Jesus swept onto the scene declaring that the Kingdom of God had arrived! He proclaimed that we would experience life at its fullest only when we organize our lives around the Kingdom. E. Stanley Jones suggests that life in any other way is a muddled, maddening, and impossible way to live. Throughout the centuries we have lost the Kingdom as a clearly defined and workable system for order and influence in our daily lives. We have reduced the Kingdom by putting it into narrower molds, a refuge now, a present security, a future hope, anything but the Kingdom as Jesus preached it – God’s total answer to man’s total need now.” Dr. Jones shows us how to claim our spiritual heritage and the abundant life promised us by embracing the Kingdom and Person of Jesus. He suggests how our experience with God and His Kingdom should be taught and shared in the life of the individual, in the life of the church and in the nations of the world.
AMERICANS ARE BECOMING less religious, but feelings of spirituality are on the rise, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center. At one time or another most of us have overheard others use the phrase “I am spiritual but not religious” to describe his or her position on faith. I am not sure how this plays out in practical life, given that it neither contains meaning nor offers evidence of any persuasion. I suppose it has to do with an individual’s desire for an inspirational connection to the universe.
We must admit that this pursuit can hardly be thought difficult, given that anyone looking up at the night sky cannot but be inspired by the vista of the stars. This is hide-and-seek spirituality. It is feelgood, safe, and politically correct. It says nothing about one’s faith and cuts no ice in the foxholes of life. Yet this empty declaration is gaining traction even as it shuts down meaningful religious narratives about faith and the reality of God. I live in hope that the next person who utters this statement will not leave me hanging, and continue by saying “and the source of my spirituality is …!”
In this book, E. Stanley Jones dares to question this pervasive contemporary view. By questioning, he hopes to neutralize the harm it causes. It harms by proclaiming that the act of belief, no matter how aimless or ill defined, is enough to get us through the perils of life. Jones boldly declares the opposite by saying, “There is no deeper and greater need in the world today than the practical mysticism that Jesus brings to bear upon the problems of life.” Further, he supports the integrity of this statement and others—equally provocative—in scripture. Which of these two positions describes your beliefs? Do you have faith?
This book is a safe place for you to explore your real questions about the existence and relevance of God, the reality of His Kingdom, and the realism of Jesus Christ. What do these deep questions have to do with you? Why should you care about finding answers, given the demands of your life today? Who has time for one more old theory done up in new packaging?
Do you think there is truth to the notion that humankind is hardwired through every fiber and nerve to seek God? If the Kingdom of God holds the grand plan for the means to make life work, who wouldn’t want to know the details of that plan? In these pages Jones unpacks the practical implications and applications of God’s Kingdom on earth.
He does this in understandable and discerning ways. He uses straight talk to clarify the lingering, unresolved issues of faith and spirituality.
He helps us discover the answers that transform our lives and teach us how to live in God’s way. You will be left to draw your own conclusions about the earthly reality of the Kingdom of God. But the pursuit this book challenges you to undertake lies in this question: “When we find the Kingdom of God, do we find real Life?” After all, isn’t this what we really want—an abundant, real life?
The Kingdom of God fomented a revolution in Jones’ life that sustained him throughout his life-long ministry. He said, “I see now, as I have never seen before, the eternal fitness of the gospel – it fits the soul like a glove fits the hand. It is the way that we are made to live, and to try to live some other way is not only foolish, but is also impossible. You cannot live against life and get away with it.”
Jones tells a story on page 373 about Anne Byrd Payson, a highly sophisticated member of New York Society who found the way she was made to live! Payson had a dramatic conversion experience in 1930 after reading Jones’ Christ of the Indian Road.
While she felt that her life had changed, she could not determine what came next. “Now that I’m a Christian, how do I act as a Christian? What’s the technique of being a Christian?” She soon discovered the unshakable kingdom and the unchanging person were the grounding for her faith journey. Jones watched her grow in and through her faith as she found the reality of the unshakable Kingdom. Anne Payson wrote a book about her experience that Jones found to be “the revelation of a soul that was following the gleam amid the complexities of modern life. Something redemptive had begun working at the heart of her life and she shared those
results.” I recently read Payson’s book and it is an illumination of the power and reality of kingdom living and of a life following the unchanging person, Jesus Christ. You will discover many other profound examples of transformed lives in this book.
In the course of editing this book, I learned from Patricia Saylor, a dear friend of E. Stanley Jones, that Jones wrote much of this manuscript while in her home and he even stayed a little longer than expected as he found the setting highly conducive to writing.
Mrs. Saylor shared the following memories: “It was not the first time that Brother Stanley had visited our home. Little did we know then that it was to be his last.
So here we were, Brother Stanley and I, outside on this perfect summer day, sipping afternoon tea. Finishing our second cups, we put them aside and picked up our Bibles as was our custom when he visited. Brother Stanley turned to a passage he had been working on as he wrote, The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person, and opened up that scripture to me. I had just had a taste of what the disciples must have felt listening to Jesus! Finishing the study, he laid his Bible back onto the table, and clearing his voice began to share a concern he had. “I’ve noticed,” he said, “that my speech doesn’t come as easily as it used to. I seem to be having trouble enunciating my words. I feel a slight thickening of my tongue.” I hadn’t particularly noticed. It seemed to be the same clipped almost British accented voice to me. About this same time, my husband Don, a Lutheran pastor, came home. Brother Stanley repeated his concern. Taking charge, Don asked if Brother Stanley would be willing to go to our family doctor the next day. He would and we did. After hearing his symptoms and doing an examination, our physician recommended that his patient undergo further testing at Riverside Methodist Hospital as soon as possible. Brother Stanley responded, “First, I’ll have to ask.” Upon arriving home, Brother Stanley went right upstairs and ‘asked.’
In just a few minutes he descended the stairs holding a yellow legal pad and said, “It’s a go!” Thrusting the legal pad into my hands, he smiled and ordered, “Guard it with your life. It’s the manuscript I have been working on!” We piled back into the car and drove to the hospital where he was admitted. After we helped settle him in and said prayers, we left him, but Brother Stanley was never ‘alone.’ A few days later after the tests were done, the doctors determined that he had suffered a mild stroke. The orders were to take it easy (bed rest only) and to do nothing strenuous. Brother Stanley ignored all of this guidance. He had an Ashram to attend in Evansville, Indiana, and he would be there! We were running out of time. Evansville was not nearby. The patient needed bed rest yet insisted on keeping his promise.
We pulled down the seats of our Matador station wagon, placed two sofa cushions onto the now flat space and Brother Stanley sat upon them and piled pillows on both sides to keep him from rolling. I don’t think this was exactly what the doctor had meant by ‘bed rest,” but it would have to do. I felt sad and concerned as I said goodbye this time. All I could do was pray
They made it to Evansville, but Brother Stanley never made it back to our home, going a few years later to a far better one, his heavenly home. I don’t know what work he has been given to do there, but I do know he will show up when he has promised to show up! It was a moment that I will never forget and I am so grateful that this book is being reprinted.”
This edition could not have been completed without the assistance of Rev. Shivraj Mahendra, whose publishing, editing and theological skills were essential to this project. In addition to working on his doctoral dissertation about E. Stanley Jones’ theology, Shivraj has made time to assist in the designing and reprinting of this book with speed, expertise and precision. Nicholas Younes contributed his considerable content editing expertise and Barbara Ryder Hubbard brought her years as a teacher of reading and English to the task of copy editing this book.
I want to express particular gratitude to Duane and Nancy McNett, who single-handedly brought this book back into print in 1995. While they are not in the publishing business, they created a publishing house for the sole purpose of reprinting this seminal statement of Jones’ theology. Thanks to the vision of Duane and Nancy, thousands of copies of this book have been shared across the world over the last twenty years and the E. Stanley Jones Foundation is honored to assume their mantle.
ANNE MATHEWS-YOUNES, ED. D., D. MIN.
President, E. Stanley Jones Foundation