PHILIPPIANS 4:8 ESV
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Living in the 21st century is not for the faint of heart. If you live in the United States, like I do, this year alone has been enough to overwhelm some of us. On a larger scale, there are many things that would seek to draw our attention away from all that is good: global persecution of Christians, natural disasters, horrific crimes, and more. In The Two Towers, the second book in J. R. R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings classic work, he writes of an epic battle that takes place at the fortress of Rohan, Helm’s Deep. Rohan was vastly outnumbered and the fortress was breached. As the enemy closes in on the last of the survivors, King Théoden begins to lose hope. The world he once loved was falling to a new power of darkness and hate.
As we look at the world around us, we may sometimes feel as King Théoden in those moments. We search desperately for the smallest sign of light as the darkness seems to close in all around us. Some of us despair and begin to lose hope. Some of us give in to fear and despair, letting it drive us to harmful escapes, like drugs or alcohol. Some of us struggle with anxiety and seek release by endlessly scrolling Instagram and TikTok or binge watching TV shows, desperate for distraction. Some of us bottle up our fears and turn to coping mechanisms like denial, pretending like everything is great. Some of us try to simply “hunker down” in a safe place, avoiding all of it, and remaining quiet until the thunder isn’t so loud. And some of us get sucked into the soap box shouting matches on social media.
Regardless of how you handle the awful tensions we have experienced in the last several months (and even years) in the United States, I think King Théoden’s question in the 2002 movie version of The Two Towers resonates with all of us when he asks, “What can men do against such reckless hate?”
In times of civil unrest or turmoil, I am more like King Théoden than I’d like to admit. I give in to despair, throwing my hands in the air, asking myself, “What is the world coming to?!” My gaze is too easily drawn away from my gracious Father who knows my every need and fear. My mind is distracted by all that is false, shameful, unjust, filthy, repulsive, and wrong.
In Psalm 121, the psalmist writes, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2 ESV). In my moments of crippling fear and pain, God is calling. C. S. Lewis said that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains.” When I close my eyes and imagine God shouting through the darkness, I can hear it: “Lift up your eyes! Think on these things!”
But hiding God’s Word in our heart isn’t a means to ignore what’s happening in the world. We don’t bury our heads in the Bible and pretend that it makes all the pain disappear. Rather, we pray the words of Scripture; we pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We pray expectantly, looking for signs of his kingdom coming and his will being done, truly believing that our prayers are not just empty words, but are faith-filled, anchored in the solid Rock. And finally, we act. True faith is always accompanied by action. So, yes; pray for God’s kingdom to come. Pray for God’s will to be done. Then look for ways to bring God’s kingdom to your corner of the earth. God welcomes us into his message, and works through people—using ordinary means—to accomplish his purposes and will on earth. And know this: you’re not alone. Millions of Christians around the world are also praying for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, and are working to that end, trusting God to work in us and through us to do exactly that.
Feeling overwhelmed? Think on these things, but don’t do it alone. The message of the gospel is for all who weary and burdened (Matthew 11:28 NIV). Jesus cares for you! The darkness may be frightening, but as Andrew Peterson writes, “all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through.” God’s will WILL be done. His Kingdom WILL come.
Give us discernment
in the face of troubling news reports.
Give us discernment
to know when to pray, when to speak out,
when to act, and when to simply shut off
our screens and our devices,
and to sit quietly
in your presence,
casting the burdens of this world
upon the strong shoulders
of the one who
is able to bear them up.
Over the next three days, I invite you to meditate on the following Scriptures as you surrender your fears and anxieties about current events to the Lord, pray for his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, and do your part to join him in the work of his kingdom. As citizens of heaven, it is our duty to bear witness to the kingdom of God, or as John Calvin put it, “We must make the invisible kingdom visible in our midst.” Over the next three days, we’ll consider three ways we can make the invisible kingdom visible.
Day 1: Seek First the Kingdom of God
Read Matthew 6:33
After Jesus gave us The Lord’s Prayer, he instructed us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” When we “seek the kingdom,” we are seeking the King of that kingdom, the gracious God who cares for his children. This is why Jesus said we don’t need to be anxious about food and drink and clothing (Matthew 6:25)—he will take care of us! As we seek the kingdom of God—whom we cannot see—he works in and through us so that others will see Christ in us; making the invisible visible
Thank God for opening your eyes to the kingdom of God. Ask him to help you seek his kingdom, trusting that he will provide for your every need. Cling to him in times of uncertainty, knowing he will take care of you. Ask God for opportunities to help provide for these needs for others. You may be the answer to someone else’s prayer for God to provide food and drink and clothing. Many times, these opportunities open many doors for sharing our message of hope—the gospel.
Day 2: Be a Light in this World
Read Matthew 5:14
In John 8:12, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” It is easy for us to understand how Jesus could be the light of the world—he’s the very Son of God! And yet, he turns to us, and declares, “You are the light of the world.” Just as Jesus brought the light of heaven to everyone he met, so can we. When we show the love of Christ to the “least of these,” we are loving Christ himself (Matthew 25:41), and in doing so, we are making the invisible kingdom of God visible to the “least of these.”
Who are the “least of these” in your life? Who are the people that are often overlooked, marginalized, and hurting? You have the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus to them. Ask God for opportunities to let your light shine before them so that they might see Jesus in you.
Day 3: Pray for Your Unbelieving Friends
Read Romans 10:1
You can almost hear Paul’s voice break as he shares the desire of his heart in this verse. His heart breaks for his fellow countrymen who do not know Christ. But it’s more than mere desire—he seeks the Lord in prayer for their salvation. God’s will cannot be accomplished on earth apart from prayer. God’s kingdom will not come apart from prayer. Charles Spurgeon said, “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.” This is strong and vivid language, but you can hear the same passion in his voice as Paul exudes in Romans 10. Let not one go unwarned and unprayed for. May this be true of us. Seek the kingdom. Be a light in this world. But don’t neglect prayer. Pray for the salvation of the unbelieving people in your life.
Make a list of 8-10 people in your life who don’t know and love Jesus. Does Paul’s heartbreak resonate with you when you think about them? If not, pray that God would align your heart with the heart of Jesus—that your heart would break for them. And share the gospel with them. Let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.
Image credit: Jared Crouse