If we heard these words coming from a child we would think “peer-pressure” and that the Mum should advise their child not to be swayed by others but rather “be their own person”. The trouble is that peer-pressure continues as we age. It is always there. And so I ask: are you building your kingdom, your church’s kingdom, or God’s Kingdom?
There is only one eternal Kingdom and that belongs to Christ. However, we are blessed to have been invited into this Kingdom. Not merely as servants, not even as friends, but as precious and beloved sons and daughters. God has adopted us into a Kingdom of everlasting value. And yet I so often get caught up in the world around me. There is pressure to get a degree or find the right job or build a fortune that will make us feel secure or to cover our flaws so as to win the esteem of men. God tells us to be wise with our money but He also said to the man who built more and larger barns to store his abundance: “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12:21).
God calls us to live passionately for Him. Compromise is not acceptable to God. There is grace but, as Paul says in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
Living, as they say, with one foot in the world and one with Christ is not living with Christ at all. There have been plenty of times where I have tried the world’s way but as soon as I take one eye off God I find myself slipping. When both eyes are fixed on God my life is filled with passion and joy and worship, even amidst sorrows and trials. Take one eye off God – allow my job to become my focus, or the money I’m making, or start desiring the accolades and praise of man – and I find myself becoming tired, dissatisfied or emotionally reactive. Life becomes much harder when God is no longer my focus.
It is easy to be sucked in too; constantly surrounded as we are by the demands of the world. If you don’t have eternity to focus on then someone cutting you off in traffic or your boss not accepting your proposal or a friend turning aside when you need them most can all cause the kettle to start boiling.
Often the only noticeable difference is one of attitude. But our focus makes a big difference to God. Our thoughts, actions and deeds make a difference to God because they reveal our heart’s motive. He calls us to love Him and love man. How many of us live that out on a daily basis? A very straight forward command but one that requires utter reliance on Him if we are to walk it out. The world tells us to look after number one; God commands us to give to those who ask, lend without expecting anything back, and to bless those who curse us.
Let us try and define the point a little more and note some of the differences between the world and God’s Kingdom:
|Store up for tomorrow
||Give to those in need
|Befriend those who love you or can get you ahead in life
||Befriend the outcast, the poor, the needy; love the unlovable
|Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow you die
||Find it all joy when you suffer for Christ’s sake.
|Buy a house or houses; build stability
||The Son of Man had no where to rest His head; called to follow Him
|Indulgence, comfort, more, a “wouldn’t it be nice…” mentality
||Take up your cross and follow me
|You are worth it
||God is worth everything
|Most important thing is… family, spouse, friend, money, position…
||God is always most important
||Perfect love casts out fear
||Eternal joy and fulfilment
You may have noticed that I mentioned the church at the start too. The church is the body of Christ and we are called to build God’s Kingdom. Sometimes as individual church congregations we can become focused on self or on what individuals are doing for the church. Our motivation to serve should not be a pastor asking us to but overflowing joy and the love of Christ.
Do you know that the hardest thing He can sometimes ask of us is to do “nothing”? We fear the judgement of man and those who have been challenged by God to give up ministries to focus on Him know how hard this can be. He is able to keep a ministry going without us but we can’t keep it alive without Him! Our desire to serve should be motivated by passion for God and to see His Kingdom built. It should flow from a deep gratitude for what He had done for us. If you aren’t in this place take some time just to sit in His presence; dwell on the Word, His character or play worship music. Bring it back to God!
We each have different gifts and passions and these can be used to serve God. Ask yourself are you serving God or man? If you are serving God it will be a joy but serving man will become a chore or a need for the praise of man.
James 4:13-15 sums it up nicely: Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”– yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
Don’t focus on what the world is doing but turn your attention to the task God has called you to.
Stop asking, “What are the Joneses doing?” and start asking “What would God have me do?”