What is the abundant life Jesus promised?
In John 10:10, Jesus said, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." Jesus came to give something, not to get something. Christians are given abundant life at the moment of salvation. However, that life is "abundant" from a heavenly perspective, not an earthly perspective. So let's look at what that means to us.
Before looking at what it does mean, first let's look at what it doesn't mean. When we think of abundance or prosperity, we tend to think of monetary wealth, prestige, and power on this earth. But that's from an earthly perspective. Such things can get in the way of our relationship with God, so He doesn't provide them. Instead, He provides us enough so that we can enjoy a good relationship with Him. First Corinthians 1:27–29 says, "But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God." These aren't the things that we would choose, but God chose them so that we would "boast in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:31) and not ourselves. This doesn't mean that Christians ought to be poor, without prestige, and powerless in this world, however. It's just that these things are not important in light of eternity. There are rich Christians, prestigious Christians, and powerful Christians, but those characteristics are meant to be used to the glory of God: they are not what Jesus was referring to when He promised us an abundant life.
Having described what abundant life is not, let's turn to what abundant life is. Abundant life is heavenly or spiritually abundant, not abundant from an earthly perspective. When we rely on Jesus, we do not need to worry about material needs (Matthew 6:25–32), but if we "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness", then "all these things will be added to you" (Matthew 6:33). Elsewhere, we are promised that "my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19). If we focus on our relationship with God, He will meet all our needs. If that includes earthly treasure, we should praise God. If it doesn't, we should praise God.
Abundant life is also eternal life. Jesus defined eternal life when He said, "And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (John 17:3). When we think of eternal life in earthly terms, we think only of it lasting forever. But from a heavenly perspective, eternal life is knowing God the Father and Jesus, His Son. Thus, since abundant life is eternal life, it is knowing God. First John 5:12 says, "Whoever has the Son has life," so Christians have this eternal life from the moment of salvation.
Lastly, abundant life is a continual process. Like salvation, we are given abundant life at the moment of salvation, but we will grow into it. Philippians 3:12 says, "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own." Paul recognized that though he had the abundant life, he had to "press on" to make it his own.
When we have a truly heavenly perspective, we will see a definition of abundant life that goes well beyond material things. We can say with Paul, "I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:12–13).
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