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Texas Baptist leader says Kingdom living ‘not for wimps, whiners or the wicked’

PHOENIX (BP)–Insisting that doing God’s will is the very definition of Kingdom living, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Director Jim Richards told Southern Baptists June 18: “You may labor in obscurity until eternity reveals your work.”

Richards delivered a challenge on “Kingdom Living Today” on the last day of the two-day annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in the Phoenix Civic Center.

“The greatest in the Kingdom may be an invalid in the sick room praying down heaven’s blessings,” said Richards, whom SBC president Jack Graham had praised as being “a Kingdom man” and a “a convictional and compassionate leader who provides assistance and encouragement to pastors and support to churches.”

Noting SBTC’s leadership in sending 52 percent of Cooperative Program receipts to the SBC budget, Graham said Richards “has fully adopted and led us in the Kingdom agenda of Southern Baptists in the great state of Texas.”

In his address, Richards described the provisions of God in a day when international instability and economic uncertainty dominate the headlines.

“Since Sept. 11, 2001, America has not been the same. We have had the D.C. sniper, the Iraqi war and [the] Laci Peterson tragedy,” Richards said. “Pop culture has produced ‘Fear Factor,’ ‘American Idol’ and ‘Bruce Almighty.’

“Moral morass continues with unborn babies being killed, homosexuality being accepted and tolerance being mandated for all except evangelical Christianity.” He turned to Luke 9:23,57-62 to offer Jesus’ approach to Kingdom living in such circumstances.

Although Jesus repeatedly spoke of the Kingdom, Richards said Jesus “addressed Kingdom living at that moment.” It is “not for wimps, whiners or the wicked,” he said.

“In our soft, affluent, politically correct American culture, we do not like to hear about responsibilities, expectations or sacrifice,” Richards said. “Everybody seems to be a victim.”

However, Jesus did not put up with that mindset, Richards said. “The insights He gave are relevant 20 centuries later because they are the Word of God.”

Richards expressed gratitude for “a God who knows the end from the beginning,” refuting the theory of open theism that “tells us God does not know how the end will occur.”

Drawing applause from the audience, Richards said: “There has never been a time that God hasn’t known what will happen in the next day.

“God has never had to go out on a stump and think about what’s going to take place. God knows the end from the beginning.”

Richards warned against a tendency toward spiritual arrogance and sinful avarice.

“Those who have a perverted view of the prayer of Jabez think God is obligated to bless them on every hand. What about the Sudanese Christians who are being martyred?” Richards asked. “We don’t live in a time when God is obligated to answer our every whim. That makes God nothing more than a cosmic bellboy waiting to grant our every wish.”

Citing 1 Peter 4:12, Richards said suffering and trials are to be expected. “God is not as concerned about our happiness as He is our holiness. It is not about our comfort, but about His cross.” By relying on the Holy Spirit and resting in God’s promises, Christians can overcome such secret attacks, he said.

Richards recounted when he and his wife were living in a house trailer with an income of $100 a week early in their marriage. When an elderly man brought them groceries he had purchased with his own food stamps, Richards experienced God’s provision. “If you are in the center of God’s will in Kingdom living today, the provisions of His providence come through,” he said.

From Luke 9:59-60, Richards described “the preeminence of His person,” insisting that a Christian’s relationship with Jesus must be more important than any other. Richards warned of two potential struggles every Christian faces, being consumed by popular opinions or controlled by personal agendas.

“In all of our endeavors of Kingdom living today, doing the right thing with our families, with our churches, building and working and putting all of our energy into all of these efforts, let us never forget the preeminence of His person, the Lord Jesus Christ,” Richards said. “It’s all about the King.”

In Luke 9:61-62, Richards found the priority of God’s plan, noting Jesus’ use of an agrarian illustration.

“They all knew that you had to look forward to plow a straight row,” he said. “Jesus said you’re not fit for the Kingdom if you look back.” The man described in the text may have longed for the past or lacked passion for his work, Richards said.

Warning against becoming engrossed in sinful habits, Richards said: “We allow all types of verbiage coming into our homes that defile the ears and harm the hearts. We’ve lowered the bar of holiness and we have allowed public culture to creep in to the point that we have lost our saltiness. God help us to be a peculiar and different people to the glory of God.”

Of the priority of turning to God’s Word for guidance each day, Richards said, “Those riding higher in the saddle are the ones the devil shoots at, and he’ll take every opportunity.”

Before leading the audience in a pledge of discipleship, Richards turned to Philippians 3:13 and said: “The past victories will not suffice for tomorrow and the past defeats cannot stop us in winning tomorrow.

“Jesus’ insights to Kingdom living show a demand for complete loyalty. Everything else is stripped away. Kingdom living today is all about living for the King.”

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  • Tammi Reed Ledbetter