For there to be a Kingdom, there had to be a Cross
A blog for people who care that children around the world are being evangelized and discipled -- but might be surprised that this is happening in more than 100 countries through the ministry of Awana. Written by Brian Rhodes, executive director of Awana International.
There is unspeakable joy to serve with Awana leaders around the world, in the great Kingdom work that God is orchestrating through the ministry of Awana. This past year the number of churches using Awana to impact the lives of thousands of children and their families for Christ grew 28%. This represented over one thousand new churches using Awana. This, in addition to the many partners that are integrating Awana into their kingdom opportunities, has positioned Awana to begin to see how God will allow us to fulfill our prayer that “All children and youth around the world will come to know, love, and serve the Lord Jesus Christ.” Praise the Lord!
Recently the Lord brought to my attention that even in times of rejoicing, being a servant and follower of Jesus Christ can have its struggles and that His servants will go through great hardships for the Master. This can be so difficult to understand at times and the journey that we find ourselves on can only be held up through the matchless grace and name of Jesus.
In Matthew, chapter 16, Jesus teaches us a great truth through the life of Peter. It is the truth that if there was to be a Kingdom, there had to be a Cross. In order for you and I to experience God’s plan of redemption for the world, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God had to be sacrificed on the Cross of Calvary. Peter didn’t really understand this reality in his conversation with Jesus. Peter responds to Jesus’ question, “Who do you think that I am?” (V15) Peter answers with, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. (V16) Of course his answer is correct and Jesus affirms Peter’s faith to make this statement of truth without really understanding why. Peter shows his lack of understanding when he responds by rebuking Jesus and saying, "Lord, this will never happen to you,” (V22) in response to Jesus sharing what was going to happen to him and the suffering that would take place. Peter thought (as many of us do, sometimes) that surely the kingdom of God could reign without the suffering that is often required. The truth that must be loudly proclaimed is that God sent His only and precious Son to die a cruel death at Calvary in our place, that we might inherit the Kingdom as the sons and daughters of God. Jesus suffered death for your sins and mine.
Peter understood the authority of who Christ was and is, but not the actions that Christ would take as the Son of the Living God. This is so often our human response (if we are really honest with ourselves) toward the holy calling that God places on our lives. “Yes, Lord, I am committed to serving you with my whole heart!” Then when that commitment is tested, we cry out, “Why are you allowing me to participate in this struggle in my life? Please take it away.” How important is this response to Jesus? Look how he responds to Peter. Jesus calls him an evil stumbling block and tells him to get away. This is very serious. Peter was getting in the way of God’s plan of redemption for the world for all eternity. Peter was engaging his own thoughts and desires and could not see the plan that God was carrying out on his behalf.
Do we really understand and appreciate the love that God has for us? Do we realize that it is that very love that carries us through the difficulties in our own faith journeys? God’s unfailing and endless love engaging in our lives. This is the very reason He allows life struggles to come our way. That He would use them to shape and mold us into the vessel that He wants us to be. That we would rest in His love and abide in Him. What a great lesson to learn from Peter. What a great story to tell of the Love of God, that He would send His only Son to the Cross that we might inherit the Kingdom. What a privilege to live our lives in the shadow of His Cross. May He be praised with all honor and glory that is due Him as He orchestrates this great work in our lives.
In the Power of His Cross,
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