esus promises an abundant life and I think it fair to say that we all want it. Yet, we do not seem to know how to get it. What believer, one who has decided to give their heart to Christ, would deliberately choose a mediocre life, or a failed life? But how do we have an abundant life, and what really is abundance in life?
Psalm 23 describes God as being our personal "Shepherd." We think of it somewhat like the sign I spotted on a country church that said, "If God had a refrigerator, you would be his refrigerator magnet." Actually, it was more of a "used to be" country church for it was in "Growing Gwinnett County" where they paint mottos on water tanks that promise, "Come Experience the Good Life."
Is this all we have to do to have a happy life; just move to the suburbs? Maybe! Maybe not?
Tom Wages, Sr., who has had a funeral home in Lawrenceville for over fifty years and has watched his rural county become one of America's fastest growing, asked me as we rode together in the front seat of a hearse, "Preacher, what can we do to stop the killing of our teenagers in new cars bought by rich parents?"
Perhaps our trying to get to heaven through some false hope of the good life is like the folks in Jesus' day who had tried to enter through the wrong gate. He is the gatekeeper of the sheepfold. He is the one who can grant "eternal life," and the "abundant life."
In my mind abundance typically includes some degree of material sufficiency; yet, mammon can easily separate us from God as it becomes our main focus. Wealthy Christians have a tremendous responsibility to be good stewards, yet I have known many who have managed it well and maintained an abiding joy. Money is the root of all evil, or it can be a blessing. Mammon alone can never bring abundant life, as Jesus defines it.
Abundant living is primarily spiritual. The abundance in our souls can never be limited by physical blessings. Soulful abundance is always freedom from crippling worry. It includes an inner assurance of well being and safekeeping. Its source is not from our own doing. It cannot be achieved for it is always a gift from God. We do not find it as much as it seems to find us as we simply follow his leading. He always leads us to abundant life.
"He leads me in right paths for his name's sake. Even thought I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff- they comfort me." (Psalm 23)
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:10, NRSV)
It seems that Jesus' promise of an abundant life comes as we willingly follow his lead. This requires submission to the Almighty and admission that we are not as capable as we may have thought.
This may well be the problem for those of us who move to the suburbs and buy a chain saw, cut down trees and plant shrubs, kill weeds and sow grass, kill off ancient bugs and raise dogs and cats behind our fenced in "900's+" estate homes. We are our own gods and need no help, except from the occasional handyman. Sure, we honor Christ with our visits to his Church on stated occasions, but we have found our own good life and we are self-sufficient--- until Wages Funeral Home calls in the night, or when we come home from work and our spouse's lawyer has left a manila envelope on the kitchen table for our immediate attention.
We did not intend for it to end up this way but somehow we followed our own way instead of the Good Shepherd's way. Yet still, the Good News is that the Good Shepherd never loses track of his sheep and will seek and find us and give us another chance. In fact, it's the lost sheep that he seeks for the found ones are already safely in the fold.
Jesus aggressively seeks us, but our receiving another opportunity is conditioned by our willingness to receive it. "I came that they might have life " Our imagery is the Good Shepherd stretching his arm out to retrieve us from the precipice; however we have experienced human freedom enough to know that we can still run the other way.
As I recall from my Boy Scout days, we were taught that if we ever got lost in the woods (and on every hike it seemed that some kid got lost) we were supposed to not run frantically around, but were to get real quiet and listen. Granted it's hard for little lost boys, and self-sufficient Americans, to have any quiet time, but it's the beginning of finding our way back home. Once quiet, we could hear the Scout Master's familiar voice calling out to us. Naturally we would scream back. Soon we would hear the tramping through the woods of our fearless leader and the not so lost boys giggling along behind, and they seemed to us like Jesus and his angels coming to save us.
Jesus said that this is really why he came into the world, so that we might have, as Eugene Peterson translates, "a real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of." (Jn. 10:10, "The Message")
He wants to lead us to abundance and none of want to stay lost in the woods.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor