The Challenge of the Kingdom: Getting Plowed
Luke 8:4-8 (NKJV) And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable: "A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold." When He had said these things He cried, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"
Years ago, when Janice and I were a part of the Anaheim Vineyard, with John Wimber as our pastor, I remember a sermon he taught about the nature of the kingdom from this parable. John explained that in the middle east, seed was scattered first, and the plowing came second. He then said to us, "When you receive a word of the kingdom, a prophecy, a directive, expect to be plowed so that the word will go deeper into you."
In the Bethel Leadership Network that Janice and I are a part of now, there is a common teaching reinforced: Every word is challenged to increase our "weight bearing capacity". (Note: I have included a sermon from Bill that talks about the necessity of challenge in our lives in His kingdom. See the "For Fun" section below.)
Challenges come because of many reasons. Some because of our actions, some because of others, some because of the conflict we are in.
We Are At War!
The truth is, we are in a war. Jesus has secured the ultimate victory, to be sure. He is also powerful and mighty, having all authority vested in Him by the Father. Yet, we are still called to engage in a battle here. Our warfare is definitely different, but it is warfare, nonetheless. The theologian, Oscar Cullman, explained this dynamic in his book, "Christ and Time". Imagine if you would, the second world war. When the Normandy Invasion was successful, the war in Europe was basically over. The Allies were on the continent of Europe and Germany's power base was shrinking. But, more lives were lost between June 6, 1944 and VE day (Victory in Europe) than all the other time in the war put together. Some of the fiercest battles took place after Normandy in the totality of the war. But, the end was assured by the invasion.
There was an invasion that took place a little over 2000 years ago when King Jesus came to demonstrate, proclaim and release His kingdom. When His "invasion", staged as an incarnation took place, the die was cast, and the inauguration of Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords was going to take place. He invaded bringing His demonstration and proclamation of the kingdom, bringing individuals, towns and cities under His influence and saving the geopolitical outcomes for His future return.
To sum it up, we are assured of victory and we will have conflict! Don't be surprised when your word from God, your promise, your advancement is challenged. We are at war, after all and your growth and your cities' change are a challenge to the current evil age. It will be confronted.
Why do challenges appear?
We have heard about the war aspect, but God being God, will use anything to complete us and win His victory. In that way, forgive the analogy, He is like MacGyver.
He doesn't remove challenges to us, even though we plead and beg Him to all the time, because He loves us. Yes, that's what I said, because He loves us, He allows challenges to remain.
"When the Lord allows a challenge to come our way, the challenge is there to reveal need and invite us to breakthrough." Bill Johnson
When the challenges come, health issues, a pandemic, marital strife, conflict in relationships, and more, He is not shaming us when our responses are less than what would be faithful. When we panic, or get stressed, He is not shaming us. These are places of insecurity exposed. Insecurity is where I have built security on the wrong things. They are the places where we have built on the sand, rather than the rock.
This is revealed, again, not so I am shamed, but it is in the open so I can respond with a kingdom solution, God's answer to that. The challenges are not problems, but opportunities! There is not one problem that ever, is, or will exist, that Jesus doesn't already have an answer for. He is wisdom itself and is more than enough for any challenge that befalls us. His desire is that we would have greater capacity in the kingdom and His means of building that in us are challenges.
Isn't that part of the point? Challenges come so that we will move more and more into relationship with Him, consulting with Him before, during and after the challenge. Remember Romans 11:36,
"For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen."
The Key to Seeing the Kingdom: Repent
How do we shift these problems into opportunities and advancements for the kingdom? We must repent. John recorded Jesus' dialogue with Nicodemus (wonderfully portrayed in the Chosen series), in John. Jesus in that moment said something
so significant, that we miss it many times.
John 3:3 (NASB) Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Many people repent to get salvation, but they don't continue in the process of repentance to see (perceive, understand, become aware of) the kingdom. Everything the human heart longs for is in the kingdom, the rulership of God. Everything that matters and is a part of God's heart is in the kingdom. Complete fulfillment is only available in this realm of the kingdom of God.
When Jesus announced, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15), He was inviting people into a new relationship with God that requires a change of thinking, of perspective, to see things from God's way, or as we would say, repentance. It is the only way in and the only way on in Jesus and this kingdom. We must change the way we see or we will always be under the influence of an inferior world.
Repentance is required because we must change our sight lines in order to change our life lines. Jesus came and He brought His world, its beauty, purity, power, righteousness and more, with Him. To repent means to surrender your cosmological understanding of how the world works, who God is and who you are in light of Him and His kingdom, and adapt and lean into His way. Without it, you cannot see the kingdom.
To Sum It: The Sower Shows Us How
Going back to the beginning, the Sower Parable shows us that the word (Luke - the Word of the kingdom) is challenged in the different soils. Why? The enemy is so afraid of your destiny in Jesus and His kingdom, that He will do anything to destroy that word before it can take root and even when it takes root, He will attack it.
So, begin and/or continue the process of the renewal of your mind. Repent, early and often, especially as you come into trials or as you come out of them. Ask the Lord to change the way you see the challenge to the word over your life. Then, pursue it with all your might. Begin to receive these challenges in upgrades that come through the sifting of your heart and mind and embrace of His kingdom!
In just a little while, Fred and Pat Bruner will be our guests on February 27th. Invite some friends and let's enjoy what God's word to our hearts will be!
For More Fun
I strongly recommend you listen to Bill Johnson's sermon on "Why Does God Challenge Us?" from 2019.
Macgyver - go check it out.
Go to 17:07 to see the rooftop exchange with Jesus.