Spring has sprung and the world around me is teeming with new life, new growth, flowers, sunshine, and sounds of laughter from kids and grownups alike. As I bask in it, Jesus’ words from John 10:10 cross my mind, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that you may have life and have it abundantly.” I, like so many others, tend to feel like life is abundant when I’m in a happy place--I’m warm, comfortable, cared for, surrounded by people I love and who love me, have a clean and orderly house, have my financial needs met, have a nice savings buffer in case of emergencies, and have my health. But, if these things are really the source of abundant life what happens when we never experience them or they are threatened or disappear all together, as they so easily do? Does Jesus’ promise of abundant life disappear along with them? My answer: No, because the abundant life Jesus is talking about is not found in the things he gives or doesn’t give but rather in knowing him.
Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). In this verse, He reminds us that it is only in Him that we will find joy, life, and abundance. He is our happy place, our greatest gift. He wants us to know him and to receive his gift of abundant life. That’s why He came and died for us—to break the separation sin created between us and God and to make a way for us to know him and to be in relationship with him. Moreover, when we are connected to him, he promises to produce in us “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control” (Galatians 5:22-23). It is these gifts of himself that allow us to have abundant life that is not defined by our circumstances, but rather steadfast amidst our circumstances.
Paul, his disciple, understood this. He suffered much, giving up his wealth and status to tell others about the abundant life found in Jesus. His letters to the churches of the time are filled with joy, peace, contentment, and an overflowing of abundant life. Yet, many of them were penned within the confines of his cold, damp jail cell, where he suffered for sharing his faith. Paul’s happy place was found in God and no circumstance, no matter how difficult, or person, no matter how brutal, could steal away the abundant life that He found at the feet of his Savior. A recent comment from my son, Hutch, also makes me think that he understands this. When talking about heaven and our happy places, Hutch said his happy place will be walking with Jesus and eating cotton candy together. How beautiful that his picture of abundant life, his happy place, involves cotton candy (of course =-) but more importantly involves walking and talking with His Savior—experiencing life with Jesus by his side, filling him with an abundance of peace, joy, love, and contentment that will last long after the cotton candy is gone—that will last for eternity! May each of you also receive the gift of this abundant life, purchased for you by Jesus at a great price and stored up for you in heaven, “where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20).