In the Gospel of John, the Lord Jesus made a pretty remarkable statement. After describing the purposes of our enemy who exist to steal, kill and destroy, He says that in contrast He comes to give life. Actually, He said He came to give life in abundance.
I became a Christian as a teenager but I didn’t get serious about my walk with Christ until I was twenty. The last 17 years have been a journey, to say the least. There have been plenty of spiritual highs and lows. There have been occasions in which I’ve walked with such faith that I was ready to charge Hell with a water gun and I’ve had some moments where I was filled with so much doubt that I was sent into a downward cycle of despair.
I can say that today, by the grace of God, the spiritual roller coaster I’ve been riding for nearly twenty years has leveled out a bit. Of course, I’ve not “arrived” and have much, much growing yet to do but I can say that I’ve found at least a measure of the God-promised abundance that seemed so elusive for so long.
Aside from the obvious spiritual disciplines that are essential in living a life of abundance such as Bible reading and meditation, corporate and private worship, prayer, etc…there are a few practical things I have intentionally worked into my life that I believe, have served to usher in the promise that Jesus made in John 10:10.
- I Loosened Up! In my roller coaster days, I didn’t laugh very often. In fact, I had a hard time enjoying myself at all. I chalk that up to two things…first, a underdeveloped theology (my view of God as an angry old man who was ready to throw a lightning bolt on anyone who was enjoying life wasn’t very helpful) and secondly, my own misguided preoccupation with the perception people had of me (I wanted to appear like I had it all together, all the time). Neither of these things would lean me into the direction of abundance. Today, I laugh a lot. I don’t feel guilty about enjoying the good things that God has given me. I now view God as a loving Father who gives THE BEST gifts and delights in blessing His children and I’m also content with people knowing that I’m not perfect and still drive the struggle bus occasionally.
- I’ve Forsaken Superficial Relationships. Early on in ministry, I received some really terrible advice from a Pastor who’d been at it for a while. He told me that I really needed to keep my guard up in regards to the people I served. He explained that sheep bite (I’m sure he had some scars) and that I’d be wise to keep others at an arm’s length or risk being wounded. Seemed to make sense, so I went with it. In turn, the only in-depth relationships that I had were with my wife, kiddos and a few family members and even those lacked an honest vulnerability. This was a terrible, terrible mistake that led me to become an overly cautious, always questioning motives, constantly looking over my shoulder kind of person with nothing but surface relationships. A few years ago, the pride that led me to believe that I could do life like this was crushed and my life has been enriched because of it. Today, I push back against the idea that I don’t need these honest, open and deep friendships. I’ve got a big circle, I invest myself deeply in others and they in me. Have I been wounded in the process? You bet. Real friendship is hard and it’s sometimes messy but it’s so worth it.
- I’ve Stretched Myself. The skin that God made for me and then put me in is one that really likes routine and predictability. Nothing wrong with that. It’s just the way I am hard-wired. It becomes a problem, however, when I get “comfortable”. Several years ago, I noticed that I’d reached that place of “comfort” (very different that contentment, by the way) and I needed to make some changes. Let me explain what I mean this way: Growing up, I was a picky eater. I had a staple of this and that for my menu and dared not stray from these things. Poor mom. I just always ate what I always ate with no exceptions. I wouldn’t dare try anything outside of my routine, outside of what I was comfortable with. Now, there was nothing really wrong with what I did eat but my menu was, well, boring. It wasn’t until I reached my twenties when I ventured outside of my menu. My wife, Annette, wanted to go to a Mexican place (I’d been before but had only ordered chicken strips and fries…told you…boring). Yet on this day I had a wild hair and ordered something that I couldn’t pronounce. With fear and trembling I brought the sure-to-be-terrible morsel to my mouth and WAS BLOWN AWAY! What a dummy! What have I been missing all these years?! Today, my diet is about as routine and predictable as an abstract painting. In fact, though we rarely go out to eat, when we do it’s never a chain restaurant (boring) and my practice is to never order the same thing twice so that I’m constantly trying something new. I hate to say it but my life looked much the same for a long time. Boring, predictable, routine. There’s nothing abundant about that! I decided to go on that mission trip, build a bridge with that person who’s not like me, step out of my comfort zone, experience new things, cultures and causes. That’s where abundance is.
- I’ve Stopped Taking Good Health For Granted. Thankfully, I’ve always been fairly healthy. There have been a couple of seasons of life where I’ve dropped the ball but all in all, I’ve taken decent care of myself. I’ve always assumed good health more than worked for it. In January of this year, my dad passed away. He’d had lots of health issues through the years that certainly contributed to his passing at a fairly early age but ultimately it seems as though his heart simply failed. Heart problems are prevalent in the fam. Some of it hereditary, some of it a lack of exercise and poor nutritional choices. All of it…effects me. Low and behold, at a recent check up, I found that my cholesterol is too high. Pair that with my family history, super stressful occupation and it’s a recipe for disaster. I cannot take my good health for granted any longer. I believe that this is also a spiritual issue. Our health is a gift and believers are called to be “good stewards” of all the gifts we’ve received. I call it “Temple care” (our bodies are Temples of the Spirit). This of course means more than maintaining good physical health. Temple Care also includes striving for great spiritual, mental, emotional and relational health as well. Make no mistake, all of these are tied together! I can say with all sincerity that as I’ve become intentional about these things, abundance has followed! I’m not going to burden you with details concerning what I’ve done to improve overall health here but I’d gladly answer any questions you may have if you just shoot me a message.
- I Celebrate Every Win. This has been a BIG deal. Personally, it used to be hard for me to become excited about anything because I had developed a really pessimistic attitude, always waiting on the other shoe to drop. Every victory was followed by a “yeah, but…”. When it came to celebrating the wins of other people in my life, it was even worse. I had great difficulty rooting for someone else because it took the shine off of me. That’s no way to live. Somewhere along the line I learned that personal victories were opportunities to throw a dang party of praise to the God who made it all possible. Big things, small things….celebrate! I also learned that part of my purpose in this life is to cheer on others not view them as competition. No candle has ever lost its flame by lighting another! This purposeful practice has been a catalyst for joy and abundance!
BONUS: I No Longer Major On Minors. This PLAGUED me for the first several years of my walk. It hurt my testimony, fractured relationships and caused me to be a bitter, cynical, jaded person and an ineffective leader. I had some personal preferences and opinions on secondary things that I had written the word ESSENTIAL on. I was an argument looking for a place to happen and viewed anyone and anything who didn’t see these secondary things exactly as I did as hapless fools. Turns out, I was the foolish one. Pride will kill you, y’all. Today I’m fixated on what matters and not on small matters. Life is too short to stay “up in arms” about things that won’t matter eternally…so I don’t. I hold on to principles very tightly and to preferences very loosely. This has CHANGED me. It’s brought about abundance!