A few months ago, I was praying about what to write about here on my blog during the coming year. Then I received an email:
Dear Anne, I have read through your book, Juggling Life’s Responsibilities, and then re-read chapters at different times. I am trying to go through it now and really study it out, using the study guide and so forth… I am starting in chapter one, and I am reading about “abundant life.” In the study guide it says “Can you name some Christian women who seem to have abundant life? What do you think their secret is?”
I am so stuck on this “abundant life.” I am a Christian and have been since I was eight. I am probably just trying to think this out too much, but I am wondering how you define abundant life. I heard a great/funny definition by Mark Lowry (Christian comedian) who said “life is all these ups and downs so abundant life is even bigger ups and downs (like a roller coaster).” I have always thought before about abundant life being more happy, but I know that just being a Christian doesn’t mean our lives will be all happy….so I am just trying to figure out what abundant life really means and how to look for that in a woman.
This question has been following me around ever since. I wrote her back, and we had a great conversation, but this question continues to — almost mock me. I’ll have a hard day, maybe be a bit crabby with the kids, and a little voice in the back of mind will say, “Abundant life? Hmmm? If this is what “abundant” life looks like, I sure wouldn’t want to see “non-abundant.”
We’ve had several new believers at our church this summer, and I’ve had to ask myself tough questions, like
- Is my life so full of joy that someone would leave a life of sin to live a life like mine?
- Do I really know what peace looks like?
- Do I live like I have hope, or do I look miserable and grumpy most of the time?
- WHAT IS ABUNDANT LIFE ANYWAY?
You know, just because I can type out pages to a book and find a publisher doesn’t mean that I have all the answers. But! I know who DOES have the answers! God’s Word!
“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10, KJV).
Studying through John 10, I notices that Jesus is contrasting himself with the “thief and robber.”
- The thief and robber is one who does not enter by the gate but climbs in by some other way (verse 1).
- The shepherd enters by the gate, let in by the “gatekeeper,” whom I assume is God the Father (verses 2-3).
We’ve been working on world history curriculum, and this reminds me that the most ancient of history is the first struggle between the “thief” and the Creator of the universe, the struggle for the souls of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. My heavenly Father has had a plan since eternity past, which I can’t even fathom, and that plan centers on you and me. Yet a battle is raging over us (see Ephesians 6:10-18).
Our enemy passionately wants our death and destruction, and he’s willing to lie, cheat, and violently oppose us to achieve it. This is not a fictitious battle. It’s real. It’s physical, which explains the ravages of sin in our physical bodies, as they fight for life daily. It’s mental, as Ephesians 6 tells us that the battle is for our minds and thoughts. It’s spiritual, as the consequence of this battle will result in the eternal damnation of billions of souls.
But Jesus, our good shepherd, has come that we might have life. My email friend wisely wrote,
Anne, thank you for responding. I have still been thinking a lot about it, too, and yesterday was actually able to sit and read and study a little more. I ended up looking up John 10:10 in one of our Bibles that has Scofield notes. I noticed for life it had in the notes “eternal.” Then as I was reading the verses that were referenced with life I noticed they were all talking about Christ being “life.” So as I was reading this I just asked God to tell me what it meant and help me understand it.
All the sudden it clicked then, Christ was sent to give us Life…His life. We get eternal life through him and to have abundant life is having “more of Christ.”
Isn’t this good? I get goosebumps again as I read it. “To have abundant life is to have “more of Christ.” The thief would never give his life for us. In fact, John 10:12-13 says he runs away at the first sign of danger because he “cares nothing for the sheep.”
But, oh! the wondrous love of Jesus! How He cares for me! Ezekiel 34 is a corresponding passage to John 10, and it says that my Good Shepherd will look after me… rescue me… tend to me… feed me… search for me… bring me back… bind me up… strengthen me… bless me… send me showers of blessing.
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (John 10:27-30).
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6).
“Just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:18-21).
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires… Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:3-4, 10-11).
I am most humbled that in John 10, Jesus mentions me. Yes, you read that right! He mentions me, Anne Elliott, Gentile girl with Swedish-German origins, living in the “uttermost parts of the earth” (America is, you know, compared to Israel). I have no blood of Abraham coursing through my veins, no godly seed of Seth or any of those mentioned in Hebrews 11. I have pagan roots and a sinful nature to match.
Yet He sought for me. He chased after me.
“I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16).
“My prayer is not for [my disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21).
[Jesus said to his disciples,] “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15).
“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25).
“God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus… Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Ephesians 2:6-7, 19-22).
Did you see that? “You too… are a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
Wow! He lives in me! Christ lives in me, His abundant life filling me.
Even on days when I am grumpy, His peace lives within. When I fall, He stands. When I am weak, He is strong. When I sin, He is my righteousness. I am simply His dwelling, a jar of clay in which the glory of the eternal God lives.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
Abundant life is a lot to think about, isn’t it? I could go on and on, showing you all of Ephesians 2 and Romans 8 and Colossians 1. In fact, I encourage you to look these passages up, to meditate on them, and to let their words fill you.
“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:15-18).
The result will be a thankful and joyful heart. Which of course means that others will see this life oozing out of us. Isn’t that what we were wanting?