"Nondiscipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God's overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, it costs exactly that abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring (John 10:10)...The correct perspective is to see following Christ not only as the necessity it is, but as the fulfillment of the highest human possibilities and as life on the highest plane." I remember reading these words from The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard many years ago and thinking how profound they were. Last week, at the age of 77, Dallas Willard came face-to-face with life itself.
I first encountered Dallas Willard at a conference where, even though he was the keynote speaker, he hung out in the back of the auditorium and chatted with folks in his slow southern drawl as if he had nothing better to do. He spoke of the kingdom of God in such a way that it moved you to believe that it is real, it is here, and it is actually possible to be like Jesus in this world.
In The Divine Conspiracy, Willard writes, "God has yet to bless anyone except where they actually are, and if we faithlessly discard situation after situation, moment after moment, as not being 'right,' we will simply have no place to receive his kingdom into our life. For those situations and moments are our life."
This kind of practical, here-and-now theology of kingdom life inspires me. Growing up in a fairly rigid religious culture, I pretty much learned that the whole point of Christianity is that we "get saved," then implore others to "get saved," then go to heaven where the "saved" people go. In the teachings of Dallas Willard, I learned that there is SO much more than this. The idea that the journey matters was new to me. It freed me to ENJOY the moment, knowing that Jesus was IN each moment with me. He isn't just pulling me through this life by the scruff of the neck , trying to get me through to the other side where I'll be safe. Every moment is saturated with the presence of God--I just need to acknowledge and embrace that reality.
I am grateful that God allowed a humble man like Dallas Willard, just an ordinary person, to assure us that the kingdom of God is real and accesible to imperfect, broken people like us.