Jesus started at Capernaum, but he kept going. He spent three years traveling up and down through the parts of Israel. And he often told stories about the kingdom of heaven. He told them with great confidence. The stories explain kingdom values and direction. They seem to say, “Here’s what it would look like to live in the Kingdom of God, under the direction of the King.”
The kingdom was important to him. And he wanted it to be important to his followers as well. One time, when he gave them a simple prayer, he included a line about the kingdom: “Thy kingdom come.” And the next sentence expands on what that means: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
So what does that mean?
That’s a great question. And that is why the word KINGDOM is one of my three words this year. What does it mean to ask for it? What would it mean to find it?
Last year, I taught a course in Spiritual Formation. In one of our books, Dallas Willard writes, “The disciplines for the spiritual life are available, concrete activities designed to render bodily beings such as we are ever more sensitive and receptive to the Kingdom of Heaven, brought to us by Christ, even while living in a world set against God.” (252)
Willard had already described these activities, practices like solitude and service, confession and celebration, study and worship and fasting. Some he calls disciplines of abstinence. Some are disciplines of engagement. Each trains our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls.
But after chapters of explaining, Willard comes down a challenge to implementation:
“It is time to take what you have learned and make your own specific plan for your life with them. This will come down to what you do on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. More important, it will come down to what you do not do, to how you will manage to step out of the everlasting busyness that carries our lives. Didn’t God give you quite enough time to do what he expects you to do?” (252)
I know what to do to prepare for a marathon. I know the training runs, the nutrition plans. I know the stretching that will prevent injury, the clothing that will let me run best. I am putting together the counsel that will help me, the attitudes that will encourage me.
But do I know how to arrange the training practices of the spiritual life?
I know the pieces. I’ve studied them and taught them. But I think it’s time to pull together a clearer plan.
And maybe, to help you, too. And therein we’ll find my other two words for the year. I’ll tell you more next week.
If you are interested in Willard’s book, it’s The Spirit of the Disciplines. If you decide to order it, let me know and we can talk about it more.