Sunday, September 03, 2006

Abundant life

I ran into this phrase recently in a way that made me pause about what it means. I've been familiar with churches using this name for some time, both those related to the Church of God and those that are non-denominational. Google yields mostly those churches, but also a few sites where people are giving their take on what "abundant life" means. Some were preaching a prosperity gospel. Some were saying that life with God is easier than without Him or quantitatively better. I suppose if the author of John knew this choice of word in John 10:10 would have such a following now, he might have expanded on what sort of abundance Jesus meant here.

I wound up looking up the Greek word in John 10:10 in Strong's Lexicon. It can mean either a qualitative or quantitative abundance. With that, I say to myself that it is hopeless to know exactly what John 10:10 means beyond being some good thing.

So much of the Bible is in fact ambiguous to this degree or more. Traditionalists have found a narrow way to put it all together, but is that God's narrow way or an idol? And that's not looking at places where the Bible is simply wrong, such as the order of creation in Genesis 1.

There are many verses that lit up for me during the years that I followed a schedule to read my Bible in full each year. Some of Paul's did that. The passage in the gospels about Jesus praying the night before His crucifixion hit me at one point much more personally than it had before. Each of the synoptic gospels describes this, but the words I remember are from Luke 22:42, "... not my will, but Yours ..." There are a number of intellectual points that can be made about Jesus and the Father being of different minds on this. I suppose they would occur to me regularly as I read this, but more important is this more personal issue - would I say that? It was when I could say "yes" to that question that the meaning of this passage hit me fully. I knew by then why I trusted God's will more than mine. I have areas of incompetence. God may, too, but He's better than I am. And I am convinced that God is love, that I have nothing to fear from Him. Whatever is involved, I started regularly praying that and meaning it at that time.

I've shared about this at times, on message boards and otherwise, how "not my will, but Yours" is a regular prayer of mine. I remember a Catholic woman who said she did that, too. Unfortunately more memorable were those who thought I was full of it. They could come from anywhere across the religious spectrum, conservative, liberal, or atheist. I suppose if atheists think my prayer life is all invention, it stands to reason, but that any kind of theist might think the same thing surprised me. Either they thought that God doesn't direct anyone or that I was crazy to think that God directed me, when I disagreed with something they believed.

I can try to illustrate that God does indeed direct me dozens of times a day. I did that a little in "Put the fan by the door" (July 24). Nothing like that has made me rich, maybe a little better of in terms of money and free time. God was involved in my starting my current volunteer work, even writing here in general and this topic in specific, but it's not exactly a mission from God, any of it. God's greatest priority is for me to be happy. So says God to me. The big picture of how the future of humanity and the world will unfold is already set, not in stone, but close enough not to depend on me.

So I would be living an abundantly happy life, except I see so many people whose lives drive them to get help from a charity. It doesn't have to be that way. If the world weren't so full of falseness, hatred and indifference, it would be better for everyone. but the world is as it is. Some say the world is as it should be. It is in the sense it got this way naturally. It isn't in the sense that it could be better. Many individual lives are the same way. I suppose that would change if everyone prayed, "not my will, but Yours". Only many have decided not to.

One can have an abundant life without praying that, but it's not the same abundance that I get from saying and meaning that prayer. Words are ambiguous.


Anonymous said...

my comments aren't showing up here


DavidD said...

I tried taking away the step for the nonsense word. That's the only obstacle I could find, unless it has something to do with this business of combining Google and Blogger usernames. Mine's the same for both, but who knows what confuses the big computer behind the curtain.

elbogz said...

I think blogger is going though a big transition switching to blogger beta. There was a note on the bulletin board there that makes me think a ton of people are having problems with blogger

elbogz said...

do you think it helped to remove the word question? I just got an email about people having trouble posting comments on mine.

DavidD said...

I don't know. I don't get many comments. I suppose it's a bigger problem than any one thing. Hopefully it's temporary.