Holistic Health in the Kingdom of God
By Brent Davis, Campus Ministry Coordinator
“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit” (3 John 1: 2).
This verse pretty much sums up what we all would like to have: friendship, wellbeing, health, and spiritual strength. Put another way, we desire good relationships, provision of physical needs, health, and a strong character. The question is how to achieve these goals. This is where we need to understand the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is where all aspects of life are in harmony under the rule of God. In our Salt and Light campus ministry we work to extend the rule of the Kingdom: to worship God, be transformed, and minister to those around us. We do this through understanding the domains of holistic health and the means of improving that health. Let us look briefly at the phases of the Kingdom of God, the holistic health benefits of the Kingdom, and the process by which God’s rule is extended in our lives and the world.
The Phases of the Kingdom of God
Phase 1: Perfection
In the beginning, people were placed in an environment where all their needs were taken care of: food was easy to obtain, relationships with God and each other were excellent, there was no disease, and people had no character flaws. We can add in a fifth domain – meaningful work. Adam and Eve were tasked with ruling Creation under the rule of God.
Phase 2: Imperfection
Sadly, they disobeyed the one command they had been given, and people became separated from God and the benefits of His rule. Their character changed for the worse, then their relationships became broken, food became difficult to obtain, work became burdensome, and they got sick and died.
But God did not leave the story there, he promised that someone would come to restore the Kingdom of God.
Phase 3: Restoration
Jesus came declaring: “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matthew 4: 17, NLT). He began to restore the broken domains of life: “Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness” (Matthew 4: 23).
Jesus explained what life should be like in the Kingdom of God:
25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God[e] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (Matthew 6: 25-33)
Eventually, he restored the broken relationship with God caused by disobedience:
6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. 7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.
12 When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. 13 Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. 14 Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. 15 But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. 16 And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. 17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.
18 Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 19 Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous. (Romans 5: 6-19)
Phase 4: New Perfection
Finally, as we shall see, the Kingdom of God will be fully realized in the new heaven and new earth.
The Benefits of the Kingdom of God
Those who become followers of Christ enter into the Kingdom of God and begin the process of restoration in all the domains of life:
- Their relationship with God is restored (as noted in the passage from Romans)
- Their character is developed (Galatians 5: 16-26)
- Their relationships with others become marked by love [as their character improves] (John 13: 35)
- They experience their physical needs being met (Acts 2: 45)
- They begin to experience better physical and mental health (James 5: 14-15). It should be pointed out that this area is incomplete because death is still in effect. It was, however, a focus of Jesus’ ministry and one that is central to the mission of AUHS.
- Their work becomes more meaningful (Colossians 3: 23-24)
Next, we consider the process by which the Kingdom is extended.
The Process of Extending the Kingdom of God
The Means of Extension
First, we extend the Kingdom extensively by making disciples of all nations.
Second, we extend the Kingdom intensively through three channels of grace for transformation: the Spirit of God, the Word of God, and the People of God.
The Spirit brings about the fruit of the Spirit, gives us gifts to use in ministry, and draws our attention to areas where God’s rule needs extension. The Spirit also intercedes for us.
The Word identifies areas that need transformation, tells us about our glorious God, and provides the framework of belief for our life and examples to follow (or avoid). The main genres are narrative, commandment, prophetic rebuke, exposition of life in the kingdom, and prayer. We need to properly interpret and obey God’s Word for it to be fully effective.
The People of God are also used by the Spirit to encourage, admonish, and strategize with us. Also, while individual worship is great, the Bible emphasizes corporate worship. It is only in a group that we normally, fully experience the love of God and the benefits of His Kingdom. That is why meeting as a group is central to Salt and Light.
The Process of Extension
Finally, we use the discipleship cycle (modified from the description by Intervarsity Christian Fellowship) to move through the process of extending the Kingdom. The first step in the cycle is to identify brokenness or rebellion — an area where God’s rule is not extended in my life or in that of others. The next step is to determine how God’s rule can be extended; this involves using the three means of grace to determine what God’s Word says to do. The third step is to clarify action steps. The fourth step is to obey by implementing the steps. The fifth step is to praise God for His work of extending His Kingdom and to reflect on what else needs to be done.
We can see this cycle in Acts 2: 37-47: recognition of rebellion/sin, determine action steps, obey, and praise.
The End of Extension
The objective of Salt and Light (as a part of the People of God) is to help you experience holistic health and to extend the Kingdom of God, to His glory, now and forever:
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, [a]John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said [b]to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” (Revelation 21: 1-5)