Abundant life is better

Mark 13:9-23
I blame preachers. Well, not only preachers. Being one myself, though, I have no problem pointing the finger in my direction.

What do I mean?

Well, it feels like we’ve mended the gospel of Jesus Christ to sound more self help-y. Come to Jesus, and he will make things easy for you. Drop your kids off at youth group and Jesus will make them less teenagery. And, as he’s taking away your every problem, he fills your life with rainbows and unicorns.

Now, some don’t come out and say that. They disguise their argument. They’ll say your difficulties are consequences of you not believing enough. Not praying the right amount of times with the right amount of courage and faith. It’s the same message in a different fortune cookie.

So many of us have believed that Jesus wants our life to be easy. Carefree and breezy. I blame preachers for this because that’s the message many of them offer. Pardon my cynicism, but that’s the message we’ll offer because that’s a message that sells. I can get people in the door with it. Maybe even get them to come back.

Of course, there’s enough blame to go around. Itching ears don’t mind hearing how easy Jesus wants our life to be. The gospel changes and challenges us, but the serviceability of Jesus is more palatable. Let’s acknowledge how easy it is to wander into using Jesus more than following him.

Let me offer a bit of encouragement.

The Lord wants us to know his peace. He wants us to have reconciliation and joy. As we follow Jesus more, God gives us better understandings of what those gifts mean. Jesus wants us to know and have his abundant life.

But let me tell you, too, that isn’t a beeline to happiness, success or the American Dream. It’s an abundant life, not a better life. Now, am I saying Jesus ruins our life?

Kind of?

Jesus gives us life. God raised us with him. Life is better than death.

If, however, your goal is to get Jesus on board with our hopes and dreams, you might be setting yourself up for disappointment and renewed frustration. Jesus understood the transformative power of the gospel. That’s why he gave up his life.

Did you catch that? He gave up his life for us to know the gospel.

We have to give up our lives as well to know the gospel. Otherwise, we diminish the gospel to mere morality.

Jesus made it clear what his first disciples should expect. They continued his ministry by making it their own. As they did, the gospel wouldn’t save them from experiencing distress or hardships. You could say it’s their dedication to the gospel that brought on the suffering.

Now, I don’t want you to hear me tell you that God wants to hurt you. To make your life miserable. Not at all. But I do think we need to reconsider our understanding of the gospel. It isn’t a self-help fix to life. It isn’t a comfort-of-life magnet. And it certainly doesn’t keep us from experiencing pain, disappointment or persecution.

But it does bring us back to the power of God. Not as we sprinkle Jesus on to life, but as we follow in the way of his life. Abundant life doesn’t make life better. But abundant life is better.

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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