If you have read the headlines, you are aware of the state of the world in which we live. It seems as if the whole world is at war, or soon will be. The truth is we are all at war. We battle sickness, other people’s misconceptions of us, and the greatest enemy of all, Satan. We even battle ourselves. Some of us feel as if we’ve been fighting for so long, we don’t have the strength to fight one more minute, yet the battle rages.
In the second season of Downton Abbey we find the characters in the midst of the Great War. Some are fighting on the front lines, others struggle to find their place at home in a world that is rapidly changing. The lines between classes are beginning to smudge and for a time there is a sense of equality in that the war affects everyone in one way or another. At one point the characters are living in a state of tension as they know the war will be ending, yet it still rages on. People still get hurt and lives are still lost, even though they know the victory is theirs. As the war comes to an end, the characters – both upstairs and down – struggle to find their place in a world that can never be what it once was.
In so many ways, that’s the reality we are living in today. It’s the reality of the Kingdom of God. You see, the Bible tells us that the Kingdom of God is here, yet it is still to come. Matthew 4:17 (ESV) says, “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Jesus was clear that the Kingdom was here on earth.
Just a few short chapters later in Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus teaches His disciples how to pray. He says, “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’”
The Kingdom of God is at hand, yet Jesus tells us to pray for God’s Kingdom to come. We are living in a time of biblical tension. God’s Kingdom came when Jesus came to earth as a baby. It will also come, in completion, when Jesus returns in glory.
So what do we do in the meantime? For one, we tell other people the amazing news that God sent His Son Jesus to die on a cross for our sins. When we believe this, ask God to forgive us for the ways we have sinned against Him, and submit our lives to God, we will be saved from hell and live for all eternity with God in His Kingdom. Now that’s good news! Matthew 24:14 says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” So we preach His Kingdom.
We also admit that we are living in tension. Life will be hard. We will suffer. Even as we look forward to healing, either here on earth or in heaven, we live with the reality of today’s suffering. We know how our story will end. We’ve read the back of the Book. We know that when the war ends we will be victorious, yet we are still in the midst of the battle and we can’t let up – not for a moment.
We need to remember that ultimately “…we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore [we must] take up the whole armor of God, that [we] may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:12-13)
Lastly, we live in grace. We extend to ourselves the same grace that God extends to us, and that we extend to others. Our lives aren’t perfect by any means. We will mess up, we will fail, and we will sin. God forgives us when we ask Him to, so why do we so often live in guilt? Why do we live with regrets? Let’s forgive ourselves and accept the grace and forgiveness that God freely gives us. When we do, we will live in the freedom of Christ, experiencing His Kingdom here on earth.
Like the characters on Downton Abbey, and the generations that came before us, we also struggle to find our place in a world that will never be what it once was. However, as long as we keep our eyes on Jesus, we’ll be okay.
God, You are bigger than every battle I face. Be the King of my heart. May Your Kingdom come and Your will be done, here on earth as it is in Heaven. My eyes are fixed on You. I take up the armor that You have given to me. Help me to be able to stand firm. I know that with You all things are possible. I’m battered and bruised Lord, but I am Yours and I will follow wherever You lead.