What did Jesus mean when He said, “I am come that they might have life and that they might have it in abundance.”? We who call ourselves Christians have insisted for 2,000 years that true life is bound up in a relationship with Jesus Christ, that only He can change our status from merely existing to truly living. We sing about it, we preach and teach about it, but what does “abundant living” really look like? Like most of the things our Lord taught us about kingdom living it has to do with a succession of small events that, when put together, make a very large life. Abundant living doesn’tshow itself just in magnificent conversion experiences, or awesome miracles, or martyr-type deaths. Instead, it is seen in the giving of food to the hungry or water to those who are thirsty, or being hospitable to strangers, or clothing the naked, or ministering to the sick and hurting. So subtle are these things in themselves that those who practice them regularly will say, when commended for them at the Judgment, “When did we do these things?” “And the king will say...to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine...you did it to me….and these will go away into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:40). Why? Because that is the abundant
reward that seems to accompany that kind of abundant living. And that kind of life is urged upon us all.
There are so many opportunities to be “others focused.” So many people are out of work, discouraged by the economy, lacking the things so many of us take for granted. Reach out to these people. Even if you can’t give them the physical resources they seek, give them a smile, a word of encouragement, a prayer of support. Show your concern for them by a visit to their homes, or at the hospital, or, as Jesus suggested, a visit to the jail. These are the kinds of things His disciples have always done; not because it is their duty to do them but because this is part of that which makes life so “large,” or as Jesus would put it, “abundant.”
Kevin Harney is an outreach coach. He understands how reluctant so many Christians are about sharing their faith. Here are some helps he gives us that will not only make our attempts effective but perhaps will light a fire under so many of us who are holding back.
1. Ask for permission and don’t be pushy. When you sense that a door is opening say, “Would you mind if I told you about a wayGod has changed my life?”
2. Use ordinary language. People far from God will not understand some of the “churchy” words we use. It is best to use plain language.
3. Start briefly and share more as it becomes appropriate. Rather than telling your whole life story, just share one experience.
4. Highlight God’s presence and power. If Jesus has healed you from an addiction or bad habit, or has pro-vided guidance, let people know. People really want to know if God is real and active in the world today.
5. Clearly present the before and after pictures. The list is a long as our life experiences: from self-centered to caring, from no purpose to deep meaning, from fear of death to hope for eternity, from anxiety to peace….
6. Share the source of life transformation. The only power that can change us from the inside out is the work of Jesus.
7. Let joy shine through. Don’t fake it, but joy will be part of our story because Jesus is the author of joy.
8. Communicate with humility. We need to be careful not to come across as saying we are right and they are wrong or we are good and they are bad. We simply want to share what God
is doing in our life.
9. Remember, you have many stories. Be careful not to get locked into telling the same story over and over. And make your story fit the needs of the person you are talking with. If they are suffering from loneliness, tell how God’s presence has strengthened and comforted you.
10. I would add one more: Talk to God before you talk to someone
far from God—Pray!
Everyone knows the name Mark McGuire. Though having retired from baseball over 10 years ago he was the first to surpass the legendary Roger Maris who hit 61 homeruns back in 1961. In 1997 he came close, having hit 58 home runs. The next year, 1998, was to be the greatest year of his slugging career when he would hit 70 home runs and eclipse a record that stood for 37 years. Early into that season he set another record, becoming the only player in major league baseball to hit the most home runs through the first two months of the season.
It was one of the most memorable times in baseball history, despite the steroid scandal that would later affect him and many other famous players. But I discovered something interesting about Mark McGuire as I was looking over his statistics for that year. During that storied first two months he had as many strikeouts as he had hits and twice as many strikeouts as he had home runs. Do you realize what a strikeout means to a player? It represents a failure to even make contact with the ball, let alone put it into the seats. And as that season progressed and he got closer to the record, the fans began to boo him every time he struck out. Never mind that he was about to accomplish the dream of almost every young man who ever picked up a baseball bat. Fan pressure, media pressure, and many internal pressures caused him to strike out even more, even as he approached the record and acquired one of the most elusive prizes of his trade.
But the reason so many promising home run kings never made it to 61, and the record stood for so long, was that they couldn’t handle the pressure, especially the internal pressures. Sometimes it can be almost unbearable to strike out and watch the smug smile grow on the opposing pitcher’s face and hear the crowd boo you and call you a bum. Success isn’t just a matter of being a good hitter. It has to do with all those other things as well, Boy, it seems to me there ought to be a lesson about life in here somewhere. What do you think?
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship