13 January, 2021

Came to give abundant life

Last Thursday night I went to bed feeling unsettled and with a weariness of soul that doesn't come from a busy day. When I'm feeling a bit off emotionally, I find it helpful to think through what's been going on to see if I can trace it back to a cause, usually I can. 

That night I listed off several reasons for feeling off: from the trivial—a bad ending in the book I'd just finished; to the more serious—global news with Tokyo's pending state of emergency and the horrid situation in Washington DC. And then on Friday morning I dragged myself out of bed with the outside thermometer flirting with 0˚C. When I pulled out my phone I soon discovered that my home city of Brisbane was suddenly going into a heavy lockdown for three days. Ah, my heart felt heavy.

Any thoughts we had that just changing the calendar over to a new year was going to fix all that was wrong with last year where quickly squashed, weren't they?

So, I'm going to begin my reflections on "come" this week. "Come" is something God does, but he also says it to us. In the coming months I'm planning to work my way through the book Come Closer by Jane Rubietta, especially looking at the fifteen verses she focusses on. 

The first chapter is called "Come for abundance", focusing on John 10:10: 

"I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (NASB/ESV).

Some other Bible translations say:

"have it [life] to the full" (NIV)

"have it in its fullest" (CEV)

"life that is full and good" (ERV)

The dictionary definition of abundant is "present in great quantity; more than adequate; over-sufficient".

"Abundant" is used in the Bible to describe God’s power (Ps. 147); his goodness (Ps. 31 & 145), mercy (Ps. 69),  and righteousness (Job 37). So God has more than adequate resources. The great news that the Bible tells us is that he wants to give us good things. And John 10:10 tells us he wants to give us abundant life.

This verse is in the middle of a passage where Jesus is talking to the Jews in metaphors. He's comparing himself to a shepherd and us to sheep. "I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me" (vs 14 ESV). He's talking about eternal life and how he would lay down his life for his flock so that they could have eternal life.

Interestingly the only other time "abundance" and "life" appear in the Bible (in the NIV and ESV) is Romans 5:17, which is also talking about Jesus' death in order to give us life:

For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

So I've been pondering—what is abundant life? Is it what happens when we're finally in heaven and living a perfect life? Or is it life now as well?

This verse has been misinterpreted as meaning that God will give us a perfect life here on earth. But that really isn't true. No one I know has a perfect life, and even if we were perfect, we still live in a messed up world and feel the pain that brings.

Tyndale New Testament Commentary says about the passage leading up to this verse: 

[God] does not offer them an extension of physical life nor an increase of material possessions, but the possibility, nay the certainty, of a life lived at a higher level in obedience to God’s will and reflecting His glory.

So, as we move without pause into the uncertainties of this new year, what do I do with my weariness of soul? What do I do with my impatience for all the storms that I'm facing (and the ones I don't know about yet)? How is God going to give me abundant life in the midst of that?

Actually, when I stop and think carefully, it's the storms that draw me closer to God and pulls me further away from my love of this earth. They make me lean into God and long for heaven. They also make me more sensitive to the needs of others around me.

The good gifts that God wants to give us are not so much the tangible things that we long for like "a plan for the next year" or "assurance that my boys are going to grow into useful members of society" or that "I won't get sick". But more like: patience to deal with the storms, humility so that when God does give me tangible gifts I can see their true source, and wisdom to deal with the situations that face me. He gives me peace—"But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace" (Ps. 37:11). He gives me love for other people and the ability to serve him with the gifts and abilities he's given.

So, God calls us to: "to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace" (Romans 8:6).

Do you see I've shifted in my thinking? This verse isn't about how I can grasp an abundant life in my own little hands. It is about the life that God's already giving me.

Abundant life is knowing that—"neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).

And with that certainty, I'm able to live my life to the fullest. Aren't you glad that Jesus came to this earth to give us abundant life?

No comments: