Yesterday’s message was one of my favorites Tom has ever preached. When I woke up this morning – stressed, discouraged, anxious – the core verse came to mind.
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. ~John 10:10
So what is an abundant life?
It’s one that is so engulfed with Christ that it shines brightly in spite of the darkness around it. It is characterized by the fruit of the Spirit (joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness self-control), and also by growth and an ability to move forward. An abundant life is one that knows God’s voice and follows his promptings. It is a life of witness and continual sharing of His grace and Good News. It’s a life of contentment and joy, fullness and peace.
It’s a life that is so over-flowing with Jesus, He can’t help but splash onto those around us.
There are so many challenges to living the abundant life God has for us, and I’m feeling so many of them today. I’m worried about Hanna’s back, which has been spasming for over a week now and is only barely made better by medication. My grandfather isn’t doing well, and we don’t know what this week will bring. We’re coming to an extra-busy time of year, compounded by Tom pastoring two churches. And we’re still struggling to figure out how best to help Caleb.
Some are personal. The excuses we make and the blame we place. The circumstances we’re in at the moment (that would be my whole big list up there!). The habits and bad attitudes we allow to grow without check. Anger, hurts and, perhaps most harmful, those roots of bitterness that take hold and strangle our closeness to God.
Some are corporate, or group-held. We can get selfish as a church body and cling to our personal preferences, ignoring God’s purpose. We hold to traditions when they’ve become out-dated and no longer culturally relevant. We gossip. And we are unwilling to change to better communicate God’s message to the unchurched. We put what is comfortable and preferable over moving forward God’s mission, and we’re watching churches die daily and the numbers of those who identify themselves as part of God’s family shrink.
And sometimes, the challenges are cultural. We live in a world where those fruits of the Spirit aren’t exactly promoted anymore. As a culture, it’s become okay to be selfish and to put ourselves first. Temptations abound and are promoted – from politicians that feel it’s okay to build little lie upon little lie to television shows that celebrate the very worst we have to offer.
So, how do we fight those challenges?
Today, I’m focusing on the ones I can control the most easily and impact me most directly: I’m trying to recognize the excuses – so myriad – as they come and renounce them. I’m working hard to take every thought captive, and seek God first before I give in so easily to despair. I recognize that while I can’t control the circumstances I face this week, God does.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say that when we choose to follow Jesus, our lives will be easier. It also doesn’t say that we’ll have perfect health, find worldly riches or that we’ll magically be transported to a world with no pain, no stress and no struggles. Even through the worst of that, we can live the full and abundant life God has for us.
Today, I’m choosing abundance.