Why are so many people struggling to experience the abundant life Jesus promises?
I am fortunate to have opportunities to pray with and for people several times a week, especially if I am in tune with the Holy Spirit and I obey the nudges. A theme I have noticed a lot lately is found in John 10:10. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
As followers of Jesus we often prefer to emphasize the good stuff. Too often when we do that, we neglect the flip side of the good. What do I mean? More times than not, there is a cost to the good. There is also opposition to the good.
Recently, John 10:10 has come to mind often when I pray for people. First, I hear about the abundant life, then I sense the need to consider the context. The abundant life is a popular promise, that was given in the context of opposition. Somehow we tend to forget there is an enemy of our souls. One of his names is Thief.” Jesus tells us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” This Evil One works overtime to do anything to discourage us from following Jesus. His tactics are exactly as Jesus said: to steal, kill and destroy, not only material things, but joy, peace, hopes and dreams as well.
Before we go any farther, I am not saying the enemy is the only source of our misfortunes and lack of peace. There are also a fantastic array of temptations in the world, such as money and various forms of pleasure we might choose to rank above our love for our Creator and for our fellow humans. We call these temptations the “World.”
We also have free will to choose what we prioritize and focus on. Our choices definitely play a role in how abundant our life is. Who and what we pay most attention to, influences our choices. We call this the “Flesh.”
When I consider the suffering of people in the recent natural disasters my heart sinks. How one reacts to different forms of suffering that come our way, also affect our abundant life. Paul teaches us to, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thes. 5:18 [emphasis mine]
I believe our ability to thank and worship our Creator, in the middle of any kind of circumstance is key to living the abundant life… because it speaks of our interior lives. If our focus is on the goodness of the One who made us, the Good Shepherd as Jesus calls himself in John 10, then our satisfaction is not subject to situations and circumstances. We do not always have control over or circumstances. We do have control over ourselves and how we react.
What about the abundant life? I am not sure there is a clear-cut equation to living the abundant life. Accepting the love of our Creator offered to us through Jesus is, however, essential. Understanding that an abundant life is about loving God and the people around, us helps us to receive the love of God. “We love because he first loved us.” (1John 4:19) Being aware that the World, the Flesh and the Evil One all conspire against us is also a big help. But we have these promises to help keep us true:
Romans 8:37 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
So, try to not get distracted from the love of God. But when you do, and we all do, let Abba pick you up. Next, agree with Him about where you went awry, choose to not continue that way, accept His forgiveness and move along in joy and the abundant life. If you have been out of sync for a while, find a fellow believer, or several, to walk with you in rediscovering the Love of God.
Thank you for promising us an abundant life. Teach us how to receive your love, so freely offered. Help us to rest in the strength of your promises. And when we lose our focus on your love for us and others, for whatever reason, thank you in advance for bringing us back gently. Thank you that nothing can separate us from your perfect love! Amen