In his book, A Confession, Leo Tolstoy relates how as a boy he possessed a great drive to goodness.
Unfortunately, this was erased in his adult life due to his ambition to get ahead. Later in life, after an overwhelming success as a writer, he sank into a depression, which he struggled with for most of his life. He realized that none of his successes brought him the satisfaction he anticipated and was aware that the passage of time alone would bring everything he loved and valued to nothing.
Tolstoy lived in this condition for years, until he finally had a conversion experience and returned to the faith. He realized that all things made sense when we see them from God’s perspective.
What is the kingdom of God? How do we realize it? These are the questions which Tolstoy’s life highlighted.
The kingdom of God is not some far away land that we hope to reach, nor is it life after death or an ideal situation. It is a new way of looking at life because we have realized the active presence of God within us and we can see life as he sees it. To embrace the kingdom of God we need to gain insight; in addition, we need to pay the price for the insight we have gained.
When Solomon experienced God at Gibeon (1 Kings 3:4-15) he gained insight and was able to see things from God’s perspective. It is not surprising that he did not ask for any material thing, but for “…a wise and discerning mind.”
The insight that Solomon gained is that when we move from the confinement of our narrow self-will and embrace the expansive will of God, the events and circumstances of life may not change, but we begin to view them differently. We see God in everything and everything in God.
Nonetheless, gaining insight like Solomon’s is just the beginning of the journey. We must put the insight into action and be willing to pay the price.
Two parables on the kingdom of God (Matthew 13:44-46) stress this point. The main message is about selling everything a person owns and doing it joyfully because of a treasure. What do we need to sell? Our disordered affections. Those attitudes, things, and habits that we like, which are not life giving. “Selling everything” is not about giving up things: our houses, cars, the people in our lives, etc. It is about letting go of our selfish vision and seeing everything from the perspective of God. It is this letting go that is difficult.
Chesterton claimed, “The secret of the Christian is joy.” What happened to the joy we discovered in Jesus? Perhaps we have become engrossed in ourselves and our troubles.
Perhaps in all honesty, many of us might admit that we never really found this treasure; we never had a faith that was more than superficial, and we have never cultivated the habit of finding God in everything.