There have been many pamphlets and books written about this subject, but one glance at a current newspaper, magazine or TV show will convince even the most casual observer that abundant living is in short supply. I am not writing anything new, but maybe it is time to revisit what Scripture has to say about this subject.
Perhaps it would be good to start with a clarification of what we are talking about. Abundant living is not necessarily a life rich in material things, nor is it free from the trials and temptations of this world. It is a life that is filled with an unexplainable peace and joy that exists regardless of current situations. It isn’t a Pollyanna existence but a realistic approach to life that is filled with hope because regardless of what we are facing, we know that God is sovereign and He is ultimately in control. Nothing enters the life of His children that does not go by His throne first. He promises to never leave us nor forsake us, thus we never face anything alone. Thus Abundant living is a lifestyle and an attitude.
We are living in a time when life is fraught with stress and fear and too much anxiety. It is not what Jesus had in mind for His followers. The early church was in a situation much like the one we live in, but somehow they found the abundant life in the midst of persecution and death. What was their secret and is it available to us today? Let’s see.
Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door for the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. John 10:7-11
Jesus showed us the way to abundant living. In this passage we see some of the steps to arrive there. The very first one is to go in through the right door. Jesus is that door. He makes it very clear that there is no other way to find spiritual life except by accepting Him.
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6
We try many other ways today to find truth and life, but they only lead to dead-ends. Knowledge doesn’t guarantee abundant life, nor does power. Popularity or prestige are not the way either. The way is Christ. The way is simple but to continue in the way is not always easy. For abundant life requires commitment.
The simple prayer of faith opens the way to abundant life. It is acknowledging our hopeless state, our sinfulness and the pardon Jesus acquired for us by His shed blood at Calvary. It is asking Him to forgive our sin, cleanse our hearts and enter into a personal relationship with us. [See 1John 1:9] The way is simple, but as you can see not easy; for our pride and self determination get in the way of true repentance. Then there are our selfishness and sinful desires. We want to be saved, but we want to continue to live as we want. However, unless we enter through the shed blood of Christ we cannot have the abundant life. [See verses 7-9 of John 10]
The next thing that Jesus points out in this passage is the life He gives is not mediocre but it is the abundant life [See John 10:10] This is a life that is so full that it spills over onto others and blesses them even as we are blessed. It is past normal capacity so that we cannot contain it all ourselves.
A simple example is found at the grain market's booth. You come with a large basket to buy some grain. The grain man fills your basket but then he shakes it until the grain settles a bit and he can put some more in it. He continues this process until your basket is heaped up and as you pay for your grain and head back home, the overflow spills out because your basket cannot hold it all. That is exactly what Christ meant when He said He came to give us ‘more abundant life’. So why are we not enjoying this kind of living?
In him was life; and the life was the light of men. John 1:4
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 1John 1:1, 3-7
We first must have the Word of life dwelling in us; that is Jesus Christ in the form of the Holy Spirit. In other words, we must repent and be saved. Now we begin the journey and as we walk with Him in obedience to His Word, we begin to enjoy this abundant life. Notice that John tells us we must walk in the light as He is in the light. This light is the truth of God’s Word and the principles it teaches. This walk is one that we take because we love Him, not one we take because it is drudgery. If ye love me, keep my commandments. John 14:15 His rules are also simple, but like salvation they are not always easy to follow. What are His rules?
And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou planted not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. Deuteronomy 6:5-12
I underlined the first commandment for abundant living; God first always! I chose this passage from the Old Testament because even though Jesus said the same thing in the New Testament, I wanted you to see that God hasn’t changed nor does He place one set of rules on one people and a different set of rules on another. We are all the same in His eyes! Also, God gave us some guidelines to continue to put Him first. [I’ll get to that in a bit.]
And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
[See also Matthew 10:37 and Luke 10:27]
You will notice that this first commandment encompasses all our being. It takes our heart, soul mind and power. The heart represents the center of our being, our very life and lifestyle. Our love for God must permeate this core part of our being. Our soul is our passion and drive. We sometimes call this spirit. It is that part of us that keeps us going when the obstacles would stop us or defeat might cause us to quit. Our spirit gives us the drive or ability to keep going and to overcome.
There should be a burning desire to please God in all we say, think and do. Our mind controls all of us and that too must be centered on God otherwise we will find our thought life will be corrupted and it will stifle our abundant living. Our mind doesn’t work on emotions it looks at all the options and chooses the best course of action. Our mind should be ruled by logic and reasoning. It is deliberate choice regardless of feelings. Next comes our strength. That may be our physical abilities but it also includes our spiritual abilities. We should find that all we do is a love gift to God, be it drying dishes or closing a big business deal. If these areas of our life all belong to God and are an expression of our love for Him we will live a life that is pleasing in His sight and one that draws others to Him and the abundant life He offers.
Another reason I chose the Old Testament passage is the instruction and warning it contains. Too often we go to the New Testament and miss the whole picture. This first commandment not only includes our living, but it tells us to give instruction to our children as they are growing up so that they too may have an abundant life. I think it also means that we share the good things of God with new believers. They too are children in the faith and need the instruction of older Christians to grow and mature.
How often do I hear parents say that they will let their children decide what religion they will follow? It is frightening! Would you give a set of car keys to your child and tell them they can drive anyway they want? Or hand them money and let they choose how they will spend it? Whether they will bathe, or brush their teeth or go to school? Of course not, we want them to grow up healthy so we instruct them in good eating habits and personal hygiene.
We send them to school so that they can learn and be successful in the world. We instruct them in driving and teach them to obey the rules of the road so that they do not hurt themselves or someone else. How much more important that we teach them about God and His rules so that they not only have an abundant life here, but also go into eternity prepared.
In this passage you read regarding talking about God in the everyday tasks of life. Perhaps you wondered about the frontlets and door posts. We do the same thing when we put up pictures and plaques. We have the Bible in our homes today, which was not available in the Old Testament. People would have a verse or two written out by hand and they carried them around for the Scriptures were kept in the Tabernacle and available only to the priests. God knows we need daily reminders and that is what He is instructing in Deuteronomy.
Finally, God also knows that we tend to run to Him in times of calamity and distress, and forget Him when things are going our way. That is why He warned us to be sure to remember Him when we do begin to experience the abundant life. His desire is to continually bless us, but when we forget Him we keep Him from being able to bless us. Oswald Chambers expressed it as being in step with God.
Sometimes we run ahead, or we lag behind or we travel parallel to God’s way. It is in those times that we miss the blessings God has set aside specifically for us because we are not in step with Him or His plan for our life. We miss out on the abundant life. Gratitude is one thing we seem to have abandoned frequently. We are quick to complain about negative events, but often miss the mercies and blessings that are there regardless of circumstances.
And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. [verse 31]
The next part of keeping God’s commandments is the loving of neighbor. OUCH! You don’t know my neighbor you say. Or perhaps your neighbor is the person with whom you work. Your neighbor is every person who touches your life. This second commandment doesn’t mean you must embrace their lifestyle or agree with their philosophy or ideas. It means that you must treat them with respect and decency. You must practice good manners and common courtesy, something that is lost in today’s world. It is treating others the way you want to be treated. This includes teaching your children to be respectful and courteous to each other as well as all people.
Consider how our society has changed since we dropped calling teachers and those in authority or our elders by Mr., Mrs. or Miss? Everyone is called by their first name and thus we have destroyed any level of authority. Even calling a teacher Miss Sara is better than simply being called Sara by her students. That Miss gives her a higher station and a level of respect. Would we see less trouble in our schools if we reinstated this practice?
Not only have we abandoned titles, but we have dropped common courtesies such as please, and thank you. Holding doors and chairs for ladies and older folks. It does not negate equality to practice courtesy. But in doing away with courtesy we have lost the rich heritage and wisdom that comes with age and living.
Older people are pushed aside and put away and our youth has lost the benefit of learning from those that have lived many years. We have advanced technologically so quickly that we forget that many of our older folks remember when we didn’t have telephones, computers, or television. Some are still here that remember when electricity became available in homes as a norm.
The abundant life includes loving our neighbor as our self but it also includes being grateful for what we have received. Even as the warning that God gave the people of Israel that they not forget what they have received which they themselves did not plant or build. We too must be sure we include this in our teaching and practices if we want to enjoy the abundant life.
We now have the commandments to live by. Jesus said that if we follow these two we will fulfill all the rest. And if you stop and really think about it He was right as always. You will not lie, cheat, steal or any of the other commandments if you love God first and others as yourself. This is the next big step in living the abundant life.
The third step in living the abundant life is complete surrender. To many that sounds like they lose. But complete surrender does not take away who you are, nor does is take away your ability to choose. You actually gain. Complete surrender gives you access to all the power you need to live the abundant life you desire.
Let me put it this way, would you like a house that had electricity in only one room or one where the electrical power was available in every room? Of course that is a no brainer; you want it throughout your house. So why would you only allow the Holy Spirit to have access to only part of your life?
Many of us go through our Christian life with limited power because we don’t allow the Holy Spirit to work in every area of our life. It may be we are afraid of what He will ask of us. Perhaps we think we will lose something we don’t want to give up. But many times we hang onto rubbish when God wants to give us riches. Complete surrender opens all our life to the riches that are in Christ Jesus.
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:1,4
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Acts 2:38
These two verses tell us about the beginning of the work of the Holy Spirit among Christians. Christ had to return to heaven so that the Holy Spirit could come. Why you ask. Because Jesus could only be in one place at a time since He was confined in a physical body. But the Holy Spirit is a spirit and can be all places at all times. Thus, the Spirit of Christ is available to all who belong to the family of God. Plus, the Holy Spirit is in the world and He tempers the evil here. If He were to leave, our world would be thrown into utter chaos. [The work of the Holy Spirit is a whole other study.]
You need to notice that there are conditions to receiving the Holy Spirit and becoming ‘filled’ with the Holy Spirit. You receive the Holy Spirit in His entirety when you repent and accept the gift of salvation. However, though He takes up residence in your spiritual heart, He does not force Himself into any area of your life that He is not invited.
The early church was assembled together and were ‘with one accord’ when they were ‘filled’ with the Holy Spirit. I think that one accord was arriving at the place where they had decided that regardless of the consequences they would align themselves with Christ and His teaching. No more denials of not knowing Him or being labeled as one of His followers. Remember, to them it could mean death, even crucifixion as Christ had been. They had made up their minds, and that is the key to complete surrender. It is not emotional but a deliberate mind set.
For them, receiving the Holy Spirit included some amazing gifts, they spoke in foreign languages that they had never learned. The reason for this was that many were in Jerusalem from all over the known world at that time. They had come to celebrate Passover, and thus it was a perfect time to share the gospel that the Messiah had come, died and returned to heaven. This was the hope that they had been waiting for. With the gift of foreign language, the early church was able to reach all those who did not speak the Jewish language. [See Acts 2:5-12]
We will not necessarily receive the gift of foreign language when we become filled with the Holy Spirit, but we will receive all that we need to accomplish that which the Lord had ordained for us and our life. We will receive the ability to live the abundant life. We will receive the power to live above sin. We will receive the fruits of the Spirit. [See Galatians 5:22-25] These are just a few of the things that change in us when we become a Christian and when we surrender completely to His control.
A word about emotions here, choosing to follow Christ and becoming Spirit filled does not do away with our feelings. In fact, we become more sensitive. Our emotions are often times involuntary and so they should not dictate our actions.
God gave us these feelings for our benefit and protection. You see fear, anger and pain protect us from many forms of harm. Love, longing and compassion help us to reach out to others and enrich their lives and our own. But none of these feelings are the basis for our salvation or our walk with the Lord. They are the icing on the cake or the thorn with the rose.
Obedience and walking in the light is a choice of will. It is doing what we know is the right thing regardless of our feelings at the time. So don’t let your feelings cause you to doubt your commitment, just be sure your choices to obey are of your will and not you emotions.
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. Titus 3:5-8
Being filled with the Holy Spirit is an on-going process. Even as a well must be fed by a continual spring, so too our spirit must be constantly fed by the living water of the Holy Spirit. As we go through daily living and draw on the power of the Holy Spirit to maintain the abundant life, we need to be refilled by being faithful in our walk.
You need water to quench your thirst, as you use it up you need to replenishing your system. One glassful isn’t enough to sustain you for a whole day or week. When the weather is hot or our workload is greater than usual we need more water than at other times. We are given all the Holy Spirit, but sometimes life requires extra power to get through whatever we are facing. At those times the Holy Spirit gives us that extra power.
Even as electrical appliances need different amount of power to work, so it is with our spiritual life. The electrical outlet contains all the power you need to run a hairdryer or a night light. Each draws from the electrical source only what it needs to run efficiently and effectively.
If the outlet gave the night light the same surge as the hair dryer, the light would burn up. Likewise the dryer couldn’t run if it only received the wattage needed to run the night light. That is what we have in the Holy Spirit, all the power we need but only given us as we need it to live our abundant life according to our need at any one time.
If we were to cut the main cable of electrical power coming into our home, we would find we could not continue to draw on the outlets. Even so if we do not continue to walk faithfully, we cut ourselves off from the power of the Holy Spirit. Even as the electrical power is still available by reconnecting the main source, so too our spiritual power is never in short supply as long as we are connected to the main source.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
Abundant living is abiding in Christ and allowing Him and His Word to abide in us. It is choosing to follow His commandments regardless of our feelings. It is knowing that God will never fail us and we can depend on His Spirit to give us just what we need to live that abundant life. And it is a daily relationship that we keep current through reading the Bible, praying, and listening.
For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. 2Timothy 1:12
One last verse that I think gives us the keys to living the abundant life. Paul is writing to his spiritual son and he states how he is able to live the abundant life in spite of his physical condition. He states four decisions he has made that keep him steadfast and sure.
The first is the fact that he is not ashamed. The word ashamed has the synonyms of reluctant, unwilling, and uncomfortable. Paul has gotten to the place where he is dedicated to the cause of Christ, he has lost his reluctance. He is committed to following Christ no matter where he is led. He is a devoted follower of Christ and thus he loves to talk about the person of his devotion.
Next he knows in whom he had believed. This is a head as well as a heart knowledge. He has walked with Christ long enough to have experienced the abundant life and the faithfulness of Christ to meet Paul’s every need. He followed by choice in the beginning, but now his choice is enriched by experience. He knows that his faith in Christ is well placed. His belief has been solidified by the reality of the Holy Spirit and His power to not only save but maintain Paul both physically and spiritually.
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Romans 8:26
He is persuaded of Christ’s ability to keep. There is a total trust in the keeping power of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. This persuasion consists of an absolute trust that does not need understanding to rely on the faithfulness of God. The abundant life is one that has confidence that goes beyond seeing or human understanding. We can rest in the knowledge that God is sovereign and we win in the end. Sometimes the skirmishes don’t go the way we would like. Sometimes we fail God, but He never fails us. He is a redeemer that takes all things and makes 'good' an ultimate result. [See Romans 8:28]
Even when we fail, there is no need to stay down and defeated. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1John 1:9 In the proceeding verse John reminds us that we all sin. None of us get it right all the time, but Christ never intended us to stay there. He desires that we turn to Him immediately and allow Him to restore us to perfect fellowship with Him. It’s keeping attached to the main power.
However the keeping power of Christ is limited by ‘that which I have committed unto Him’. As stated earlier, the Holy Spirit only takes charge of those things that we place into His care and keeping. Paul is reminding Timothy that the choice is still Timothy’s even as it remains our choice. Christ can take care of everything that enters our life, but only as we give Him permission. That is why the abundant life is available to everyone, but not everyone enjoys the abundant life. Our free choice also decides how rich our abundant life is.
Paul says that there is security in those things that we have committed into the care of the Holy Spirit. He also makes it clear that we can take those things back into our own hands.
The Holy Spirit never destroys our free will, nor does He violate it. We always choose whether we will walk in the light or choose to follow our own foolishness. That is why the above verse says the Spirit knows our infirmities and asks for the things we need even when we don’t know what they are.
The Holy Spirit knows our heart’s desire and He acts according to our heart not our emotions or human failings. He knows our heart and sees what we truly desire not necessarily what we say or portray in our outward appearance.
Paul ends the declaration by saying that all that he knows and places in the care of the Holy Spirit is protected against whatever comes along. [‘Against that day’] We don’t know what will happen tomorrow or next week or maybe even in the next hour. God knows, and He will see that we are in His care and keeping regardless of what is to occur. That doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen to us. It means that God will be there to see that we come through those bad things victorious. It means that He will go with us no matter what lies ahead and we can be sure that we will never be alone.
I want to put something here for your consideration sometimes we face more than we need to because we do not turn to God at the first sign of trouble. We try to deal with it in our own strength and when all else fails we turn to Him. The abundant life is one where we turn to God at the first. We dump it all into His hands and then He is able to do all that He desires with the situation. That is why I keep reminding you that you have the ultimate choice as to the extent that the Holy Spirit controls and works in your life.
The abundant life is a lifestyle that is lived in a daily, intimate relationship with Christ. It is filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit as we invite Him into each event and situation. It is maintained as we walk with Him according to His commandments. It offers us all the benefits of being a child of the Most High God. It includes the responsibilities of that kinship. It is to be sought and maintained by us so that others may enjoy the overflow of our abundant life and they too can become heirs to it.