I love being a Christian.
I have not always been faithful to God, but as I grow older and mature in my faith, I can honestly say that He has always been faithful to me. When I reflect on my status as one of God’s children, I am truly happy, and I truly enjoy my life.
So why are so many so-called “Christians” so unhappy? They manage to drag themselves to the church building once a week, but they’re not happy about it. They plunk their check into the collection plate every Sunday, but they’re not happy about it. They’ll even open their mouth and sing the words to “Sing and Be Happy”…but they’re still not happy about it. Why and how does this happen? Here is one possible answer…
According to Scripture, Jesus was an active participant in the creation of our world (John 1:1-3), and although it was thousands of years later before He “became flesh,” He witnessed all of human history up to that point. Scholars use the word “omniscient” to describe God (which would include His Son), and that word means, “all knowing.” I’m not sure that we will ever wrap our minds around what it means to know everything - for example, God already knows what I will have for lunch today…and I’m still not sure - but in simple terms, it means that He is pretty smart. He knows everything about everything.
Let’s consider some illustrations:
If you were building an ark that was going to save you and your family from certain death, you should probably listen to God’s plan for how to build it. He might know what He’s talking about. Although God was not a carpenter (yet), He somehow knew everything about it
If you wanted to know how to survive 7 years of severe famine, it would be wise to ask God. He might have a pretty good plan for how you could deal with that. He wasn’t a disaster relief agency, but I think that everyone involved would agree that He handled that situation pretty intelligently.
If you were trying to escape several hundred years of oppressive slavery, God might have a pretty good idea how to systematically break down the stubborn will of the person in charge, while simultaneously dismantling his nation’s belief system. He wasn’t a military commander, but He somehow delivered hundreds of thousands of slaves using only two old men.
If I understand things properly, Jesus was part of all of this. He once said, “I and the Father are one.” (Jn. 10:30) If that’s true, then Jesus – as part of what we call the “Trinity” – shares in this massive intelligence possessed by God.
It was this incredibly intelligent, creative, all-knowing person/God who said:
“I came that they might have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
What does this mean?
It means that the Creator of the universe, who also happens to be the Creator of humanity – with all of our emotional quirks, blips, and hang-ups – wants us to have a good life. But if we are going to be honest about this word that Jesus used here, it’s beyond “good.” The word translated “abundant” means “extraordinary in amount” (BDAG, 805), and “superior, surpassing, uncommon; over and above, more than is necessary, superadded” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). To be as accurate as possible, this means that Jesus’ desire is for His children to have the kind of life that most people only dream of.
He wants us to have an extraordinary life; a superior life; an uncommon life.
Is that how you would describe your life right now? Even for those of us who claim to be “Christians,” is this the kind of life we’re living, or are we living a fairly common, ordinary life? Almost all Christians trust Jesus for certain things, don’t we? We trust Him for the things that we simply can’t do for ourselves; things like forgiveness, salvation, providential help, major medical concerns, or national championships. We trust that He will give us grace, mercy, and eternal life in heaven with Him when this life is over. We trust Him for these things for one simple reason: we have no choice. These are things that we simply can’t take care of on our own. If we could do it by ourselves, we probably wouldn’t trust God.
But what about the things that we can take care of on our own? What about “life?” There are 3 ways that many Christians – including myself – often miss out on the abundant life that we were promised:
1.We limit God to the “big” things in our life – If you haven’t noticed, “life” is usually made up of a lot of “little” things, and when we leave God out of them, it can drastically reduce our overall quality of life. If God is intelligent, powerful and loving enough to help us with the things that we can’t do for ourselves, how much better would our lives be if we trusted Him for everything else? Proverbs 3:5-6 doesn’t divide our lives into categories, does it? If God is intelligent enough to come up with a way to redeem our eternal souls from eternal destruction without compromising His nature, He can probably handle our relationship problems. If God loves us enough to send His only Son to be a sacrifice for our sins, He probably cares about the way you feel on Mondays. I Peter 5:7 tells us to cast “all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” If your life isn’t exactly “abundant” right now, try listening to this verse.
2.We trade Jesus’ idea of “abundant life” for our own ideas about it - Jesus never said that our life was always going to be stress-free, trouble-free, or carefree; in fact, He was pretty clear about what we could expect (Mt. 10:16ff; Jn. 16:33; etc.). We live in a culture that prizes immediate gratification and has its own definition of the “abundant life;” a definition that often doesn’t involve patience, endurance, or perseverance. When we buy into the lie that all of our “moments” must be extraordinary, and that we must escape anything that is unpleasant as soon as possible, we actually miss out on what God has planned for us. There are multiple meanings for words like “extraordinary,” “uncommon,” and superior,” and some of them don’t necessarily involve our personal comfort and convenience. Jesus Himself lived an abundant, extraordinary, uncommon life; but there were certainly parts of it that were not enjoyable.
3.We live undisciplined lives – An undisciplined life is never going to be “abundant.” When we neglect to live the life of a disciple, we rob ourselves of the blessings and privileges that come with it. The word “disciple” (the root of the word “discipline”) is mentioned over 250 times in the New Testament. It is a lifestyle that involves self-control, sacrifice, commitment, and focus. The American version of “Christianity” – which seems to involve nothing more than “going to church” and being a “good person” – does not remotely resemble the life that Jesus calls us to live. When we buy into someone else’s idea of what it means to be a Christian, we will never have an abundant life.
The Christian life is truly uncommon, extraordinary, and superior to any other way of life. It is filled with love, hope, faith, trust, peace, joy, and patience. It was designed, laid out, and understood from the inside out by a brilliant, powerful, loving God who gave everything so that we could have it.
Whether or not we have this abundant life is entirely up to us.
I was asked by The Preacher’s Favorite Passage to write this blog. It is part of January’s Celebration of Life Month. #CelebrateLife15