by Raymonhd McAlister
November 2012

The last part of John 10:10 Jesus said, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."

Many people read that and think Jesus is saying that He wants you to have a trouble-free life with lots of money, a new car, big house, and maybe a boat or motorhome. If that is what Jesus meant, it sure didn't work out that way in the lives of the New Testament Christians.

I wonder if Peter and the other apostles considered it abundant life when they were beaten? I wonder if the deacon Stephen thought it was abundant life as he was being stoned to death? I wonder if the Apostle James regarded it abundant life when Herod had him killed with a sword?
The second most prominent person in the New Testament, right after Jesus, is the Apostle Paul. I wonder how his abundant life turned out? He didn't own a house or any land. He didn't have a loving wife and family with lots of grand-kids to spoil. As far as we know, he didn't even own a horse. He was beaten with 39 lashes with a leather whip, not once but five times. He was beaten with rods three times. He was stoned and left for dead. He walked many hundreds of miles. He wound up in jail and prison several times. He said he was often weary, in pain, sometimes hungry and thirsty, and sometimes cold. Doesn't sound much like abundant life to me.
According to tradition all of the apostles died martyr deaths except John who wound up in exile on an island. Hardly the abundant life we hear preached by some TV evangelists.

Our thoughts of abundant life have been mainly influenced by the good American life, not by the Bible. In America we have abundance and want more. If only we could get a little more, a bigger house, a newer car, a larger retirement fund, then we would have abundant life.

It is obvious from the Bible that material gain or a life free of problems and suffering is not what Jesus had in mind when he said, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." If not that then what? Let's see if we can figure it out.

When Peter and the other apostles were beaten, "they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name" (Acts 5:41). Strange that they could rejoice under such conditions. Apparently they had something that most Christians do not have today.

When the deacon Stephen was being stoned to death, he didn't curse and swear, but sweetly said, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge."It looks like he had something out of the ordinary to be able to do such a thing.

Nothing is said in the Bible about the circumstances of the Apostle James' death but tradition says, that James' calm demeanor at his trial sufficiently impressed one of his accusers as to convert him.
When Paul and Silas were thrown into prison after they had been beaten with rods (how is that for more abundant life?), "they prayed and sang praises unto God" (Acts 16:25). Get this picture, here they are in excruciating pain from the beating, sitting in the dark in what was probably a dungeon with their feet shackled in stocks. I would have been praying too, but I would have been saying, "Why me Lord? I don't understand! I tried to be faithful and serve You and look what it got me. Where are you when I really need you? Is this the more abundant life you spoke about?" Not Paul and Silas. They had an inward peace and joy that allowed them to sing praises to God in the midst of one of the worst possible conditions.

From these few examples it should be obvious to anyone that the "more abundant life" that Jesus spoke of has nothing to do with outward circumstances. It is all about an inward condition. In the midst of all their problems, they had something on the inside that was out of the ordinary.

I am often amused at TV preachers who promise people a trouble free life. Just send them some money or have greater faith and all of your problems will disappear. Quite the opposite is often true. When a person gets saved and surrenders his life to serve the Lord, things usually get worse. Paul's problems didn't start until he met the Lord.
The truth is, we Christians here in America today are probably the worst bunch in all of church history. (I certainly include myself in that number.) We have bought into the "American dream" and have become as self-centered as the unsaved world. We gripe and complain when things don't go our way and we feel we are suffering for Jesus when the air conditioning doesn't work. With us it is all about the external. We are a far cry from New Testament Christianity.

Jesus said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23). When you took up a cross you were not going on vacation, or hunting or fishing or even going to a ball game. The only place you were going was to death. There were no side trips and no detours. Jesus also said, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it" (Mark 8:35).

I digress, so let me get back to the subject. How can a person have the more abundant life that Jesus offered? This abundant life is not a life of ease, but a life of love, joy and peace whatever the outward circumstance may be. Love during the good times and love during the bad times. Joy during the good times and joy during the bad times. Peace during the good times and peace during the bad times.

We are told in Galatians 5:22, 23 that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self control. These qualities come with the filling of the Holy Spirit and we are only filled with the Holy Spirit as we empty ourselves.

Therefore, the abundant life comes as we deny ourselves, give up the things of the world and wholly dedicate ourselves to the Lord and His service.
We have the Holy Spirit indwelling us the instant we are saved. The problem is, the Holy Spirit doesn't have all of us.

That is why the Apostles, Stephen, James and Paul could have love, joy and peace while going through some very bad times. They had the filling of the Holy Spirit because they had first emptied themselves of themselves. They had life and they had it more abundantly!

The abundant life is a life surrendered to the Lord and giving yourself to a cause greater than yourself. Nothing is more satisfying than to lose yourself in a cause greater than yourself and there is no greater cause on earth than telling people about a Savior who loved them enough to die for them.