still among us even though the kingdom of God is in its fullness.
What is going to change when Christ comes back? When Christ comes back, He doesn’t have to bring anything new with Him. He will bring all the saints with Him, all those who have died, the long lists of people whom we have lost in the last twelve to eighteen months. They are all coming back when the Lord comes back, but He is not adding anything to the Kingdom.
The Scriptures says that when Christ comes back, He is taking out the stumbling blocks, the things of the kingdom of man. In the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds, the wheat was there which represented the sons of the Kingdom, and so were the weeds, which were the sons of the wicked one, of sin, of selfishness, of greed and of death. The Lord said not to take the weeds out because the wheat may be uprooted too. When it is the harvest time, the right time, the Lord will come and He will get rid of those weeds and what will be left will be the good things in the kingdom of God.
In the Parable of the Fish, there was a catch of both the good and the bad ones. The expert kept the good ones in the containers and the bad ones were thrown away. This day of separation is coming, but until then, we have the kingdom of God in its purity, perfection, and fullness; but we also have the remnants of the kingdom of man lying around. People still die not because they did something wrong, but because they are human beings. The time, in God’s idea, is all His.
In the world and age we live in today, the kingdom of God is like a chocolate cake. All the needed ingredients are mixed and the mixture is place in the oven with one kilo of bitter gourd added. It doesn’t quite work, but this is how it is in the kingdom of God. The cake is complete and perfect, but we dump the bitter gourd in it. People die, and we have to suffer, struggle, and try our best to keep up because the other stuff is still around.
There is the second coming, but what is up for us to do? We can make sure that we act like wheat and not weeds. We are to make sure that we are not affected by all the weed things that are out there. We are not made to be weeds; we are made to be the children of light, but if we get to dabble too much into the other kingdom, it will be hard for people to tell the difference between light and darkness or wheat or weeds. We can get rid of the weeds, but we need to make sure that we do not become one of them. When the Lord blesses us, we can convince the weeds to become wheat, and this is called evangelism.
In this age where things are so difficult and frustrating, what can we do? One thing that we can do is to trust in the Lord! When we see things that we don’t understand, one reaction is to trust in the Lord. A hundred times, the Bible tells us to trust in God. Fifty times, it was in the Psalms with David. David had a lot of reasons not to trust in God because he had experienced a lot of things going against him. One of my favorite is Psalm 62:8, “Trust in the Lord at all times, O people.” Psalm 40:4 says, “How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust and had not turned to the proud nor to those who lapse into falsehood.” When the Psalm talks about not turning to pride or falsehood, it sounds like Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Psalm 15 says, “O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart. He does not slander with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a reprobate is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord.” This sounds a lot like the list that Jesus gave us: the poor in spirit; those who mourn; the gentle; those who long for God and hunger and thirst for Him and His kingdom; the pure in heart; the peacemakers. Jesus says that these are the ones who can claim Him as their own. These are the ones who have that peace, that joy, and righteousness.
What are these lists of virtues and things? This is what we call our Christian faith. Faith is a set of beliefs that inspire and direct the actions and the attitudes of those who claim it. If I claim that the poor in spirit are blessed, if I claim that the persecuted are the ones who inherit the kingdom of God, if I claim the meek shall inherit the earth, and I believe all of these and claim and accept them, then, I live and I act on them. Because of what you have accepted, the action is our faith. By faith, I do this. By faith, I avoid this. The attitude of believing God’s word and accepting God’s promises and hoping in God is called faith. Faith is the only way we can trust in God.
How can we trust in God with everything that we see? David wouldn’t have said it fifty times to trust in the Lord if it was not important or vital. It is impossible to do it on our own. The only way we can trust in the Lord at all times is by faith. By faith, by what we know and believe about God, we can say, “God, I know that You are righteous. God, I know that You are true. God, I know that You are just and that You will not go back on Your word and because I know these things by faith, so I trust in You.”
How do we get that much faith so that we can always trust in the Lord? Faith is a gift! God gives us this faith and it is the only way we can have it. It is nothing we can scrape up or earn or buy in the store. Faith is not for sale. Faith is a gift from God. Galatians 5 and 1Corinthians 12:9 says one of the fruit (the gifts) of the Spirit is faith. Since this is God’s gift, the only thing we do is to receive it. Once we receive it, we don’t return or exchange it. Hang on to it; keep it; use it.
Don’t try to turn from wheat to weed. Remain to be wheat. Don’t try to put bitter gourd on your chocolate cake. Take the gift of faith that we have and hang on to it. In faith, we can have hope. With hope, we can live in this world. We get so mixed up and it is sometimes hard to understand because we can’t understand it. It is impossible for us to understand some things as the Lord says, “My ways are not the same as your ways.” It is just a different realm that we are walking in so we simply have to trust God and know that He knows what He is doing.
Trust that God knows when the time is right, when the day is right. God will send Jesus back. He will be held in the heavens until the restoration of all things. Until then, we trust by faith which we already have. Faith is a gift of God that we possess and it is up to us to use it. Use the faith that He has given us to trust in Him at all times.
This is how we get through months like January 2020. There may be months that will be coming that are worse than this month, we can never tell, but I can tell you Who is in charge of that month, and Who worked out that month for His own purposes and plans, which is, the kingdom of God on earth as it in heaven. It is perfect and complete! Keep the kingdom of God pure! Let us keep our lives in the Kingdom pure and blameless, sweet before Him which is within our power. We trust in Him by faith!