Whose Kingdom Are You Building?
By Dot Bowen
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you as well. Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
Several years ago someone asked me why I started Cup of Joy. I was so taken aback by the question I was initially speechless. She continued to share that she knew my husband and I own a condo on the beach and have the resources to travel. My first thought was, “How do you know these things about me?” However, I believe her question was sincere. She simply couldn’t understand why someone my age—an empty nester—with resources to travel would start a women’s ministry. Without thinking, I replied, “When I die and see Jesus, I don’t want to just hand Him seashells.”
I recently was enjoying lunch with one of my dearest friends, and we began talking about building our own kingdoms. I’ll never forget the look she gave me when she asked, “Will you hold me accountable to intentionally build God’s kingdom rather than my own?” I’ve known this friend almost 30 years. When her kids were young we were neighbors. She has often been asked to speak or take a leadership role in various ministries. She consistently turned down great opportunities that would have interfered with what she considered priority: being a mom and wife. A plaque in her kitchen reads, ”I am carrying on a great project and cannot come down. Why should my work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” This passage comes out of Nehemiah 6. Nehemiah faced tremendous opposition and distraction as he led the immense project of reconstructing and finishing the wall around Jerusalem. As the years have passed and her children have grown, it would be easy for my friend to develop a selfish agenda, but her heart is for foster children. You may know my friend Sandra Stanley. If there were anyone who had the opportunity to build her own kingdom, it would be Sandra. I am so thankful she is wise enough to know God didn’t place us on earth to build up our own kingdoms.
I personally grieve over the many years I lived life selfishly. It’s been over 4 years since I was asked, “Why start a ministry?” and to my joy we just hosted our eleventh retreat. After returning home from the retreat, I found a note in my bag from one of the ladies. She wrote: “Oh, Dot, how incredibly grateful I am that you have sacrificially chosen not to pick up seashells, but instead pour your life into so many. Thank you so much!” I’m hesitant to share this for fear I would build up my kingdom with praise of what “I” have chosen to do. The truth is I’ve only responded to Jesus who directed me to tell His story of redemption, restoration, forgiveness, and power in my life.
It’s taken many years for me to understand I’m here for God, not myself. Until we accept this truth, we’ll continue to orchestrate our lives to find meaning and happiness apart from God. But there is no such thing as meaning apart from God. Your life has significance and your story can be powerful in your sphere of influence. The world is waiting to hear hope and truth, and there’s no hope or truth apart from the living Jesus. The circumstances surrounding your life have meaning. Your personal story allows you to offer God’s hope to others. And you are the only one who can tell your story. Ask God to make you aware of someone who needs to hear the hope and freedom He’s given you. We serve a God who loves us, died for us, and has given us the power to change our lives. This truth gives meaning to your life. It’s a privilege to be used by God in the lives of others. Never underestimate the power of a life surrendered to God. I’m grateful I’ll have more than a handful of seashells to give Jesus when I meet him. And I will enjoy Him in His kingdom for eternity.
Further Reading Nehemiah; Matthew 10:7, 13:33, 18:23; Mark 4:26