About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Another Look At The Abundant Life?

There has been much commentary on just what Jesus meant when He said that He came to give us "life to its full" (NIV), or "abundant life" (KJV). Thinking has ranged from great material wealth at one end of the spectrum to a heavenly rewards at the other end.

After studying Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, I asked myself, "I wonder how Paul would interpret Jesus' words concerning the abundant life that is found in John 10:10"?  Look at a few statements Paul made concerning his own life and see what you think. 

"...about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia.  we were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure so that we despaired even of life". (2 Cor. 1:8)  Paul was in great despair.  You might even call it depression.  Was Paul experiencing the abundant life Jesus talked about?

"For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears..." (2 Cor. 2:4)  Does this sound like a man full of life more abundantly? 

"... for we who are alive are always given over to death for Christ's sake". (2 Cor. 4:11) Once again, is being given over to death living life to the fullest?

"...for outwardly we are wasting away..." (2 Cor. 4:16)  Is this the abundant life where we can find good health?

"For while we are in this tent we groan and are burdened because we wish not to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling ..." (2 Cor. 5:4)  Does Paul's groaning demonstrate an abundantly happy life here on earth?

Look at a few more statements Paul makes.  "... as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way; in great endurance, in troubles, hardships and distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots, in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger ..." (2 Cor. 6:4-5)

"For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn - conflicts on the outside and fears within" (2 Cor. 7:5)  Note that the great apostle Paul experienced fear within him. 

"I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and have been exposed to death again and again.  Five time I received from the Jews forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have  been constantly on the move, I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea and in danger from false brothers.  I have laboured and toiled and have gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked." (2 Cor. 11:23-27)

"... there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me". (2 Cor. 12:7)

Do I need to continue?  Paul's writings are full of such statements that show that his earthly life was far from a pleasant experience.  Yet if you read all of Paul's writings you will understand that his number one desire was to please God.  The way in which he pleased God was to serve man.  He gave everything he had to extend the gospel to all that would receive it.  He would gladly forsake all earthly pleasures and abundance because he knew that in the resurrected life he would have far more than he could possibly have here on earth.  

One of Paul's biggest motivating factors was his hope in the future, that is in the next life, not this life.  Therefore, to me, Paul in interpreting Jesus' words concerning the abundant life did not think of abundance in a material and earthly terms.  He thought of abundance in a spiritual sense, and also in a heavenly sense. Paul knew that his life in heaven would be full of abundance, so he did not need to concern himself with abundance of material things on earth.  

Paul says in 2 Cor. 4:18 that he "looked not on the things that are seen but the things that are not seen, for the things that are seen are temporal and the things that are not seen are eternal".  Paul put his energy into the unseen world because that was where his riches were found.  That was where the abundant life was to be found. He had no pleasure, no abundance in this material world, and this did not bother him in the least. 

With this in mind, I wonder how you and I interpret Jesus' words concerning the abundant life.  Far too often in today's Christian world we interpret His words as being prosperous in worldly things, in earthly riches.  Prosperity teaching has taught material prosperity based on Jesus' words in John 10:10, but it is clear that Paul did not live his life with such prosperity.  His prosperity will be found in the next life, and in the Holy Spirit who enabled him to suffer through this life.

You might say that Paul chose this lifestyle for himself, but taught, hoped and prayed that those he ministered to would prosperous in material wealth. I am not convinced of this as being a fact.  I do know that a careful reading of 2 Corinthians shows that he was more interested in equality for all.   

Granted, we are not all called with the same calling as Paul, yet at the same time he was demonstrating the life of Christ and so desired for us to do the same.  There is nothing inherently wrong with possessions.  The problem comes when our time and energy is spent looking after these things.

Therefore when we think of John 10:10 and the promise of an "abundant life",  we should seriously consider Paul's words and way of living. With this in mind we can properly form our opinion on just what the abundant life means to us.  


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