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Abundant Life

     I recall an old commercial from my youth.  Three friends are lazily fishing in a boat on a placid lake, enjoying the last rays of a beautiful sunset. As a tagline at the end of the commercial, one of the guys say, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” Throughout history, men have sought to do more than merely survive. People want to live well. We want to get the most out of the few days we have here on the earth. How do we do that?

     Men have come up with many ideas of what makes for a full, joyous life. They have pursued wealth, power, and fame. They have looked for happiness and satisfaction in human relationships, love, and family. They have sought joy and peace in the beauty of God’s creation, and outdoor recreation (like the men on the boat in old commercial). Many have also chased it in pursuits of fleshly pleasure, alcohol, drugs, and other forms of dissipation. Sadly, many of our efforts to improve our lives can be selfish, unfulfilling,and ultimately destructive. However, God knows what is best for us and what makes for a great life. It is only when we are constrained by God’s will and His wisdom that we can live life to the fullest.

     Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).  It is certainly true that God’s will has enormous potential to improve life on this Earth. What if everyone submitted to God’s will from the heart? There would be no crime. There would be no need to lock your doors at night. Children could play in the neighborhood knowing that everyone in the neighborhood would watch out from them. There would be no racism, bigotry, or class warfare. The needy would be taken care of and there would be none to abuse the charity of others. Not only would there be no murder, there would be no animosity or hatred. There would be no divorce or infidelity. All would conduct themselves with discretion, purity, modesty, and chastity. Everywhere you went and with everyone you met you would encounter pure, sincere love. All would be treated with courtesy, kindness, and respect. And the singing on the Lord’s Day would be incredible! It would be close to heaven on earth. If you want that kind of world, you need to live as a citizen of that world. Every soul who submits to God takes our society one step closer to what it could be.

     While it is true that living by God’s standards can improve earthly life, I don’t think that is what Jesus is talking about in John 10:10. The life Jesus gives is abundant in quality and quantity. He gives eternal life in heaven.

     In fact, the New Testament clearly teaches that our focus needs to be on the life to come. Scripture often calls on us to sacrifice comforts and joys now, to secure the blessings of eternal life later. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:11). But those persecutions are nothing compared to glories of eternal life in heaven. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Paul considered all the sufferings he endured as a preacher of the gospel to be light and momentary -- insignificant -- compared to the eternal reward he was looking forward to. No suffering or personal sacrifice is comparable to the reward of the faithful.

     In the same way, the greatest joys of this life are not comparable either. The greatest joys of your life -- the halcyon days of youth, your wedding day, the birth of your first child, the time you scored that hole-in-one, that perfect summer afternoon fishing idly in a boat with your friends -- none of them, nor all of them put together, are worthy to be compared to the joys of heaven. Despite the assertion of our friends on the boat, it does get better. It gets much, much better than this.

Patrick Gaughan