— Brother Phil Enlow: You know, I had my own ideas, I guess, as to how this talking about the Kingdom of God and its establishment was gonna go and where we were gonna go today and the closer I got to the service, the more my mind went in a related direction but still something more…something a little different than what I had in mind. So I’m gonna go with that.
And I can guarantee there will be people here this morning who will think I’m talking about you, more than one, more than two. But the truth is, I’m talking about me. I’m talking about every single one of us. And I believe there are things related to the Kingdom that we need to know, and we need to get a clearer picture of, so we understand God’s ways and how He goes about things.
So, I’m gonna turn, just as a starting point, to a scripture that’s probably familiar to many of you from years past and that’s in Matthew, chapter 5. And this is the occasion where Jesus was talking to the multitudes on the mountain, His disciples and many others. There was a crowd there and He was talking about many principles of the Kingdom, wasn’t He? So, it’s definitely related to what we’re talking about.
This is a scripture that Brother Thomas used to use from time to time and I believe that there is a…no doubt, many other applications of it. But there’s one, in particular, that’s relevant to you and me this morning, in a particular way.
And that’s beginning in verse 25 when Jesus says this, “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” (NIV).
Now, it’s hard to imagine what this is about if you haven’t heard this before. This is not talking about lawsuits and our court system. But, there is a principle underlying this that I think is awfully central. The more I think about it, the more I see why the Lord wanted me to go this direction. It’s very central to how His Kingdom operates.
But you see, in the beginning of this, there are two characters, aren’t there? There’s you and there’s an adversary. And, it’s pretty evident that in this particular instance, you’re the one who’s wrong, because the prospect only goes in two directions. You either settle, or you get thrown in jail. And so, that’s kind of the scenario He’s talking about. There are only two options. Settle quickly or go to jail. So, let’s unpack that just a little bit.
Now, one of the things that I think we all know, but I want to go ahead and just reestablish a lot of these things and I want to look up some of the scriptures because, like I say, I have a tendency just to quote them. But look over in Acts 14. We know that…absolutely central to our life in this world is difficulty, isn’t it? We’re gonna have adversity. And, anything where you have an adversary is in and of itself…that’s a form of adversity. It’s something that comes against us. And, we know that that’s the promise.
But here we have the account, and I won’t go through the account, but Paul and Barnabas have traveled through a particular region, gone from city to city. In every place they have experienced persecution. But also in every place they have established people who received the message and who were going on with it. And so, they went to the last city and then they reversed course and went from city to city, and that’s what’s going on here. It says, “Then they returned…” the middle of verse 21, “…to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.”
So, what’s the central point that they made to all these people? “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” And then they appointed elders and they had prayer and fasting and they committed them to God’s faithfulness.
I mean, you think about establishing a church. You go there for a brief time and you gather a group of disciples and then you say, all right, you’re in God’s hands. I’ll tell you, we’ve got a faithful God, if we’ll learn His ways. But God’s Kingdom was being established.
But, the central point that Paul wanted them to understand…look, you’re going into God’s Kingdom. You’re going against the tide. This world is opposed to what you’re trying to do. You saw what happened to me. In fact, Paul, right before this…they had stoned Paul, left him for dead, dragged him out of the city. So, I mean, Paul knew firsthand what the opposition of the enemy meant.
So, we’re gonna have hardship and you might as well just throw out any gospel that supposedly says, if you come to Jesus, you’re gonna have a solution to all your problems, life is gonna be easy, because we know that’s not the case.
And so, I thought of another scripture that relates specifically to the Kingdom and that’s one we know well in Matthew chapter 11. Matthew chapter 11, Jesus is talking about the ministry of John the Baptist, isn’t He? And, in verse 12, He says, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.”
Boy, that’s a pretty good reminder that in order for God’s kingdom to be established, it was gonna have to come in with force. You can’t say, pretty please, Devil, I’m gonna start something different. He absolutely was in control of this planet, functionally, in terms of the world system, but God had a plan that was gonna overpower Satan.
Isn’t it amazing that His first step in overpowering Satan was to send a baby? Boy, that ought to be something that would…I think I said something about this last week. That ought to be something to encourage us. We don’t need armies in this battle. Yes, there may be battles of that sort. But I’ll tell you, we need the power of the life of God!
( congregational amens ).
That’s what will make us anything. If we have something less than that, all we have is religion. But I’ll tell you, His power is what we need. But I’ll tell you, it’s still to lay hold of that means we’re gonna be making choices that are hard. We just sang about it, didn’t we? Kenny didn’t know that when he suggested that song. When the choices are hard, what do you do? You press on! But that’s what it takes to lay hold of the Kingdom of God and we are going to be in positions like that.
And I will just go ahead and quote this one verse, John…well, let’s look at it. John 16:33…very familiar to us. See, I’m trying to break a habit here, too. Anybody here got any habits you want to break? Matthew 16:33, some of the last words of Jesus to His followers before He was taken away and crucified.
In verse 33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.” He’s talking about how that there’s gonna be a scattering of the disciples and so forth. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.” See, that’s not a ‘may.’ Might as well recognize, that’s something that is intrinsic to the state of God’s Kingdom, as it exists in this present world. There’s gonna be opposition. There’s gonna be trouble. No other way to get around it.
“But take heart!” Isn’t it wonderful He doesn’t leave us there? There’s that glorious ‘but.’ “…Take heart! I have overcome the world.” So, regardless of the fact that there’s opposition, we know how it comes out for those who trust God, for those who do press on.
So, the question arises when Jesus talks about our adversary. Who’s He talking about? Now, I know some of you know the answer from the way Brother Thomas used to preach it. But, I just want to take a fresh look at this.
You know, we tend to be in conflict, because of our nature. Life is full of conflict between us and people, isn’t it? So, you might well say, well, my…if so-and-so would get straightened out, I would…everything would be fine in my life. That’s my trouble. That’s the source of my trouble right there. They are my adversary. If they would quit wanting their way and let me have my way. That’s what it boils down to.
But I mean, even if there’s something that’s wrong, there are people—we see people. And that’s where our vision is so limited to here, that we tend to assess things in earthly terms. My preference in life would be to have an easy time, would be to have one where there’s no conflict, no difficulty. And so, if there is conflict between me and somebody else, then, obviously, that’s something that I don’t like and it’s adverse and I’m upset about it. So, that’s kind of where we’re coming from as human beings.
And, you take a bunch…a world full of selfish people, and guess what? It’s a prescription for trouble and conflict. And we might as well face up to it.
But is that really who he’s talking about? You know, Paul talked about times when people were involved. Many of you remember the story Brother Thomas used to preach…or used to tell about the lady who was praying for food. And she was praying and some little boy heard her and decided he’d play a joke on her and he put some groceries in the room and slid them across the floor and she went to praising God and praising God! Thank You for the food you sent!
And he went in there laughing and said, I played a joke on you. That wasn’t the Lord. That was me. And she said, well, the Devil may have brought it, but the Lord sent it!
( laughter ).
But you know, Paul, many times, would write and he would talk about…pray for me. I’m in a place…one place he says, I’m in Ephesus, pray for me. There’s a great open door and there are many adversaries. There are many who oppose me. Late in his life he wrote to Timothy, and he was talking about the opportunities that he had in Rome. He said, so-and-so has abandoned me but so-and-so is with me, and the Lord’s helped me and I’ve got a house, I’m able to minister to people. Pray for me.
And then he warns about one particular guy, Alexander, the metal worker. I think it’s the coppersmith in the King James. But this guy named Alexander, who was a metal worker, he said, he has greatly withstood me. Beware of him and watch out…this is the kind of guy he is.
So opposition, obviously, can come in the form of people, can’t it? And we’re gonna have a lifetime of conflict, whether it’s in the home, whether it’s in our work, in school, whatever it is. If we’re in a world of people who are basically selfish, we’re gonna have conflict, okay?
But you might say, well, yeah, I know, but, we’ve got to see beyond that. We’ve got to see the Devil. He’s the one who’s really behind it. And you know, he is our adversary. Doesn’t Peter say, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil…” goes about like a roaring lion, and so forth. (KJV). And that’s absolutely true. He is our adversary. He is against us and he does use people. So, you’re stepping away from just the visible into the invisible realm.
But here is the issue that I see. Here is…we have our ways of looking at this. Let’s start with that. We have our own ways of evaluating the conflicts and the difficulties that come into our life. And mostly, if there’s a conflict between you and me, I’m right and you’re wrong. I mean, that’s kind of where it starts.
We are, by nature, self-protecting, self-righteous. I’m the one who’s right in this particular dispute, this particular conflict. You need to get straightened out. And so, we’re seeing things just on that particular level. And, I’m right, you’re wrong. You did something bad. Something needs to happen to straighten you out and fix that. Or, I have been deeply wronged and I’m hurt, my heart is wounded.
And a lot of that’s the truth, isn’t it? Life is full of that. There is terrible abuse in relationships! There are real things…there are things that we bring on ourselves, but there are things in which we’re just innocent, in a sense. We are victims of something that is imposed upon us from somebody else and there are wounds that are very, very deep in lives and hearts. And that is part of the world in which we live in.
And so, when that happens to us, what do we focus on? What do we focus on? Me! Self! You know, I’m so aggrieved in this situation. I’m so angry. I’m so…whatever it is. I’m so hurt. They’re so wrong. And all of that…that’s our evaluation. That’s what we see as happening. It’s all happening here on a human level and yeah, we may see the Devil’s inspiring, but oh, man, it’s people! If God would just straighten out everybody in my life, my life would be wonderful!
But isn’t that an earthly view? My God. how limited that view is! And the thing is, our nature drives us to cling doggedly to our point of view! It’s not something that we easily let go of, is it? You can talk to somebody but there is deep emotion, there are feelings, there are all kinds of things that are invested in our cause, in whatever the situation is.
And so, man, it’s a challenge to get anybody to let go! You know, all of us—every single one of us. This is the source of the conflict. And so, here’s my point of view. Something has happened that affects me in a negative way. I don’t like it. I am right! They’re wrong! That situation is wrong. And so, that’s kind of where we come from. And we cling to that, don’t we?
Now, here is one thing that I noticed in that…in the words of Jesus. When He’s talking about your adversaries taking you to court, what is the next thing He says? Settle things…on the way. Isn’t that an interesting phrase to drop in there? This isn’t something where there’s a conflict and, boom, I’m in court! There is a way, there is a space of time, and I see the mercy and the understanding, the compassion of God.
Whenever there are things that affect us, like, all the time, God is patient. God gives us space. God gives us time. I mean, I think of even cases of judgment. There was a…the words to one of the churches in Revelation. There was a woman who needed correcting, needed judgment. And what did the Lord say? “…I gave her space to repent…” God, “…knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.”
He knows exactly how we’re made, and how we react to things and how they affect us, and that we’re not little automatons down here, robots, that we can just press the right buttons and say, oh, I’m not supposed to be this way, I’m supposed to be that way. And we go on. There’s some time. There’s some healing. There are processes. Just like you have a physical wound, it takes a little bit of time to heal.
And so, what happens when something happens…and right now I’m not even concerned with whether it was real or imagined or maybe you were really and truly done wrong. You know, ‘he done me wrong or she done me wrong.’ Maybe that’s really true! And there’s no possible justification, and you’re totally innocent and they’re totally wrong, and it makes you angry. Pretty natural reaction, isn’t it? But what happens if that’s not resolved?
( draining sound ).
We cling to it. We bury it. Then something else happens along later. Something else happens, something else happens. First…pretty soon you’ve got a volcano going on down there. There’s a lot of stuff that’s buried and boy, it has a way of boiling up here and boiling up there. But you’re justified, right?
Or bitterness? That’s when we’re not only angry, we’re just bitter that it should happen! And sometimes you can just get right bitter at God. Why haven’t you straightened this out, God? Are you really there? I mean, it can result in things like grief, discouragement, could be guilt. You’ve been through something really deep and it’s just that guilt is buried there.
And the lies have come, the accusations of the enemy. That’s just a different form of the same thing. Fear! Brother Danny talked about that the other night. He certainly isn’t the only one! That’s one that affects every single one of us. We’re taught to fear. We’re taught to be angry. Life teaches us all of these things, if that’s the lesson we learn.
And aren’t those things God wants to help us with, and deliver us from? Yes! Fear, hopelessness, self-pity! But in it all, we’re right! So blame, whenever it does come up…but I was wronged! They were wrong, I was right. I’m right to feel the way I do about this. If they’ll straighten up, I’ll straighten up.
But do you see what’s going on there? Now, who is the one who is really in charge? Who is the real adversary? That’s the thing we need to come to terms with. Beyond the people, beyond even the Devil, God is the adversary…who allows things to happen to bring out things in us that He wants to deliver us from.
So, look at this from His point of view. I’m establishing My Kingdom. I’m calling a people into it. They’re not much like me. They’ve got a nature that is so geared to this world and its ways and its ways of looking at things and thinking. I’ve got to do something to change them. I can’t just anoint them to go out and send them to the nations as prophets, when they’re so full of this world and self and all the natural…they’re no different than people of the world right now. I’ve got to do something.
So, how does He do it? How does He do something like that? He’s gonna have to allow adversity! He’s gonna have to allow things to happen to you and to me that will bring out those things so that we can…His design is that we recognize it, face it, deal with it, look to Him for grace and all of that.
But all our attention is on the source of the adversity! That’s the source of my trouble. No! God can take care of that. It’s not that He doesn’t care about that. He will allow something that is wrong and seemingly unaddressed! Trust me, God addresses everything, one way or another. Nobody gets away with anything. But God can allow it to seem as though this person has done me wrong and they’re getting away with it and it’s wrong!
But what’s the real issue with God? It’s the response, isn’t it? He’s wanting to teach us how to respond as His children. And it is so utterly contrary to our nature that we need help. We need God! We need His mercy!
But adversity is a tool that God uses to deliver us and to make us fit for His kingdom. “…Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” He’s not just talking about these bodies. He’s talking about the nature that lives in these bodies. I don’t care how you refine your behavior, you and I are not fit to live in that Kingdom! So if God is going to…and the Kingdom is not just about then, the Kingdom is about now! If His Kingdom is going to be, in any sense, dwelling in this world, how does that happen? That’s kind of like in us, isn’t it?
Oh, that brings a…that’s a whole new dimension to thinking about this, isn’t it? Everybody’s kind of quiet. But yeah, think about what this is about. God’s saying, I want to reproduce My life, My nature, in people who are having to live with the adversities of this world. I’m gonna use them. These are the tools by which I’m gonna get them ready for that.
Have I not chosen them, “…in the furnace of affliction.” Yeah! Is it not that they’re supposed to press into the Kingdom and all these truths that we’ve used? But oh, I’ll tell you what, God’s view of your situation and mine…I don’t care what the instrument is, what the issue is, the external issue as we would see it, looking at it naturally, the one thing that God is the most concerned about is it exposes my nature, and the things that are wrong with me so that I can be delivered.Return to TV Transcripts