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Abundant life in loss

November 12, 2018

I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10).

 

It can be hard to reconcile an abundant life that is attached to a world with so much loss. How do you find hope in hospice? Or in Thousand Oaks? Or in human trafficking? Or in families torn apart?

 

Where is the peace in the midst of our panic?

 

Yet Jesus assures us in John 10:10 that He came for the purpose of bringing us life, in both the present and the eternal.

 

Because Jesus is the originator of life, the firstborn over all creation and the firstborn raised from the dead to eternal life, He can make this promise (Colossians 1:15, Revelation 1:5). He can freely give life, or a job or home or our health, but can also freely take it away as He works all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

 

We either believe this or we don’t.

 

Jesus, we believe. Help our unbelief (Mark 9:24).

 

His purpose to give us abundant life doesn’t insulate us from scarcity or hardship. In fact, Jesus told us that we would have trouble in this world but to have courage because He has overcome it all (John 16:33).

 

Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer before entering into His glory (Luke 24:26, Matthew 16:21)? Our suffering is never just about us.

 

In a world where we wake and sleep to a 24-hour news cycle of mass shootings, natural disasters, war-torn countries and every other devastating loss in between, what is the abundant life in Christ and how do we take hold of it?

 

How do we live in the tension of the suffering and the conquering about which Jesus speaks?

 

Through His Word, Jesus, the Word who became flesh and lived out Scripture perfectly, tells us how to live life to the full in every season we will face. He tells us how He can turn our sadness into constant joy. And it's so different than what we've been conditioned to expect. 

 

If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it(Luke 17:33).

 

This paradoxical statement can be puzzling to us comfort seekers. How do we gain something in abundance that we are asked to give away? 

 

We look to Scripture for the true definition of abundance and it isn't what the world tells us.

 

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the humble, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are the hungry and thirsty, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful … the pure in heart … the peacemakers …

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs" (Matthew 5:3-10).

 

How can we be blessed when we are being beaten, bruised and battered by this life?

 

The dichotomy is, the more we humble ourselves, hunger for Him and hand over our personal “rights” to the God who gave them to us, the more we will take up His kingdom. The more we are poured out, the more we can be filled up by His Holy Spirit.

 

The more we abandon the life we think we deserve, the more we can attain the abundant life that Jesus gives.

 

But in the thick of it, we often don’t beg to be filled but to be fixed. We white-knuckle the trial like a wild, off-road mountain trail, clinching our teeth until it’s over.

 

Does the doxology we chant ring hollow in the midst of our horrors?

 

Praise, God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

 

Or does it echo the unifying truth of the universe, that God Himself is the abundance?

 

They are filled from the abundance of your house. You let them drink from your refreshing stream. For the wellspring of life is with you. By means of your light we see light” (Psalm 36:8-9).

 

Does worship coddle our weary souls, or does it push back the darkness to flood us with His life-giving Light?

 

When wildfires ravage us, can we still burn with joy because our paradise isn’t on earth but in the Person of Christ?

 

Is it possible to crave the abiding presence of Jesus more than the temporal comforts of this world?

 

Paul declares it so:

 

But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (Philippians 3:7-8).

 

The Bible tells us there is a surpassing value – exceeding and exceptional - in intimately knowing Jesus. That means that communing with Christ beats anything that threatens to beat you. The deeper we press into Him, the more the world’s luster will wear off and the more of Christ we will put on. This value is greater than any prayer He could answer, any tragedy He could prevent, any healing He could bring.  

 

The One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (I John 4:4).

 

In a faith where peace is inexplicably promised in the face of fear, comfort in the bowels of suffering, joy in the midst of affliction, the abundant life is simply and gloriously gaining more of Jesus.

 

Can we say with Paul that our greatest goal is “to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings,” so that we too will have life to the full (Philippians 3:10-11)?

 

Are we seeking sanctuary in the prosthetics of possessions and solutions, away from the sirens that scream of our sorrows, or in the Savior who saves and seals and sanctifies us?

 

Taking hold of the abundant life means taking hold of the One who has taken hold of you.

 

Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12).

 

How do you find hope in the things of hell? In the name and person of Jesus Christ, knowing that in His death He descended to the depths of hell and defeated it.

 

If that disappoints or even devastates you, because your prayer isn't being answered or your expectations aren't being met or it just honestly doesn't seem like enough right now, hurl yourself to the cross and let His kindness bring you to confession.

 

Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4).

 

Jesus, we believe. Help our unbelief.

 

In your doubt and despair, Jesus will welcome you with all that He has, and it will be more than enough.

 

An abundant life defined by children in the Western world might include a bounty of TV, junk food and toys with no chores or rules or doctor’s appointments. As guardians, we know a lack of boundaries and discipline would result in discomfort and even life-threatening dangers.

 

Yet, we too often associate the abundant life with wealth, possessions, health and happiness.

 

Aren’t we all pilgrims seeking the cornucopia? We are #blessed but don’t realize the things we think are blessing us could be the very things numbing us to our need for Christ.   

 

Are our brothers and sisters who struggle to make ends meet or who endure a disability not also blessed if in Christ?

 

"The little that the righteous person has is better than the abundance of many wicked people"(Psalm 37:16).

 

The abundant life isn’t about more stuff or less problems but about experiencing more of Jesus.

 

Moses knew this when he stood in the wilderness, wedged between battles and obstinate Israelites, and asked God to show him His glory (Exodus 33:18). And all the goodness of the Lord passed in front of him.

 

But our flesh struggles under the weight of the world’s refrain for success and satisfaction. How can Jesus say that He came to this fallen world to give life to the full when life as we know it seems so empty?

 

Because Jesus gives of Himself abundantly.

 

He gives His faithful love abundantly.

 

He gives His forgiveness abundantly.

 

He gives His righteousness abundantly.

 

He gives His provision abundantly.

 

He gives His goodness abundantly, even when we would doubt it to be so.

 

He gives His compassion abundantly.

 

He gives His peace abundantly.

 

He gives His joy abundantly.

 

And indeed, He gives life abundantly.

 

Which part of the abundance of Christ do you need to let fill your soul today?

 

Release it all to Him. Your relationships. Your marriage. Your children. Your homes. Your finances. Your careers. Even your body and physical health. There is nothing that we deem off limits from Jesus.

 

Does that seem scary?

 

As a child, I can remember asking God to never take my mother from me. Growing up in a divorced home, I was riddled with fear of abandonment. As an adult and new mother, the unspoken agreement between Jesus and me for so long was just never take my child.

 

Yet, over the years, I’ve watched friends and family do the unthinkable in burying their own children.

 

Now, my deal making with the Lord could easily default to please don't take my husband, the father to our four young girls. And yet, I am praying right now for a sister at church who is in this very circumstance.

 

To live the abundant life of the Bible, I must come to the place where I daily lay these gifts at the feet of Jesus, no longer trying to hide them from the refining view of my Lord.

 

Yes, I pray a hedge of protection around our home. I pray for earthly healing for loved ones who are sick. I pray for blessing on our business, but I do it with open hands knowing that He is the Creator and Giver of the ones I hold so dear.

 

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done ...
” (Matthew 6:9-11).

 

God has written all our days in His book before a single one of them began. He knows the beginning, middle and end of our story, so we can trust Him with it (Psalm 139:16).

 

Not my will, Lord, but Yours be done.

 

This isn’t easy. I wrestle with my own weary soul. But I cling to the precious promise that Jesus gave, the promise that divides despair from hope:

 

I will never leave you or abandon you” (Hebrews 13:5).

 

Because don’t the feelings of forsakenness creep in when we are suffering? When we are mourning? When we are struggling in this shattered life?

 

I have to believe that God loves me, my family and friends, and strangers who are suffering when losses seem to surmount the gains.

 

We may not understand why God allows something to happen, why He doesn’t cure the disease or prevent the tragedy, but we can trust that it is part of a greater plan for our good and for His glory. We can trust that we will be kept by Him in the suffering as we are drawn closer to Him and made more like Him through it.

 

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life … nor any created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:18, 37-39).

 

Abide in Jesus and attain the abundant life He came to give.  

 

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