Last night my wife and I went to a friend’s surprise birthday party. It was a fun time of celebrating her life, but also of meeting her friends, most of whom we don’t know. As we went around the room meeting people, my friend kept introducing me as her pastor - and the response I got was how it is with most folks who meet a “man of the cloth” for the first time: conversations change or stop altogether, handshakes are nervous, I’m offered water to drink - rather than any of the alcohol being served, and people try to escape as quickly as possible.
It’s a funny response that I’ve encountered ever since I went in to full-time ministry. And I actually understand it, because if you're not active in a church, then the likelihood of you being around a minister is limited to weddings and funerals. So I’m sure that unfamiliarity makes folks feel a bit awkward when they do actually encounter a pastor. And I don’t think it's just me that they're uncomfortable with, I think they're also uncomfortable being around the whole “God thing”. I think that when most people think of a life dedicated to God, they picture a life full of rules and regulations and misery. So when they get around ministers, they feel this need to tone it down a bit, and act somber and respectful.
What these folks are missing out on is the fact that a life dedicated to God is anything but a life of misery. Instead, it's a joyful life because it's a life that's lived for God. And it's exactly what God had in mind for us when He sent His Son to this earth. Listen to how Jesus describes it in John 10:10, where He says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” In these verses Jesus shows us clearly that He not only promises us life beyond the grave, but He promises us a life on this earth that's worth living. As a matter of fact, He describes it as an “abundant” life.
So where does that abundance come from? It's in the rich comfort and wisdom of His Word to us. It's in the deep, spiritual connection that comes when we open our hearts in prayer. It's in the peace that truly does pass understanding as we walk through the trials of life. It's in the authentic relationships that are developed as we live out our faith with other believers. And it's in the joy and hope we find as we lift our voices in praise. Folks, THAT’s an abundant life!
The key of course is that we have to choose to live for God, because it's only when we're connected to Him that we can experience all He has for us. And that brings us to the fundamental choice we have in life: Will we choose to live the right way, or the wrong way? In Matthew chapter 7, Jesus beautifully describes the choice we have to make when He tells us that there are two paths we can take - the narrow path that leads to life, or the broad one that leads to destruction. And it's in this choice that we will determine whether or not we have a life of abundance in God, or a life of sin and misery.
The reality is that we all have people around us who need to experience the abundant life that only Christ offers. And one of the best ways we can show them what it looks like is to live it out ourselves. So today, let's all ask God to help us commit to choosing to live for Him each and every day. Let's ask Him to help us sink our roots deep into His word, to seek Him out in prayer, to strengthen our relationships with other believers, and to lift our voices in praise to Him every chance we get. Let's ask God to help us show the world the abundant life that only He can give.