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The Kingdom of God: What Is It?

“Seek first the kingdom,” counseled Jesus, “…and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

The Kingdom - Dr. Steve McSwain

The Kingdom – Dr. Steve McSwain

When I read these words, I have several questions.

1. What is the Kingdom?

2. Why should the Kingdom be sought?

3. If I were so inclined, where would I seek the Kingdom?

4. What “things shall be added” if I do seek the Kingdom?

The answer to the first question, “What is the Kingdom?” is, “I don’t know.” I’m pretty sure, when speaking honestly, nobody knows. Here is what I do know.

  • The Kingdom is not the Church. There was no Church when Jesus said this, nor did he ever start a church.
  • The Kingdom is not Christianity. No such thing existed in Jesus’ lifetime and he did not create it.
  • The Kingdom is not heaven. Nowhere is that even hinted at anywhere either in this text nor in any other. Besides, the context in which Jesus spoke these words was this life…the present…your everyday experience, as well as mine.

Then, what is the Kingdom? The only hint we have is that it is somewhere inside each of us. In Luke 17:21, for example, Jesus said, “People will say, ‘Here it is’ or ‘There it is.’ Do not believe them. The Kingdom is within you.”

Ah. The Kingdom must be consciousness itself – the awareness in me of my union with God…my oneness with the Eternal…what I often call “Presence” itself. Which is, then, the answer to both the second and third questions. If the Kingdom is God-consciousness within each of us, then to be aware of God is to be in God…it is to be…

That’s all I can say. To be. To JUST be.

I need not say more than this. In fact, anything more I say seems only to diminish the inexplicable reality of living inside myself…inside the Kingdom…inside God’s Presence…which is like a “mansion” Jesus called it elsewhere (John 14) he has prepared. This is what his life was all about for Jesus – living inside the real temple, the temple of God, not some exterior building or future heavenly mansion that followers would go when they die. That’s to miss his point altogether. He is talking about now…this life…the inner mansion with its many rooms inviting you to explore and the Eternal Presence in each of them.

But I have to stop here because it is here I start to trip. To stumble. To step beyond the magnificent pontification in which I can so easily engage when I attempt to fathom the unfathomable. It is the reality of my own experience that gives me pause. In other words, the stuff above is purely academic, albeit wonderful to imagine. What follows, however, is more concrete and vastly more difficult for me.

Seek First the Kingdom…And, All this Other STUFF Will Be Given to You

It has to do with the final question. When Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom…and all these things shall be added unto you,” I have to ask, “What things?” This sounds like a promise.

Indeed it is. The stuff that gets added when the big “K” is sought are the basics of life. Which is the stuff I worry about most of the time. Consider my worries…

“Do not worry about your life.” But I do. Heck, I had a heart attack last July. How do I not worry? Feel anything strange within ten inches of my heart and I will give it more attention than a private does a Colonel who walks into the Mess Hall. And, my blood pressure? Heck, I’ve worried so much about it that one day I worried it right up-and-into the No-Fly Zone.

Hey, I’m only going to hint at these things here. But, if you want a fuller description of the stuff I worry about – which, I’d wager a Powerball ticket is the same darn stuff you worry about – then read my book The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God. I go into great detail there, so there is no need to do so here. Click the link and it will take you to my store. Order it there.

“Do not worry about what you will eat.” I do. Our culture is obsessed with food. The people to whom Jesus spoke these words worried daily about whether they would eat. We worry about what we eat…what’s “in” what we eat…how many calories we are consuming…and, me? Well, now I have to worry about maintaining the right balance between “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol, as well as triglycerides and all kinds of stuff I never heard about before July.

“Do not worry about your finances, either!” says Jesus.
Really? Who does not? We worry whether we’ll have a job or lose the one we have. We worry about income, retirement, the future. Whether we’ll have enough or if we have saved enough. On and on it goes for me.

And, you?

Is it just me? Or, do you struggle as I do?

The antidote? The answer?
Jesus just says, “Don’t worry!”
Easy for him to say.

I worry. Did he worry, too? Maybe he did. Maybe he said it because he had an equally hard time not worrying himself? I write about spirituality a lot…about such things like this even…because, the truth is, it helps me put into practice my “believing” – my “trusting” – and, btw, isn’t that really what it means to be a spiritual person? To be an authentic person? To be a genuine person of faith?

“Go to church every Sunday.”
“Say your prayers.”
“Go to confession.”
“Don’t break Commandments.”
“Be a good little Christian.”

This is the stuff I was raised to believe determined whether I was for real.
Turned out to be pretty phony, however.

The Answer?

It is learning to live beyond fear…worry…anxiety. Isn’t it?
But how?
Well, I have this feeling it comes down to practice. To stumbling but trying anyway. Yes, I was told by misguided believers, “Just trust, don’t try.” Never worked for me, however. I had to try to trust in order to trust.

Which is why I have stopped beating myself up when I tried to trust and do so for five minutes before failing to trust in the sixth minute. Like when the worry disappears and then reappears with a vengeance I cannot shake the second time around.

So, what do I do? I go right back into that worry…inside it – not to judge it – not to scold myself by saying to myself, “Self,you’re not such a good believer, are you? You’re not a very good follower.” You see, my friend, I know struggle and failure IS what it means to be a good follower, an authentic follower of Jesus…

So, I’m sorry if this disappoints you. But I am a worrier who worries but I work at not worrying and the only thing I’ve found that helps me at all is to practice over and over again accepting my weakness, forgiving my weakness, releasing my worry, and renewing my trust in God.

When I do this, I am instantly at peace.

But, of course, it doesn’t last.

Which explains why I walk this path every day. Sometimes several times a day.

One day, I will enter fully the inner mansion where everything is abundant. And, I am free. “Free at last…thank God almighty…free.”

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2 Responses to The Kingdom of God: What Is It?

  1. Harold Behr November 30, 2014 at 12:25 PM #

    Came at the right time at the right place in my life, losing my wife to unexpected heart issue, adjusting to the loss, and mapping out my future and finding my “new Normal” has triggered some already high anxiety and this was a guide back to the basics I need to embrace daily. Thank you Steve.

    • Dr. Steve McSwain November 30, 2014 at 12:30 PM #

      Harold thank you for your note and response to the blog.I am so sorry to hear of your loss and can only imagine the anxiety, the emptiness, the hole in your soul that fills over and over with dread, fear, grief, worry. I’ve been there, under different circumstances. Similar feelings, though. My thoughts…my prayers go with you. Find that center place inside you. Whatever the room, God is there. I hope.

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