My mum tells me that when I was about 2 I brought a bumble bee into the house to show her. She gasped, until I confidently exclaimed “It’s okay mum, it’s not working!”
Does it work? Will it make a difference to my life? Is it real? These are some of the questions that we hear asked all the time about faith and Jesus and what it looks like to follow Him. No longer is it suffice to say, because it’s right or, just because it is. People want to know if there is any truth and depth to it. So, is there? That’s a challenging question, isn’t it? Is this Jesus life actually making any difference to how I think, live, act?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been asking that a lot lately. Does this ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ kind of life that Jesus teaches us about and shows us work? Can I see the evidence of it in my life? When pressure bears down on me is it peace that emulates from my mind and heart? When I’m hurt am I able to forgive and show generosity to the guilty party? If I offend someone have I the courage to go to them quickly and humbly make it right? What about loving my enemies, the times I’ve been overlooked and disrespected, criticised for the fourth time by an unhappy co-worker? Does the character, generosity and courage of heaven, of Jesus, spill out?
How do I live this life? How does it work?
Two things I’m re-discovering that are helping me:
It takes focus and forcefulness
Jesus writes about a ‘narrow way’ in Matt 7:13-14. A way of living that goes against the grain. The momentum of culture and the world around is away from this ‘kingdom of heaven’ life that Jesus talks about. It’s easy to go with the flow, to let the tide of momentum take us away from living Jesus’ Way. To make this life work, this following Jesus life – it’s going to take focus and forcefulness. It’s making the small ‘tough but courageous’ choices day in day out even, when you don’t feel like it again. And when you lose your way and get caught in the sweeping momentum of life and just looking after number one. We start over, making the tough but right choices again and again.
We must learn know how to receive
You can’t just grit your teeth with focus and forcefulness – it’s not enough. It’s necessary but without learning how to receive from Jesus, this life of the kingdom – you’ll end up burnt out and frustrated. And probably all that will leak out is anger and judgement. You see, pain must go somewhere and after the tenth time of being rejected, using all the focus and forcefulness you have will not heal the pain you feel. It will simply push it downwards until one day it spills out and hurts those around you. So, if focus and forcefulness is important but not enough what hope is there? The great news is that the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ is not just a way of life, it is the presence of a Kingdom. There is a superhuman, supernatural kind of life made available to you. You can receive it – you must. Jesus announces this kingdom life all the time in the gospels but especially in what’s called the Beatitudes (Matt 5:2-11). For the broken there is the life, for the mourning – comfort, for the forgotten a wonderful inheritance, for those hungry for change and for justice – restoration. We need both. This life of following Jesus is only possible as we learn to receive the grace filled life that he gives to us. It’s only possible as we let Him into our pain, hurt, anger, frustration – and receive what he gives us. This kingdom life takes guts and effort but it’s only possible for those who learn the ‘unforced rhythms of grace’. So what ‘rhythms of grace’ do you have in your life today to receive from Jesus?