Tribulation, the Kingdom, and Patient Endurance
Over the past several years, I’ve hoped to more consistently fulfill 1 Corinthians 4:20: “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.” It hasn’t made sense to me how Christianity now could look so different to us compared with when it all started. I’m reading through the Book of Acts again, and the stories of the early church clearly spell 1 Corinthians 4:20. So, what’s wrong with me?
The problem I’ve encountered in recent months has been a continual, nagging desire to stay unremarkable. If I’m honest, lately more than ever, I’ve been even less welcoming of the stretching process. This makes me feel confused and confounded, because my heart knows too well who God has called me to be.
Very early on in my current 40-day fast, this passage out of Revelation was lifted off the page and came closer to my heart than I anticipated. “I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 1:9).
Instantly, God revealed the issues of my heart. Yes, maybe I have been hungry and thirsty for more of the kingdom of God––miracles, signs, wonders, testimonies of heavenly power. And I should increasingly long for radical displays of God’s extravagance.
Rarely, though, have I sought tribulation or patient endurance.
Living in a kingdom of power without tribulation or patient endurance is like loving the Father while paying little attention to Jesus or the Holy Spirit.
Jesus, I repent for wanting the fireworks of your glory without an ounce of the elements that will sharpen me most. Please forgive me and teach me greater fullness.
The tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus. The early church looked more like Jesus than I do because they were willing to embrace the fullness in Jesus. I’m scared of what asking God for more tribulation (suffering) and patient endurance (requiring great stamina for a long-haul race) might look like. But I don’t see how fairplay-asking could only be for one-third of what is in Jesus.
Plateaus for the Christian feel a lot like excessive heat in an already dry, hot desert––undesirable, yet part of the geography. In some ways, dry is exactly where I’ve been. Maybe not quite a mid-faith crisis, but certainly a mid-faith plateau.
The grace of God is always sufficient enough to push us off our spiritual plateaus. I am experiencing His presence afresh and am once again learning to live from the overflow of love which He places so generously in me. I’m able to rest with far greater confidence in the plans Jesus has for my future, even if they may look like a weird combination of tribulation, kingdom and patient endurance. I welcome with heartfelt joy the fullness that is in Jesus.