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In This World But Not of It

“Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.'” -John 18:36, NIV

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” -John 17:15-16, NIV

DSC01139As I read the two verses above and notice how they fit together, three thoughts stand out to me:

1. Jesus kept His focus on eternal Kingdom goals. Jesus’ words in John 18:36 reveal that He was able to endure the pain and injustice of the cross because He knew that His suffering, though real, was temporary. He kept His focus on God’s Kingdom–His Kingdom–and the impact that His actions would have for eternity. Jesus really did experience physical pain, ridicule, humiliation, and a sense of abandonment, but He knew that it was of this earth. He clung to that truth as He endured the atrocious events of that day and chose to follow the path that impacted His Kingdom for eternity in the only triumphant way.

2. Jesus didn’t ask God to remove His followers from this world. John 17 records Jesus prayer for His own glorification, for His disciples, and for all who would come to believe as a result of His incarnation, death, and resurrection. He didn’t pray that God would take His followers out of the world but that God would protect them from Satan. If God had removed all believers from this world as they came to believe, there would be no one around to tell others about Him! For the sake of God’s Kingdom, we have to follow Jesus’ example, focus on God’s Kingdom, and endure faithfully through circumstances that God can use to impact eternity.

3. Jesus did ask God to protect us from Satan. Knowing this, we are assured, even when we don’t understand, that anything that God allows into our life can be used for the good of His Kingdom and for our own development as God’s children growing into maturity. God will not allow anything into our lives that has the power to force us back into slavery to sin. So long as we dwell in His Kingdom (currently on earth but not of the earth), Satan has no authority over us. Christians live under God’s sovereign protection regarding eternity.

That said, regarding this world, God sometimes chooses to protect us from life’s harsh realities. Other times, however, He allows us to experience them, to suffer pain that is not fair. When He allows this, we can trust that He will use those realities in ways we can’t even begin to comprehend to prepare us for His Kingdom or to draw others into it. What happens on earth, whether painful or joyous, is temporary. God cares for us deeply. He hurts when we hurt. Yet His primary concern is with the eternal. It has to be! Therefore He acts, first of all, to impact that. We choose to cooperate with Him when we trust Him to be with us in all situations and serve Him faithfully.

Father, sometimes life is hard. Sometimes I don’t understand why You allow some of the things You do. But I know You are sovereign, and I know You are good. You are building Your Kingdom now, right here on this earth. Please use my life according to Your plan. Please help me to trust You in all You do. Amen.

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Janet Benlien Reeves

Reader, Writer, Runner, Flower Hunter, Child of God, Prince Charming's Wife, Mom Prone to Cheer
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