Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

The Kingdom of God

The Kingdom of God

I remember several years ago when Tim Tebow jumped into the news. There are few football players who have caused such a stir since maybe Joe Namath posed in Cosmopolitan Magazine in panty hose or of course the great OJ scandal or maybe the Ray Lewis beating of his girlfriend in the elevator. It has always been fascinating the strong reactions people have when you mention Tim Tebow - especially people within the church. His fame came not from his questionable ability as a quarterback, but from the fact that he would kneel and pray during the football game and that he began every interview thanking Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. People strongly applauded or strongly criticized his actions that visibly represented his faith. Some think he is a great example of someone who is not afraid to exhibit their faith and others think that he is being “too showy”. Today we are going to look at the story of Daniel and maybe that will help us see Tim Tebow and other Christians who are not afraid to exhibit their faith in a different light.
The people of God were captured and taken into Babylon where they were turned into slaves. However, the King of Babylon took the best and brightest of the young Hebrew men and brought them into the palace and entered them into a training program to work in the government of Babylon. Babylon was a pagan country – they worshipped a variety of idols. Daniel, because God had given him the ability to interpret dreams, became a favorite of the King. The King was plagued with a series of dreams he didn’t understand and Daniel was able to explain them. Daniel ended up being one of the highest officials in the government. But he would never abandon the worship of God nor would he give up the strict dietary restrictions of the people of God which caused him a lot of grief by the other officials in the government. There were many of the Babylonian officials who hated Daniel because he was different so they began to think of ways to get rid of him. They made a major issue of the fact that Daniel would not eat like the rest of the government officials and tried to pass laws that said that if you did not eat like the King, you could be arrested. This didn’t work. Then these officials were able to convince King Nebuchadnezzar that he was a god and that the people should bow and worship him and anyone who would not do that should be killed. Included in this royal edict was the law that no one could pray to any other gods. But even with these new laws, Daniel would not give in to these decrees. Daniel said he was a follower of the one true God and would worship no other and Daniel made no secret of his worship of God. He would kneel in prayer and he didn’t try to hide it. And when he was criticized for it, he didn’t flinch. No matter where he was or who he was working for, his first responsibility was to his God and he attributed his abilities to be from God. And because he would not compromise his faith; because he continued to publicly pray and proclaim the Hebrew God as the only God, because he would not kneel and worship the King – he was thrown into the den of lions. The same thing happened to his friends Shaddrach, Meshach and Abednego who ended up in a fiery furnace. All four survived because they were not willing to cave in to the pressures on them to be more discreet with their faith and to ‘be like everyone else’. They could have worshipped their God in private and no one would have ever known, they could have bowed to the Babylonian gods with their fingers cross and then they would have avoided the trauma they had to experience.
What this story of Daniel is trying to teach us is the idea of the what it means to be part of the Kingdom of God. We pray the Lord’s Prayer each Sunday and I hope that you make it part of your daily life… and in that prayer we say, “Thy Kingdom Come” - we are praying that God’s Kingdom will manifest itself here on earth - and that can only happen if those of us who are followers of God are willing to live in God’s kingdom instead of the world around us.

Jesus talks about this Kingdom of God throughout his ministry. In many of his stories and his parables, we are introduced to the kingdom of God (sometimes called the kingdom of heaven). We

hear Jesus say quite frequently: The Kingdom of God is like… and then he proceeds to tell a story or give an example. We read two of these illustrations this morning – the illustration of the mustard seed and the illustration of the yeast. Jesus is forever using illustrations that everyone is familiar with. We are all familiar with seeds. You take this tiny little seed and plant it in the ground and with water and warmth and sunlight, the seed grows. Jesus uses a mustard plant simply because it was something common to the people he was talking to – we can picture any plant because the principle is the same – a small seed and the plant that grows is always bigger than the seed. Simple, little things we do can have a big effect on the people around us. And whether we like it or not, that is our job as the people of God. Those who propose that their faith is a ‘private’ thing and they have a ‘quiet, personal faith’ have a very poor understanding of the teachings of Jesus. Jesus reminds us with the beatitudes that we are to let our light shine, not to hide it under a basket. Our faith was given to us so that we could demonstrate it to those around us. Jesus says are to wear our faith like a banner – referring to the flags that armies would carry with them so that people would know who they were aligned with. Just like Daniel did – just like Tim Tebow.
When we pray for the Kingdom of God, for thy kingdom to come, we are praying that we are able to allow God to usher in his kingdom through us – that God’s kingdom is here and now, made up of those who profess faith in his son Jesus and the kingdom will grow because we are willing to let our light shine, we are willing to let our seed grow.
Which leads to the next illustration Jesus used – the Kingdom of God is like this dough that you use with yeast. In this illustration we are the yeast. As you mix the yeast into the dough, the yeast is distributed throughout the dough and the dough begins to rise and grow bigger. He is talking about us, the people of God, mixing in with those who are not part of the Kingdom of God, people who do know or understand Christ and if we are willing to show our faith, if we are willing to let people see that we are part of the Kingdom of God, the effect will be just like yeast mixed in with dough – the Kingdom of God will begin to grow and multiply.
The Kingdom of God is the invisible bond between all the followers of Christ throughout the world. We are a virtual kingdom, one not bound by any type of geography, one governed solely by God where we are the citizens and God is our sovereign leader, our King. When we pray, “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” we are in essence saying, “God give us the courage, the inspiration, the knowledge to live as you would have us live, so that our light will shine and others will see the benefit of being part of your kingdom.”
We look at the world and it is a wretched place – kids being kidnapped and abused, thousands of people slaughtered by corrupt dictators, selfishness is the norm, people just plain old being mean to one another and we think what a lost cause. There is nothing we can do; we can have no affect on any of this. “Not so”, says Jesus. “ Not so”, says our God. Small seeds grow into large plants, small bits of yeast multiply dough, young boys named Daniel and Tim rile up a whole nation by simply praying. When you pray, “Thy Kingdom Come”, you recognize that we as citizens of the Kingdom of God can change the world and we will never realize what can come from simple acts of letting our light shine and not being afraid to let people know that first and foremost, we are followers of Christ.