This shorter reflection was part of a family service which had focused on the raising of Lazarus.
The raising of Lazarus shows Jesus’ power over death. It is an example of Jesus giving life.
Lazarus would die again. But on the basis of his faith in Jesus, we can assume that he would also have eternal life – the life made possible by Jesus resurrection and defeat of death. The prospect of eternal life is fantastic.
But what about now? Is life to be miserable now and fantastic later? Well, Jesus also promised an abundant life now. What does that look like?
John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
What is this life that Jesus gives – this full and abundant life? Are the Christians you know living this abundant life? Are you? How can we?
Satan messes up people’s lives. He promises much… “Life will be better if you do this. You will be happier if you do this. Why should you have to sacrifice? Enjoy yourself.” But the end result is always misery. He literally robs, kills and destroys – robs us of happiness, sometimes literally kills people, destroys lives and relationships.
Satan impoverishes our lives. But Jesus promised to enrich our lives with overflowing abundance.
Here’s a question: What does God make available to only Christians and to all Christians? It has to be only to Christians because this abundant life is found in Jesus. And it has to be available to all Christians because this is something Jesus promised. It cannot be for just some. What do you think?
We might think of abundance in terms of material wealth or of ease – floating lazily on the sea in a tropical island paradise.
But for some people becoming a Christian means persecution. Some have all their possessions taken from them as soon as they become Christians. Some are brutally treated and maybe killed. Does that mean that the very bravest of Christians do not receive God’s promises and only the affluent and comfortable do? How can we say that the life of the Syrian or Sudanese Christian is abundant? If people can lose everything they own and suffer beatings and humiliation, how is that abundant?
I think there are answers throughout the Bible but I realised a good place to start was the Beatitudes. There Jesus says, “Blessed (or happy) are those who…” and it is not the rich and famous. It is those who know their need, who are gentle, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, who are merciful, who are pure in heart, who are peacemakers, who are persecuted. What are the blessings promised to them?
Jesus lists 8 blessings:
- the Kingdom of heaven.
- The greatest blessing, the greatest wealth we can possibly hope for is heaven – God’s perfect, blissful new creation. We don’t experience that just yet of course but we can have a certainty about it. The expectation we have is a life-changing blessing.
- Our circumstances might be excruciatingly painful but Jesus promises His people comfort. Even in the midst of turmoil, Christians rich and poor can know the peace that passes understanding. The person who has peace, knowing that he/she is loved, and cared for, by God, is rich.
- Inheriting the earth.
- That is a bit tricky and we don’t have time for a more careful look. Let’s just say that while it looks like the powerful rule the earth, Jesus is saying that the meek will inherit everything – will own all things.
- Will be filled.
- No lack, no emptiness, no longing, no regrets, full. It reminds me of David, in Psalm 23, saying, “My cup overflows. I have a superabundance of blessings.”
- God forgives. Mercy stands in contrast to judgement. The person who messes up but is forgiven by God is rich indeed.
- Seeing God.
- Wow! What a privilege to be in the presence of God Himself and to be welcomed there and loved there. There will be nothing to compare with seeing God. Would you rather have several billion dollars or see God? Who is richer?
God is so unbelievably awesome that to see Him will be the greatest experience.
- Being children of God.
- The God of all the universe – the God enthroned in heaven – says to the Christian, “You are my child. We are family. Oh I love you and I will protect you like a dad protects his children and I will give you good things just as a dad wants good things, and a bright future for his children.” The person who is a child of God is rich beyond measure.
- Great reward.
That list covers things like peace, hope confidence, being loved…
Can I quickly suggest a few more?
- The Holy Spirit.
- The Holy Spirit is God with us. God’s greatest gift, available to all Christians, is His presence.
- Significance, meaning, worth, purpose.
- What makes life worthwhile? People can pursue money or pleasure but, in the end, what will it amount to? The person who dies with the most toys still dies. Will God be impressed by fast cars or the number of romantic relationships?
But Jesus said, “I have chosen you to bear fruit that will last [for eternity.]” Now that gives life meaning. We can work for God and do things that will really have significance – eternal significance. If you lead another person to faith in Jesus, that is significant.
- The blessing of giving.
- Our first thought might be that an abundant life is about what we receive but Jesus said it is more blessed to give.
- The adventure of faith.
- I’m talking about living on the edge – actually trusting God for the things only He can do, and seeing Him do them. People who are obediently stepping out in faith see God. They see God at work. They see God’s power. They might also be killed for that faith but they die experiencing the reality of God. That person is rich.
It seems to me that those things are available only to Christians but they are available to all Christians. The Syrian or Sudanese Christian can know all of those things. Maybe they are more likely to than western Christians.
I say these things are “available” because not all Christians are living the abundant life. In fact, many Christians are living very boring lives. It is as we show mercy, as we make peace, when we are meek and poor in spirit, as we give and obey and bear fruit; it is as we serve that we experience the abundance Jesus gives.