Introduction: The Problem
A report on the BBC caught my attention this week, it stated that as a nation we are getting unhappier, Briton is now ranked only the 9th happiest country out of 15 EU nations. At the top of the league table are the Danish, Finish and Irish, and the least happy people in Europe are rather surprisingly the Italians. Clearly there is an issue here that needs to be addressed. The proportion of people in Britain saying they are 'very happy' is just 36% today, compared to 52% in 1957.
Why is it that as a nation we are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with life, when in many ways we have never had it so good? We have more disposable income than ever before; we are living longer and are healthier than we’ve ever been. But yet there are many unhappy and dissatisfied people in our world. How can we discover true happiness and freedom in life? People are searching for the answer to this question in many different places.
Leo Tolstoy, author of War and Peace wrote a book called A Confession, in which he tells the story of his search for meaning and purpose in life. He describes how he rejected Christianity as a child. As he went through life he became very ambitiuous. First of all, he thought pleasure was the answer. Having a great time. He entered the social world of Moscow and Petersburg, drinking heavily, sleeping around, gambling and leading a wild life. But it did not satisfy him. He then thought maybe money was the answer. He had inherited an estate and made a large amount of money out of his books. Yet that did not satisfy him either. He then sought success, fame and importance. But still he said, it didn’t satisfy. Then he thought, maybe the answer is family life, to give his family the best possible life. He married in 1862 and had a kind, loving wife and thirteen children. He had achieved all his ambitions and was surrounded by what appeared to be complete happiness. And yet one question brought him to the verge of suicide: ‘What meaning has my life that the inevitability of death does not destroy?’ He searched for the answer in every field of science and philosophy, but without satisfaction. Eventually he found that the peasant people of Russia had the answer he had been looking for, in their faith in God through Jesus Christ.
Jesus said “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
So what does full or abundant life, look like? The Greek word that we translate as ‘full’ or ‘abundantly’ is perissos – which means ‘more than sufficient’ or ‘over & above what is required’. It can also mean 'out of the ordinary', or 'superior'. So the life Jesus offers us something totally extraordinary, quite unlike anything else we can experience. A life of completeness, fulfilment and joy.
Jesus said, "I have come, that they may have life, and have it to the full." What God desires, is for his children to live a life full of happiness, peace, and a genuine friendship with God. Paul in Galatians writes about the fruit of the spirit being love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22), to this we could also add purity, humility, modesty, faith, character, wisdom, enthusiasm, dignity, optimism, confidence, and honesty. This is the life that Jesus offers us, this is what it means to have life in all its fullness.
Money can’t buy abundant life
The abundant life that Jesus offers us, is life full of all the things money can’t buy. No matter how much money you have, you can not buy more patience, peace, joy, love or self-control. These things come from God, who is the giver of all good things. The Bible says, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change..." (James 1:17). All we need to do is ask God for these gifts.
The "abundant life" is free from the things that are bad for us.
Just as love, joy, peace, self control are marks of the abundant life, so the opposite to that is selfishness, hatred, lust, unforgiveness, envy, jealousy, fear, drunkenness, sexual immorality, discord, anger, dishonesty, greed, gossipping, slander, pessimism and despair.
The more these negative qualities are a part of a person’s behaviour, the further they are from the abundant life God wants them to experience. But the good news is that God can remove all of these negative characteristics from a person’s life. God is greater than our sins, by his grace and mercy we can be set free from these harmful habits that prevent us living life in all its fullness.
If we struggle for example with a hot temper, it’s no longer an excuse to say, "This is who I am and I
can’t change that." God can change us, if we open our selves up to the power of his holy spirit to change and transform us into the people we were created to be. God is inviting you to experience an "Abundant Life".
It is God’s desire that as his children we discover happiness and satisfaction in life. But unfortunately, many Christians are still missing out on the abundant life. Perhaps, they do not believe that such a life is truly available to them. Notice in John 10:10 that Jesus did not say, "I come that (some) may have life to the full". We are all invited to discover abundant living. It is available to all God’s children, no matter what their circumstances are in life.
Many assume the abundant life depends on circumstances, or fate or luck, or their bank account, or their status in life, or their health. But wealth, power, status, and worldly pleasure have nothing to do with living the abundant life.
Abundant life is not:
1. It is not necessarily a life of comfort and ease.
2. It is not dependent on outside circumstances, but more on how we respond to circumstances
3. It is not necessarily obtained quickly. It may take time for us to experience abundant life, because it is a process that often takes time. For example, a person who is 100 lbs. over-weight may take longer to reach their ideal weight than someone who is only 10 lbs. over-weight. Nevertheless, they still can achieve their goal, even if it takes longer. In the same way, the process for some people to obtain life in all its abundance may take longer because some people carry around a little more "spiritual baggage" than others.
How can we know if we are living life in its abundance?
A good description of Abundant living is when:
1. We learn to live each day in the light of Christ.
2. When we can look back on the past, without it ruling the present.
3. You are filled with faith, hope, and love, and live without anger, greed, guilt, envy, or thoughts of revenge.
4. You are secure in who you are, so you are at peace with God.
5 You love the unlovable, give hope to the hopeless, friendship to the friendless, and encouragement to the discouraged.
6. You can look back in forgiveness, and forward in hope, with gratitude to God.
7. You recognize, develop, and use your God-given physical, mental, and spiritual abilities to the glory of God and for the benefit of mankind.
How to receive this "Abundant Life".
There is not a magic formula. God graciously gives it to all who seek it. "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives, he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened," Matthew 7:7-9.Jesus said "If you...know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him," Matt. 7:11.If we have said “yes” to Jesus, then we have already received eternal life, and so to receive “abundant life” all we need to do is ask God to help us grow into the fullness of life that he others us. Jesus said, "Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours," Mark 11:24. "I have come that you may have life to the full".
Monday, April 14, 2008
Introduction: The Problem