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For such a time as this!

Inspired by the passion of Jesus’ relationship with the Father and the effectiveness of his prayer life, the disciples said to him, “Teach us to pray like you do.” For of all the religious leaders in Judea at the time, only Jesus could say with confidence, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me, and I know that you always hear me …” (John 11:41-42).

Jesus replied, “You want to know how to pray? This is the way you should pray. Begin by greeting your Heavenly Father. Love him, thank him, and worship him. It all starts and finishes with him. Then, get down to business. Invite him to come and establish his kingdom. Summon the influence and intervention of his Spirit in the affairs of people and nations. Pray that his will may be done on earth just as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:9-10 paraphrased).

The phrase ‘thy kingdom come’ does not refer to some future epoch but to the here and now. It speaks of the spiritual government of God in the hearts of men and women. It speaks of the influence of his Spirit that engenders right living, peace and joy (Rom. 14:17). It speaks of the moral law of God, written on human hearts and expressed through an enlightened conscience (Rom. 2:15). It speaks of the leadership of the Spirit in a community in which love, acceptance, and generosity are the order of the day (Acts 2:4, 44-46).

Indeed, the kingdom ‘comes’ every time you and I acknowledge Christ’s lordship by choosing to obey the instruction of his word and the voice of his Spirit. The kingdom ‘comes’ every time we say ‘no’ to the temptation of the world and the flesh, and ‘yes’ to the call from heaven to be holy just as he is holy. And the kingdom ‘comes’ every time a person passes from death to life and darkness to light by accepting Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord (Col. 1:13; 1 John 3:14).

The subtle spread of the kingdom

Jesus used the analogy of leaven to illustrate how the kingdom of God grows and expands in the earth. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened” (Matt. 13:33). Leaven is an aggressive substance which, by its very nature, challenges and changes the constituency of its environment. Hence the saying, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Gal. 5:9). It is active, not passive; revolutionary, not conformist. Given enough time, it will eventually permeate the entire loaf, as Jesus indicated in the parable.

Moreover, leaven is quite inconspicuous, especially considering the volatility of its influence. You don’t know it’s there until you see the results! It operates by stealth – spreading quietly, gradually, and relentlessly.

Jesus’ last instruction to his disciples was to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person (Mark 16:15), or as Oral Roberts used to say, “Go into every man’s world” – permeate every cultural dimension and infiltrate every social sector, whether that be business and commerce, sport and entertainment, or politics and law.

Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “Go into all the world and build cathedrals.” In fact, he didn’t even say, “Go into all the world and hold evangelistic crusades.” He said, “Go into all the world and preach the good news.” And more often than not, that preaching is done as Christian believers go about their daily responsibilities and encounter people at work, on the train, at school, on the golf course, in the gym etc.

In his supreme wisdom, God strategically positions people for maximum influence. He drops ‘secret agents’ behind ‘enemy lines’ who can use their vocation or position as a platform for preaching the gospel and an opportunity to exert spiritual influence. Consider the following examples from scripture:

Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, sold to passing traders, and eventually auctioned in the slave markets of Egypt. After serving with distinction in the house of Potiphar, captain of Pharaoh’s guard, and being falsely imprisoned for a crime that he didn’t commit, Joseph was supernaturally catapulted to the pinnacle of power as Grand Vizier of Egypt, subject only to Pharaoh himself. Through his prophetic gifts and administrative abilities, Joseph was able to guide Egypt through the GFC (global food crisis), and more importantly, preserve the fledgling covenant nation of Israel (the vehicle of God’s redemptive purpose) from destruction. See Genesis chapters 39 through 45.

Daniel was captured and deported to Babylon along with other youths of noble extraction during the siege of Jerusalem in 605 B.C. He was educated for service in Nebuchadnezzar’s court, and became highly regarded for both his impeccable character and his skill in interpreting dreams and visions. He served as governor of the province of Babylon and prefect over all the wise men during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar; third ruler in the kingdom under Belshazzar; and one of the three presidents over the 120 satraps of Darius I. Moreover, he served as a personal adviser to a succession of kings, his remarkable influence even extending beyond the Babylonian empire to the emerging Medo-Persian kingdom.

Daniel was the original and perhaps quintessential prophetic statesman/political scientist. His sage advice, intercessory prayers, and prophetic declarations not only impacted his generation, but shaped the course of history for centuries to come.

Nehemiah was the cupbearer at the court of Artaxerxes, king of Persia. In ancient times a cupbearer was more than just a waiter. He was both bodyguard and personal advisor – responsible for selecting and serving the wine, preventing the king from being poisoned, and offering informal counsel. As a result of his position at the court and his standing in the eyes of the king, Nehemiah was able to procure resources for the restoration of Jerusalem – letters authorising safe passage through hostile territory, materials for the construction of the city walls, and a military escort to the province of Judah. The importance of Nehemiah’s work should not be underestimated, for without his timely intervention and decisive leadership the fragile post-exilic community may well have capitulated, thereby derailing the prophetic purpose of God that would be consummated some 400 years later with the entry of Messiah into the city accompanied by shouts of “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Esther was a beautiful, orphaned Jewess who lived in the Persian capital of Shushan. After Vashti was banished from the presence of the king, Esther was chosen from a number of young maidens to replace her as queen. She used her royal position, and indeed risked her life, to intercede on behalf of her people, thereby thwarting Haman’s plan to destroy all the Jews in the Persian Empire. Her famous cry, “If I perish, I perish” forever stands as a watchword of selfless courage in the face of monstrous evil.

You have come to the kingdom for such a time as this

Writing to the Philippians during his first term of imprisonment in the imperial city, Paul sent greetings from the church at Rome: “All the saints greet you, but especially those who are of Caesar’s household” (Phil. 4:22). What! Saints in Caesar’s household! But I thought that Nero was a madman! Notwithstanding modern attempts to rehabilitate Nero’s legacy, consider this ‘catalogue of achievements’:

  • He murdered his step brother Brittannicus

  • He murdered his mother Agrippina

  • He murdered his wife Octavia

  • He murdered the philosopher Seneca

  • He allegedly started a fire in order to clear land for his planned palatial complex which eventually burned down half of the city

  • He then accused the Christians of arson and instigated the first Roman persecution which led to the martyrdom of thousands of believers including the apostles Peter and Paul

  • He used Christians as human torches, burning them in his garden at night, while others were thrown to the dogs or crucified

And yet throughout this period there were saints in Caesar’s household – people functioning as salt and light in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation!

In the afore-mentioned story of Esther, her cousin Mordechai urges her to use her God-given position to petition the king on behalf of the Jews:

“Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14).

I have heard many preachers quote this passage of scripture in reference to the kingdom of God: “You have come to the kingdom for such a time as this!” However, the ‘kingdom’ that Mordechai was referring to was not the kingdom of God, but the kingdom of Persia. He was in fact saying, “Esther, God has given you this job for a reason. You are not in this position by accident. There is divine destiny in your appointment. You have come to the kingdom … the throne … the palace … for this specific time and this specific purpose!”

Like Esther, we need to understand that God puts us in positions of employment and responsibility for a reason. And inevitably it has to do with reaching out and touching those who are in need and sharing the good news of God’s love and salvation with those are lost.

May God help us to see his purpose in everything - even serving in Caesar’s household!

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