I had the privilege to personally meet John and spend a good two hours listening to his life’s story.
An actual rocket scientist, he was born one out of twelve in Lebanon. He was from an immigrant devout Christian farming family that moved to the USA when he was a child in the 1960s. When he first arrived in the US, the family lived in poverty.
Stressing how little resources they had when young, he recounted how had to outwork everyone while he incrementally had opportunities to climb up the ladder to the American dream. He took full advantage of all the structural resources available that wasn’t present in Lebanon. From high school, he made it to a prestigious college and graduated with a masters in engineering science, followed up by a Ph.D. with research on optimization math. The highlights of his career included being an actual rocket scientist where he worked with NASA on the Apollo 13 project, playing a pivotal role in calculating getting the rocket to the moon and safely back.
The part of his sharing that really gripped me was when he said that he “still tears up” when he thinks about how his grandfather could only travel a couple miles maximum on a donkey in his life. Now in America, he is sending up people 240,000 miles to the moon.
Lebanon simply did not have the economy or opportunities of America. No matter how hard he would work in Lebanon, his upside would always be limited. John credits America as a land of opportunity and resources that changed his destiny. He is solemnly grateful knowing that his family went from farmers dealing with livestock in Lebanon, to him developing and selling a technology company years later in America for a very healthy sum of money. A story of rags to riches, of being in the right place at the right time. A story of how being in the Right Place can matter more than your willingness to work.
I realize why John’s story resonated with me.
It reminds me of the Kingdom of Heaven that we as Christians are citizens of.
My friends, can I suggest to you that what resource-rich America was to John’s Lebanon, is the Kingdom of Heaven to your world of lack. Yet so many of us, when we feel a great amount of lack, when confronted by massive obstacles and feel that we are trapped, we simply forget. And in forgetting, we fail to access it.
But unlike America, the Kingdom of God is not a physical place, it is a state of being – you carry with you everywhere you go. It is in you (Luke 17:21). When the world is trying to steal your “donkeys”, do you know God can bring you to a place with far more potential? Instead of scraping for donkeys and livestock, God has allowed you access to this state of being with resources available for you abound every good work (2 Cor 9:8), to reach your divine purpose (Jer 29:11, Phil 1:6), where even all the evil done to you can be made into something beautiful (Rom 8:28, Ecc 3:11, Gen 50:20). The Bible tells you that when this Kingdom is fully fleshed out in your life, your life will be generous, and others will find safety being around you.
What is the kingdom of God like? … It is like a mustard seed that a man tossed into his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.” (Luke 13:19)
My friend, it is indeed too difficult to fight massive earthly battles if you are operating in the fallen world economics. When you’re fighting a war to prevent your kids from turning delinquent, or to forgive a spouse that betrays you, or politics in the office seeking to tear you down; when your enemies are upon you, don’t be quick to fight fire with fire. Take the battle into your home court advantage fight. Fight the battle with your feet planted firmly in the Kingdom of God where God’s promises for your life are in full and continuous effect, not in the grimy world where the devil has authority to kill steal and destroy (John 10:10a).
How to fully step into the Kingdom realm? You do it through Jesus.
… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10b)
The word “life” is Zoe (ζάω Greek), Strongs defines it as “life real and genuine, a life active and vigorous, devoted to God, blessed, in the portion even in this world“. My friend, Jesus is not just a teacher. When you go through Jesus as your atonement, your world actually changes. What was once cursed now can become blessed.
This verse has always blown me away, it says “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.” (John 10:9)
My friends, the context of this chapter is about coming from the world where the thief comes to destroy and into Jesus. Jesus is both the door (the way out) as well as the shepherd that loves and protects you as well. You go into the door because there was no pasture where you came from, it was a wilderness, a dryness. Yet, once you go in and come out again, you will find pasture where originally there was none. When you evoke Jesus as your savior and your door, you access a whole new world, the Kingdom of God. When the Kingdom of God is superimposed on your old world, newness comes. Opportunities arise where there are no earthly reason. Hope can be found in the darkness. Streams can be found in the wilderness.
What does being planted in the Kingdom look like?
In this Kingdom, even if your father or mother forsake you, God will not forsake you (Ps 27:10). In this Kingdom, even if men try to take your resources and life away, God will supply all your needs according to His riches and glory (Phil 4:19). Even if sickness or people are trying to take your voice away, God will be your advocate. Even if the world tries to tell you that you won’t amount to anything much, God has a plan for you to prosper you and give you a hope and a future (Jer 29:11). Even if the world tells you that you aren’t qualified, Jesus will be your qualification for something even better (1 Cor 1:30).
When you access the Kingdom that is in the spiritual realm, you won’t have to fight fire with fire. You won’t have to fight with the weapons of this world, but with spiritual weapons (2 Cor 10:4). You won’t have to scheme, lie, cheat and steal to get ahead like the world does sometimes. God will be your promotion.
Let me recount part of my testimony.
At the struggling years of my debilitating eczema, only about 5 years ago, I was barely treading above water trying to make it as a beginner financial analyst. Though I was physically in too much pain, and too tired, but by God’s grace, I became popular with my boss and clients. Yet, to compound the “curses” on my life, my immediate supervisor left for greener pastures, leaving a leadership void. In that leadership void, a colleague used the opportunity to try to get rid of me due to a supernatural hatred. In joint projects, he would purposely not do his part, hoping to get me into trouble. He would complain to everyone about trivial things like me forgetting to submit my medical leave when I was sick. He would even tell my boss two levels higher that I wasn’t interested in my work! None of it was true. Up to now, I still don’t know why he kept trying to use politics to get me fired since I never disrespected him. In fact, I even remember being one of the few colleagues to buy him a thoughtful, expensive book for his birthday. I could not believe how good can be repaid for evil.
In all this stress, as I kept listening to sermons upon sermons, I called out to Jesus and asked him to take care of me; and that I will do things His way, not mine.
Every time this colleague would launch a false accusation, I would defend myself politely and even complement the colleague for being so dedicated to the team that he would check up on me! What a cheeky, peaceful yet confident reply – something Jesus would be proud of. Every time he would withhold information from me so that I might miss a deadline, I didn’t blast him for it, I would make a small remark of acknowledgment and find the information somewhere else. With each firm but kind reply, his belligerence grew more.
The natural, worldly solution is to destroy my enemy and keep my job. But if I gave in to the hate, I will belong to the same devil like him. I must defend myself, but I cannot destroy him. This was exceedingly difficult to balance. Every time I felt lost, angry or insulted, I looked to Jesus. I worshipped him and confessed that Jesus is my salvation, that He will take all the “curses” hurled against to the cross with Him and be redeemed into something beautiful. Blocking out all the negativity, in my imagination I held the picture of Jesus shielding me, and this allowed me to hold my head up in respect and dignity, not returning evil for evil.
Then, the Kingdom started to kick in.
no weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
When the colleague tried to bad mouth me to my new supervisor and my boss 2 levels higher, both defended me. So while this colleague managed turned all the small time people against me, the people that mattered was on my side. God is indeed our vindicator.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
While fighting my battles in my “Lebanon”, God had started injecting “America” into my situation. If you can’t get to “America”, God can bring “America” to you. God can make streams in the wasteland.
While I was faithfully doing my day job, researching into markets, by sheer “randomness”, God simply gave me a great idea about a trading strategy. It just hit me like a bunch of bricks because something someone said to me triggered a series of thoughts. God then incrementally gave me every resource to develop it, from finding the right research papers to read, signing up to the right courses to learn how to program it, to strangers being kind enough to explain their works to me. The end result blew me away: I eventually developed a way to find major turning points in a certain market.
I was amazed at what I had in my hands, but I totally didn’t know what to do with it. A beginner financial analyst has no business making a good discovery like this.
At the same time, I decided that this workplace was too toxic, and because of the leadership void, no one would step up to stop the abusive colleague. So I quit. Yet, at the small recesses of my heart, I wondered just how I managed to develop that trading strategy, I could never have imagined I could do that a year ago. The “impossible” small progress I saw encouraged me that God will finish what he started, and I felt the peace to quit.
Yet, on some of the more discouraging days, I wondered if I had lost the battle. After all, the abusive colleague got what he wanted. He stayed in the company and I was the one that left. I recounted how I had to hold back my tongue, lest I say something I would regret. My friend, I want to tell you that with God, your losses can be your victories, and your enemy’s victory their defeat. In the world, aggression and cheating tend to get you ahead. In the Kingdom, humility and self-control are what God recognizes.
And you want to be and do what God recognizes because God “rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrew 11:6)
To cut the story short this is what happened.
God provided incremental divine appointments, one after another in remarkable succession, to people that would truly appreciate both my work and my character. It turned out that the discovery of my trading strategy and the way I handled evil gave me favor with important people (they liked my character). I ended up working in a better place, with better colleagues and prospects, in an environment conducive for my health, and paid me double of what I was getting paid in my old office! I felt stupid fighting with an abusive colleague for the 5% incremental that was likely when God had planned a 100% increment. Such is the difference between the fallen world’s economy and the Kingdom economy. One is characterized by lack, pride, and cutthroat behavior. The other is by a great supply that leads to humility. Even the way I responded to my enemies, the determination in my heart to not repay evil with evil, God recognized and rewarded that in tangible form.
I suddenly shuddered.
I realized that if I had got my hands “bloody” and won the battle at my former workplace, I would have totally missed out on something so much better! Then I realized that the colleague that stayed behind is actually the one digging for scraps because my old company does not pay well. I realized that by “losing” I won, and him “winning” he actually lost. Such is how the Kingdom works.
But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
God is the God of the great reversal. He likes to turn your mourning into dancing. He uses the weak to shame the strong, the foolish to shame the wise.
When I recognized that as a child of God I have access to the Kingdom through Jesus, I chose to be cognizant of God’s power and purpose for me, and not the darkness around me. While envious people were trying to get me fired to consolidate their power, I realized that they were fighting for scraps. They were fighting for donkeys. They were fighting for the scraps in “Lebanon”. I never had to fight back the same way, instead of God opened doors no one could shut, leading me to my “America”.
Remember that as a child of God, you have access to a bigger world, the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom is larger than the physical fallen world you live in. Even while you are sitting at your desk, wondering how to pay your massive housing bills and raise your kids right, the kingdom of heaven is all around you, and in you.
You just have to access it.
When you set your mind on Christ and call on Him to be your savior, you move into a new Kingdom with a new economy of supply. Instead of the fallen world’s economy filled with scarcity, a dog eat dog struggle that brings out the worse in you, and a hopelessness where how you end up seems all up to chance; you move into the Kingdom Economy that is filled with provision for every good work, personal transformation, and a purpose and destiny.
If you’ve seen the Matrix, starring Keanu Reeves, you’ll know why this fits totally in this blog post:
What are you trying to tell me? That I can dodge bullets?
No, Neo. I’m trying to tell you that when you’re ready, you won’t have to.