What keeps you going? When you get up in the morning, what motivates and energizes you to tackle tough problems and keep moving forward?
Speaking some of the most comforting and powerful words ever voiced, Jesus Christ encouraged His disciples, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32 Luke 12:32Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
American King James Version×, emphasis added throughout).
What is this Kingdom and what does it mean for us? What does it mean to you?
The Kingdom of God is nothing short of the centerpiece of the Bible. We receive grace and salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ so we can be a part of this everlasting Kingdom.
Prophets and apostles alike eloquently speak time and again about the establishment of the Kingdom of God—resulting in the literal spiritual transformation of Christians into the family of God as immortal sons and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:18 2 Corinthians 6:18And will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, said the Lord Almighty.
American King James Version×)—as God’s main focus and purpose.
The Kingdom is one that, as Daniel prophesied, “shall never be destroyed” and that “shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44 Daniel 2:44And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
American King James Version×).
In stark contrast to the trials of this world, we see beyond today a prophesied time of unprecedented wonder, peace and plenty (Isaiah 11:6-9 Isaiah 11:6-9 6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatted calf together; and a little child shall lead them.
7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.
9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
American King James Version×; 35:1-2, 5-7). For those of us awaiting and anticipating this Kingdom, it represents a mighty vision.
Again, what does this vision mean for you?
An unexpected change of plans
As a young man in college more than half a century ago, these words didn’t mean much for me at all. I’d read them, but being biblically naive, I didn’t understand them.
But I was to find that God had His own plan for me, just as He has a plan for you. You may find elements of what God did for me in what He is doing for you. Here’s a bit about how He led me to attaining a vision of His Kingdom.
Almost 60 years ago while in high school in Michigan, I found that I was good at math and liked it, and my coach told me that I was also good in football as a fullback. To my pleasant surprise, I applied for and was accepted into the University of Delaware’s engineering program and was able to attend on a full football scholarship.
As I traveled there I had no thoughts at all about a future career in serving Jesus Christ as a minister. I wanted to be a mechanical engineer. Preaching and teaching the truth of God to people around the world was one of the furthest things from my mind.
After I arrived at the university, having little knowledge of biblical teachings and no understanding of the Kingdom of God, I soon became interested in and enrolled in the U.S. Army’s Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program on campus. As the years progressed I learned much about engineering principles, and I also was promoted to the rank of captain in the university’s ROTC program.
In my senior year everything seemed to be coming together in great fashion. A senior U.S. Army officer approached me and offered me what I thought was a great opportunity. The 1950s was the height of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, and the officer told me that he and others had been impressed with my ROTC service.
He told me that if I enlisted after graduation, the U.S. Army would immediately give me a full commission as a second lieutenant, and I would be fast-tracked on an Army career. At the time that sounded really good to me.
But God had other plans for me, just as He has plans for you.
During my last football game that season, I unexpectedly suffered a serious knee injury. Orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation in the 1950s were far behind where they are now, and I was going to be hobbling around for quite a while. What came later was more devastating.
When I went for my Army physical, fully expecting to be inducted as a commissioned officer, the Army doctor, after looking at x-rays of my knee injury, pronounced me physically unfit to serve. I was classified “4F,” which meant I was barred from active military service.
Change of scenery leads to a life-changing experience
Deeply discouraged, I had no idea the door that God was planning to open on the other side of the continent.
After graduating with my degree in mechanical engineering, I received several job offers. I didn’t know how to properly evaluate the positions, but God did. The doors opened for me to take a high-paying position at an aerospace engineering firm clear on the other side of the United States in Southern California. I still had no idea that an engineering career wasn’t what God had in mind for me.
Shortly after I took the job, I asked one of my new colleagues at the Los Angeles engineering firm where he went to church. He seemed like a decent person, and I thought that going to church would be a good way to meet new friends.
He invited me to a Bible study in nearby Pasadena, which I attended with him. The content of the Bible study was quite different from anything I had heard previously. Plus, there were many young people at this Bible study, many more than I had typically seen at any church.
Learning that this church had a college associated with it, I decided it would be a good thing to attend the college to learn more about God and the Bible, which in retrospect is what God clearly wanted me to do.
During the next three years I met my wife, now of nearly 50 years. And far from becoming an engineer, I was ordained into the ministry of Jesus Christ. I’ve since pastored many churches and served in administrative positions around the world, including as far away as Australia. Currently, I am privileged to serve as president of the United Church of God, which publishes this magazine you are reading.
Since God’s calling and intervention in my life more than 50 years ago, the biblical vision of Christ’s return and the Kingdom of God being established here on earth is what keeps me going.
A guiding and sustaining vision
This vision can motivate you as well.
As regular Good News readers know, the plan of God for you and for all humanity is revealed in the annual biblical festivals. (If you haven’t yet read it, request or download our free Bible study aid booklet God’s Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind . )
Perhaps you haven’t thought of it in this way, but God’s annual festivals represent a personal prophecy for you and for all of humanity. The first three—Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost—have already been fulfilled in major respects in history and the personal lives of believers.
Giving His life as the incredible holy sacrifice that blotted out our sins and reconciled us to God, Jesus Christ became our Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7 1 Corinthians 5:7Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
American King James Version×). The symbolism of the Feast of Unleavened Bread pictures our active daily duty in overcoming and striving to avoid sin (verses 6-8).
The day of Pentecost was fulfilled in part with the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4 Acts 2:1-4 1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
3 And there appeared to them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat on each of them.
4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
American King James Version×), which enables and motivates us to keep God’s holy law (Romans 7:12 Romans 7:12Why the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
American King James Version×) and thus overcome habitual sin (Matthew 19:17 Matthew 19:17And he said to him, Why call you me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments.
American King James Version×) through forgiveness by grace, repentance and the subsequent development of holy righteous character (1 Peter 1:15-16 1 Peter 1:15-16 15 But as he which has called you is holy, so be you holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be you holy; for I am holy.
American King James Version×) by producing good spiritual fruit (Matthew 7:16-20 Matthew 7:16-20 16 You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Why by their fruits you shall know them.
American King James Version×) through good deeds and works (James 2:26 James 2:26For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
American King James Version×).
The events symbolized by the remaining four biblical festivals represent a profound vision of the future for us. By celebrating them annually, they help us build and sustain a vision of what is to come—the return of Jesus Christ to this planet, the binding of Satan to remove his evil influence and the establishment of the glorious Kingdom of God on earth. And all of this will be capped off by the opportunity for salvation for all people who yield to become heirs in God’s family.
This vision, this hope, fills us with incredible joy and gratitude. It sustains us day by day. It sustains those in the United Church of God and our other coworkers who support and make possible this magazine, our Beyond Today TV program , our dozens of free booklets , our Bible Study Course lessons and guides , and more.