The Truth About The Abundant Life

Introduction

John 10:10 (NKJV) — [10] The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

Ministers tell us that we can experience an abundant life with conditions, of course. In some cases, the abundant life comes because we tithe or support a ministry. But, typically, we need to do something to receive the abundant life that God purportedly promises us.

How many of us struggle each day to make ends meet, progress in our businesses or job, and at the same time trying to follow the formulas ministers give us promising a good life? It would be great if we gave 10% of our income to a church in the name of tithing so that God would open the windows of heaven and prosper us. However, that usually doesn’t happen. Otherwise, the Bible wouldn’t promote hard work (Colossians 3:23, Proverbs 13:4, 14:23, 12:11, 6:6-8, 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12, 2 Timothy 2:6).

The problem is that we have allowed the pursuit of an easy road to replace the wisdom the Scriptures give us. Not only that, ministers have skewed the true meaning of “the abundant life.” It isn’t about wealth and riches, as we will soon see.

What is the Abundant Life?

Let’s first define abundant life from a biblical perspective. Consider again John 10:10.

John 10:10 (NKJV) — [10] The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

There are a few questions that you may ask and probably should ask.

  • Who is the thief?
  • Who is the “I” referring to?
  • Who are “they?”
  • What is life?
  • What is meant by “abundantly?”

Who is the thief? Consider the following scripture.

John 10:1–3 (NKJV) — [1] “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. [2] But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. [3] To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

The thief here is the one that enters the sheepfold some other way except through the door. Who are the sheep? What is the sheepfold, and what is the door?”

The sheep are people of God (See Psalm 100:3). Therefore, the people listening to Jesus would have understood the shepherd and sheepfold relationship. The sheepfold is an enclosure for the sheep. It was sometimes a cave or stone-walled corral topped with briars, which had a single entrance. The shepherd slept at that entrance to protect the sheep.

Who is the shepherd, and what is the door? Consider the following scripture.

John 10:7–9 (NKJV) — [7] Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. [8] All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. [9] I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

Jesus Christ is the door. Jesus Christ is the way into the people of God. We become children of God by going through Jesus Christ, and he protects us.

John 14:6 (NKJV) — [6] Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

There were many claiming to be the Messiah before Jesus. They were thieves and robbers whose only intent was to destroy. I love the following scripture because it helps us understand how we may discern false prophets and false shepherds.

Matthew 7:14–20 (NKJV) — [14] Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. [15] “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. [16] You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? [17] Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. [18] A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. [19] Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. [20] Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

Jesus said he came that we might have a superabundant life. So, therefore, he is the “I.”

What is meant by “life?” The context is the people who gathered around Jesus while speaking to a man he had just healed. Therefore, Jesus was giving a message that could apply to anyone, not just his close disciples. The word life was translated from the Greek word “zoe,” which means life, the state of one who is possessed of vitality or is animate (from the Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon).

So, how would the listeners have interpreted this statement? They would have understood “life” as the animated state of humans, animals, and plants. It is the time between birth and death, i.e., the physical existence.

The New Testament extended this physical existence to include a spiritual component. It refers many times to the spiritual life that results from a relationship with God (through salvation). The life that comes from God is eternal and, therefore, transcends the mere physical existence on earth. We should also consider that human life also includes mental capacity, emotions, passions, and the heart. See my article, “The Triune Human Being” for more information about the components of human life.

So, life in our context refers to life as a whole, emphasizing our spiritual well-being because of Jesus’ purpose.

John 3:16 (NKJV) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

John 1:4 (NKJV) In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

Jesus didn’t come for us to be materially wealthy as some suppose. There is no instance during his ministry where he caused people to become rich like he caused healings. Consider the following passage.

Matthew 6:19–21 (NKJV) — [19] “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; [20] but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. [21] For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

We are instructed not to be earthly-minded but spiritually-minded. Our spiritual well-being is once again the priority because it goes beyond our physical existence. Therefore, it seems reasonable that God would emphasize it.

So the abundant life refers to the beautiful and progressing fellowship we have with the Father and all the benefits that come with it (See Ps 103:2-5 as an illustration). It is our life as a whole.

I am not suggesting that we cannot enjoy some pleasures in life like a new car, new home, toys, etc. However, we should realize that life is much more than that, and Jesus came for our spiritual well-being, which affects our lives physically, mentally, and emotionally.

The abundant life is not about riches on earth that we should have as Christians. The abundant life is about riches in heaven that we should have as a result of our fellowship with Christ. Consider what Jesus Christ said about this matter.

 

The Shepherd

Ok. Now Jesus is the door (John 10:7-9), but who is the shepherd? Consider the following scripture.

John 10:11–15 (NKJV) — [11] “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. [12] But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. [13] The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. [14] I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. [15] As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.

It is clear here that Jesus Christ is the good shepherd. He cares for the sheep (his people), and his people know him. Also, note the contrast between the good shepherd and a hireling. A hireling is a hired person. However, human leaders are also shepherds that care for the flock (See Numbers 27:15-16). Jeremiah warned of shepherds that didn’t care for the congregation (Jeremiah 23:1-2, 50:6; Ezekiel 34:1-6). God is a shepherd who takes care of the sheep (See Psalm 23, 80; Ezekiel 24:15-16).

There are many pastors, bishops, and religious leaders who are merely hirelings. The ministry has become a career move without true calling from God or concern for the sheep. These are not the shepherds in view here.

Shepherds are gifts of God to the body of Christ and much more than a career. But, of course, a pastor needs to survive, and a salary is warranted. So Jesus told his disciples that a worker is worthy of his wages, and they were to depend on the hospitality of those they visited (Luke 10:7. See also 1 Timothy 5:18).

Ephesians 4:11–13 (NKJV) — [11] And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, [12] for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, [13] till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

 

Living the Abundant Life

Fellowship with God and hard work mixed with wisdom is the key to prosperity, i.e., the abundant life. Remember that the abundant life is much more than material gain. It is the prosperity of the whole person: mind, body, and spirit. The priority, however, is the kingdom of God. Consider the following passage.

Matthew 6:33 (NKJV) — [33] But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Consider also the following regarding hard work

Ecclesiastes 2:24 (NKJV) — [24] Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God.

Ecclesiastes 3:12–13 (NKJV) — [12] I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, [13] and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.

Ecclesiastes 5:18–20 (NKJV) — [18] Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. [19] As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God. [20] For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart.

Ecclesiastes 8:15 (NKJV) — [15] So I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry; for this will remain with him in his labor all the days of his life which God gives him under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 (NKJV) — [13] Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.

Remember that Joseph greatly prospered even while he was in prison and as a servant. His prosperity served to help thousands of people. See Genesis chapters 37 – 50. Joseph was not seeking to be rich, but God intended to use him to bless many. So likewise, your prosperity should not be for you alone, but to help others according to God’s will and your ability to help.

Proverbs 3:27 (NKJV) — [27] Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in the power of your hand to do so.

Use the gifts and resources you have for others as well as yourself.  Jesus said that the second greatest commandment is to love others as you love yourself. Do that with your skills, finances, wisdom, etc. That is genuinely one living an abundant life where he or she can share their many fruits.

Conclusion

Jesus said that he came so that we could have an abundant life. Many ministers equate that with wealth and material prosperity. However, Jesus most likely didn’t mean it that way. Jesus came so that we would be saved by faith and, therefore, obtain eternal life with the Father. That eternal life permeates our entire being affecting all that we do. That is true abundance in life.

Let me give a great illustration of this from the Scriptures.

Proverbs 3:27 (NKJV) — [27] Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in the power of your hand to do so.

Jesus told him to keep the commandments. So the man said that he obeys the commandments that Jesus identified and asked what else should he do. Jesus responded with the following.

Matthew 19:21 (NKJV) — [21] Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Following Jesus is the way to eternal life, the abundant life of God. True life comes from Christ, who is the life that lights every person.

John 1:4 (NKJV) — [4] In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

Matthew 5:16 (NKJV) — [16] Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

The abundant life from God enables us to share that life with others in many ways. We can share our time by volunteering our time or services, money, experience, etc. Pursue the true life of God—the abundant life, which is in Jesus Christ.

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