“…. strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.”
Paul and his team are back in the 3 cities where they were persecuted, slandered and plots were made for their deaths and in fact Paul was stoned to death or at least near-death. What was their message? “Disciples of Jesus hold strong for suffering is the path to the kingdom.”
The kingdom of God refers to realm, dimension, principality or empire. Often it is understood to be the rule of God.
I live in the United Kingdom and we have a monarch. But she doesn’t rule, she reigns. I wonder if we have lost some understanding of the kingdom by not thinking more about His reign in favour of His rule.
We sing more about His rain meaning His provision and blessing than about His reign. Rain down on me is our cry. I want to sing more about Him reigning over me. I want to be reminded that He is sovereign, He is crowned and sitting on a throne and that He has supreme authority and influence.
What is the pathway to the understanding of that reign? It has to be suffering. It can be no other. How can a victory after victory, blessing upon blessing, where the sun is always shining on us, ever leave us with the need of knowing He is sovereign? It cannot. We do not need to know this when life is easy.
But when you have more questions than answers and when the pain is in your breath you need a Monarch who is in charge of it all.
Suffering takes you to the feet of His reign. His reign over our lives is only understood by those who suffer. They go hand in hand.
I remember reading a few years ago a survey from George Barna which said that two out of five evangelical Christians “deny the possibility that pain or suffering could be a means of becoming a better, more mature” Christian. So many reject suffering as being unnecessary. In my experience the suffering church has more to tell me regarding the authority of God than any other. I am better with the broken. I understand reign more.
Christians are suffering now in North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen and Eritrea to name the top 10 nations for persecution.
We ourselves will suffer from all kinds of diseases and disappointments. Circumstances change overnight. Tomorrow turns everything around. The truth is we suffer. But it is only when we do are we then in realisation of His kingdom reign.