“Therefore you are no longer outsiders (exiles, migrants, and aliens, excluded from the rights of citizens), but you now share citizenship with the saints (God’s own people, consecrated and set apart for Himself); and you belong to God’s [own] household.”
Ephesians 2:19 AMPC
No access to benefits.
This phrase was stamped on my first visa as I boarded the plane from Johannesburg to London. 24 years old and eager to work and pay my way around Europe, I set off on a new adventure. One that would lead me to find the greatest earthly treasure of them all: my awesome husband!
We instantly connected and became really good friends. But when my working holiday visa expired I had to return to my homeland. Following three years of daily emails between the two of us, I looked into moving to the United Kingdom on a more permanent basis. Having no ancestral connections to the UK, and having exhausted my options on working as a holiday maker, I wasn’t hopeful.
Ten days before my 28th birthday, I happened to stumble upon a visa that would allow me to work and live in the UK. But I had to apply before my birthday. It was a rush to get all the paperwork done, but I applied and within three months I was holding my Highly Skilled Migrant Visa.
No access to benefits.
Again, I was reminded that, though I was allowed to live and work in this kingdom, I will not be given access to public funding. This did not bother me too much. I was young. I had skills. I could work and make a living, without dipping into the kingdom’s resources. So I packed my bags, again. Boarded the plane to Manchester, to settle down in Preston, and be close to the love of my life.
Because I was able to live and work in the UK, there was no pressure for us to figure out if we wanted to tie the knot. However, I had only been in Preston for about three months before he popped the question. Five months after that, we were married. It was time to apply for a new visa. The spouse visa.
No access to benefits.
At the start of our marriage, there was no reason to worry about finances. I was bunking at my lovely mother-in-law’s, while hubby finished medical school in York. Then, one morning, as the first signs of Autumn started to appear, so did the signs of another arrival. Our gorgeous boy was on his way.
With a dad in medical school, and a mum-to-be bunking in someone else’s house, there was suddenly a pressure on our finances. We needed to find a house. We needed to prepare for a baby. Even though the maternity benefits are amazing in the UK, my income wasn’t enough to cover all the new expenses that this new arrival to the kingdom would engender.
Thankfully, my husband is a British citizen. He had access to benefits! So through child benefit and working tax credits, we were able to supplement our income, enough to find our feet.
It was another couple of years before I could apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, and a few more years and hundreds of Great British Pounds later, before I could apply for my citizenship.
All this to say: I know about the blessing of having access to benefits when you need it.
One Sunday evening, in a worship service, I sat in the pew with my Bible open on my lap. As I cast my eyes over the Psalms, I caught the word: “benefits.” This would be worth a read, I thought:
“Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
Psalm 103, NIV
It struck me, as I sat there in that church in Preston, unable to access benefits in the United Kingdom, that I have citizenship in another Kingdom. The Kingdom of Heaven. Not only do I have citizenship and access to the treasures of Heaven, but it came at an incredible cost: The Son, laying down his life for me. Jesus died, and I died with him, and I was raised with him, into a new kingdom. One with fantastic benefits!
It didn’t matter where I was from, or how much I earned, or how many dependents I had, or whether I had the right family bloodline. I was qualified for every benefit, because I am now from the bloodline of the King, himself.
In some way, I felt a little disappointed with the fact that I had chosen to put up with situations and circumstances, not realising that I could access theses amazing benefits: Forgiveness. Healing. Deliverance. Protection. Provision. Renewal. Restoration. These were my rights, as a citizen of the kingdom.
I pray that we will remember that we are not just citizens of earthly countries, but we have access to heavenly realms. We are a chosen, special, different people, living above the natural benefits (or lack of benefits) we have on Earth. Bless the Lord! And do not forget his benefits!
Today, I hear the Father say: “Brilliant Child! You cannot get to the bottom of the treasure chest that is available to you as a citizen in my Kingdom. I have given you full access to every benefit my Son secured for you, on the cross. There is more than enough to meet your every need. Draw from my love, in the confidence that I will supply what you need, when you need it. I gave up my most valuable Treasure, to die on a cross for you. Why would I withhold anything else from you? I bless you, Child. Because I love you.” ❤