Thy Kingdom Come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
The government of God means we are under judgment. This may not seem a popular belief or teaching in this era of the church. But the rules of God, the pillars on which creation rests, have been fabulously broken. The ensuing work of God is to bless us through education, correction, and training. The common place terms for this in the Old Testament as well as the new are judgment, chastisement, correction. Whatever organizations we are a part of, chances are that at some point, there will be a downturn. And that downturn—some change in the attendance, financial well being, spiritual vitality—will signify God’s righteous leadership and his desire to get in touch with us in a new way. Whatever city we are living in, the plan of God has been often deliberately or neglectfully left behind and God wants to work his beautiful plan into the fabric of the community making Jesus the leader once again. The Scriptures are clear that moments such as these are moments to be seen as God at work… God judging.
Judgment like this is far different than the eternal wrath of God that so many of us have been brought up hearing about in the church. Instead, it is the corrective influence of a God who loves us, wishes to lead us and has an incredible plan for the people that surround us. It is the gracious return of the governance of a righteous God to people who easily choose other governances for our lives.
Often the children of God, the people who are called by his son’s name, wish to absolve themselves of this sort of judgment. We wish to hide ourselves away in a misguided hope that we will somehow escape, thinking we are set apart from God’s corrective plan for our culture, organizations and communities. But listen to the Apostle Peter’s words:
For it is time for the judgment of God to begin with the family of God, what will the outcome be for those of us who do not obey the Gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17)
The author of Hebrews writes:
…because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son (Hebrews 12:6).
God’s correction is a normal part of his working in our lives and the people who are brought into the family of God are not the last on the list of people to experience his loving correction… in fact, we might be the first.
As people of prayer, our job is not to avoid these moments of judgment, but rather to sit in the midst of the difficulty occasioned by our failures or the failures of those with whom we are in community, to identify with them and to pray through them. So often, we avoid areas of degradation—switching churches, moving out of cities, changing jobs—when the call of God is to pray through these moments, pressing into his Presence.
King David, the ancient and most noteworthy monarch of Israel, offers a fascinating example of walking through the tough times. As has been preached from thousands of pulpits, David’s worst urges got a hold of him in the cool of the evening. The subsequent story reads like the best fiction replete with the cover-up, conspiracy and murder. Of course the deception that fooled many failed to fool God and David was left with the aftermath, his house facing the loss of a son. David’s response reminds us of why the Scriptures refer to him as a man after God’s own heart. He fasts and prays, humiliating himself for a week in front of the palace staff and governmental officials. He was willing to face the scorn of his staff, publicly laying aside the duties of governing, to press into God seeking his forgiveness. Though the consequences remained and the son passed away on the seventh day David had made a choice. He moved closer to God in the midst of the difficulty; the judgment drew him closer. His servants were all surprised when the news broke for David cleaned himself, dressed and went to the Lord’s house and worshiped. He was blessed in this moment to walk with God even in grief and loss stemming from sin.
At another moment of judgment, David’s choice clearly shows his heart. After a faithless census in which David’s trust in his military replaced his hope in the Lord, judgment is again proclaimed for the people of Israel. David is given a choice of judgment that his people will undergo. His words are telling: I have great anxiety. Please, let us fall into the Lord’s hands because His mercies are great, but don’t let me fall into human hands. (2 Samuel 24:14) The choice to move towards God rather than away in our spiritual lives is the choice that determines what results God’s judgment will occasion in our lives. We can develop, being transformed by a righteous Father who cares and loves us or we can lose trust and refuse to draw closer in the moment of pain.
God will walk us through these moments of judgment. We easily explain them away as mere downturns, normal pain at points in our lives. Or we may blame them on others, failing to enter into the communal ownership in a situation that God has called us to. But even in the moments when judgment in a church or organization are caused by sin other than our own, we are connected, participants and community dwellers, called by God to walk through the moment of pain in prayer and intimacy with God pleading that the point of the pain will be realized in transformation. The call of God on his children, in times of peace or in times of judgment and difficulty, is always intimate closeness with himself.
One of the great lies of the enemy is to pursue only personal righteousness failing to see the larger picture of God’s plan in close communion with him. He is the lord of all, not merely the Lord of us. His sovereign leadership is what is necessary and so often missing in our world. But we, his children, often fail to accept the very tool that God our Father uses to bring his Kingdom into being. When the moment of judgment comes we pull away either from the God who is lovingly trying to correct us or from the people around us whom He is working to correct separating ourselves and failing to reside where He has called us. The author of Hebrews relates that it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of an angry God, taking a line from King David in 2 Samuel. But that observation is followed with the simple instruction that, even in the midst of difficulty, we should not lose confidence failing to receive God as close, personal and caring just because He is the judge who is retaking his Kingdom. There is a great blessing waiting for children of God who are so interested in his Presence, so desirous of his work in our world and personal lives, that we embrace all that He is doing including his judgment.