Gordon Spykman said, “Nothing matters but the kingdom. But because of the kingdom, everything matters.”
Jesus taught us to pray that his kingdom would come, which essentially means that God’s will be “done on earth as it is in heaven.” Too many Christians spend their lives building their own kingdoms. They pursue their own pleasure, invest in their own interests, do what they want to do. We could all use regular reminders of the importance of God and his kingdom to keep our minds in the right place.
But then there’s that second half of Spykman’s quote. Everything matters because of the kingdom. If we really are supposed to turn our eyes upon Jesus, then won’t the things of earth grow strangely dim? Well, yes, but also no. Yes, our worries and our sinful preoccupations will lose their appeal and we can let go of that which enslaves us. But if we are truly focused on Jesus and his kingdom, then we will not be able to ignore the this-worldly realities that surround us.
(By the way, I’m fairly confident that Helen Lemmel, who wrote “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” had the former rather than the latter meaning in view. After all, the song closes with the lines: “Then go to a world that is dying / His perfect salvation to tell!”)
J. Christian Blumhardt said that Christians need to go through two conversion experiences. The first conversion is from the natural life to the spiritual life. That is, before Christ opens our eyes we are caught up in this natural world and blind to the spiritual life that we so desperately need. So we need to be converted to see these spiritual realities and live according to them.
But then we need a second conversion: from the spiritual life back to the natural life. While it is essential that we begin to focus on the spiritual life that we have been given new eyes to see, we need to see this spiritual life in its fullness, including its implications for this natural life. In other words, it’s not enough to focus on spirituality. Spirituality is intensely practical for our “natural lives.”
Blumhardt was saying the same thing as Spykman. We should focus on the kingdom, but realize that everything in this world matters immensely because of the kingdom.
I have already said that we have not understood anything in this world properly until we see it in relation to God. In other words, everything is ultimately theological. And so it is with the kingdom. Because sin has affected all of creation, God’s plan of redemption is also aimed at all of creation. He made the whole world, the whole world has been corrupted, and the whole world will be redeemed.
So don’t think that God’s great desire for our world is to beam up individuals into heaven, Star Trek style. Though the analogy is often used, the church is really not very much like a lifeboat. We’re not trying to pluck people out of this dirty old world and keep them away from the awful physicality of it all until we can get them to their cloud and their harp.
Amy Carmichael’s statement is as blunt as it is true: “One can’t save and then pitchfork souls into heaven. Souls are more or less securely fastened to bodies.”
This isn’t an inconvenient problem. It’s the way God made the world. He made this world, and he cares about. We should long to see God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven. This means our families, our jobs, our hobbies; our trips to Disneyland, to the supermarket, to the park; it means our random daily interactions as well as our evangelistic campaigns.
Nothing matters but the kingdom, but because of the kingdom, everything matters.