I grew up in a Christian home and went to church every week. But when I was growing up, I thought Christians were boring!
I thought church was boring, and I thought I didn’t want to have a boring life. I thought God’s laws were too harsh and they kept people from having fun.
But then when I met God at Teen Challenge, He really started challenging this belief. Now I’m not going to say my life in Teen Challenge was great. It was amazing because I met God, but that was the most challenging year of my life. But in that year, I really dug into the word and discovered God, and that was amazing.
When I read the word, I came across John 10:10, the verse that is the basis of this message
John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. But I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (NIV)
I read this verse and it seemed so amazing that God wanted us to have an abundant life. I believed the first part of the verse because I had clearly seen the enemy steal, kill and destroy my life in various ways. But, in my experience, I had never seen Christians that were living life to the full.
Fast forward about a year and a half. I am out of Teen Challenge, married to Miruna, and we had moved to China. One day after getting back from a vacation to Beijing on my birthday weekend, I was reflecting on my life.
I would say this was a mountaintop experience, as I had just married the love of my life, started an adventure to China, and had visited a lot of different cities and countries with new cultures I’d never experienced. Not only that, but we were super involved in the church and were seeing many salvations that we helped facilitate, and had started a connect group that was growing every week.
My heart was so full and I was so amazed by all God had done in my life. I remember God telling me this was the abundant life that He was speaking of. I looked back at my life before I really encountered God, and thought that I could have never imagined the life I was living now. It was better than anything I could have ever imagined.
“I was so amazed by all God had done in my life. I remember God telling me this was the abundant life that He was speaking of.”
Now let’s go back to John 10:10.
The Amplified Bible reads like this: “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].”
If we look at the Greek word for abundantly, it reads Perisson, and it means, superabundant, superior, excessive, preeminence (which means surpassing all).
We do not have wait until we die to start experiencing heaven and eternal life. I find this amazing.
I feel like we need to keep watch on this. Are we living the abundant life? Are we living a superior life?
I feel like sometimes as Christians we feel like we need to lower ourselves down and be “humble”, but this is false humility. God created us to show off His glory. If the beauty of the skies and flowers show God's glory and goodness, how much more do you think God has meant for us - as his workmanship - to show off His goodness to the world.
The enemy comes by stealing our dreams, killing our destinies and destroying our relationships. If you look at the work the enemy does it all comes down to that, stealing killing and destroying. The sad part is a lot of the time I feel like we Christians allow Him to do this, because we don’t fully believe God for His word, or we don’t fully give our lives to God.
I feel one of the ways the enemy has power is he steals, kills and destroys the truth from us. The problem with some Christians is they think the Bible is like an all you can eat buffet, and they can just choose and pick which parts of it they like and which parts they don’t like.
When I go to buffets, I just eat meat. I don’t touch the veggies. I will just feast and feast on the meat and probably have a bunch of ice cream for dessert.
This is what people do with the Bible. They feast and chew on the parts of the Bible they agree with, but they will deny the parts that trouble them and the parts they find too hard or too harsh.
I have heard people say, “Oh yeah, you know, that's not for today.” But we Christians need to take the word of God for what it is. It is God’s roadmap and direction manual for our lives, and it is all God breathed. We need to take it all seriously and not pick and choose what we like. We need to take it all and practice it all within our daily lives.
That is a key way I believe we can keep the enemy from stealing, killing or destroying our life - by constantly being fed by God’s word, chewing it, and applying all of it to our lives.
Now, I want to look at the things God has impressed upon me that show how His desire for us is not to be in the shadows or to be in lack, but instead for us to prosper and to live the best life that we can. His desire for us is to enjoy our lives!
“I believe we can keep the enemy from stealing, killing or destroying our life - by constantly being fed by God’s word, chewing it, and applying all of it to our lives.”
I want to clarify that this message is not about prosperity in the way the world knows it as in money, although I believe God desires us to be prosperous with money as well. What I want to get at is that God wants us to have lives that are full and meaningful that we are completely satisfied and happy with.
To illustrate this, I’d like to look at the life of Solomon. It says in 1st Kings 10:14-15 that “Every year King Solomon received over twenty-five tons of gold, in addition to the taxes paid by merchants.”
Then it goes on to say in verse 1st Kings 10:23 that “King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth.”
I’m always amazed at the favor of God when I read this. I decided to do a little research to see if Solomon was the richest king to ever live, and what I found was incredible. It is difficult to say for sure because it’s hard to compare yesterday’s world to today’s world, but you can make an argument that Solomon was not only the richest king, but the richest person who ever lived.
I would say that Solomon had the favor of the Lord, and lived an abundant life. But what was the key to his abundance?
Before Solomon got all these riches, he was walking faithfully with the Lord, and because of his faithfulness and the sacrifices he offered to God, God favored him.
At one point, God asked Solomon what he wanted. Did he ask for riches? Did he ask for power? No, Solomon asked for wisdom and discernment to known right from wrong so he could guide God’s people.
This is the first key I believe:
Do not desire the things of this world and worldly treasure.
Although it is okay to have earthly treasure, as we can see throughout the Bible, the first key is to be like Solomon and instead of desiring riches and power, desire wisdom and discernment and the gifts that will allow you to live for God.
Next, let’s look at Ezra.
I believe he also has a great story of an abundant life and divine favor that goes against all odds.
Ezra was a priest who was exiled in Babylon when Israel had been completely defeated and taken over by the Babylonians. He was a direct descendant of Aaron and of the last acting high priest before Israel was defeated. Although he had high standing in Israel’s eyes, he would not have had this standing in the eyes of the Babylonians. He was an exile. He would be equivalent to a refugee in Canada. But yet he found immense favor with the king of the time.
Let’s open our Bibles to Ezra 6:3-4. “In the first year of King Cyrus, the king issued a decree concerning the temple of God in Jerusalem: Let the temple be rebuilt as a place to present sacrifices, and let its foundations be laid. It is to be sixty cubits high and sixty cubits wide, with three courses of large stones and one of timbers. The costs are to be paid by the royal treasury.”
It goes on to say in verse six: “Moreover, I hereby decree what you are to do for these elders of the Jews in the construction of this house of God: Their expenses are to be fully paid out of the royal treasury, from the revenues of Trans-Euphrates, so that the work will not stop. Whatever is needed—young bulls, rams, male lambs for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, and wheat, salt, wine and olive oil, as requested by the priests in Jerusalem—must be given them daily without fail. “
This again is amazing favor. This is a secular king that is basically opening up the treasuries of his nation to Ezra in order for him to complete the work of building the temple!
This would be like a Muslim nation defeating Canada, and then the leader of the nation telling me (a pastor) I can go back to Ottawa to build a church, and that they would provide all the resources and finances I need until the work is complete. It is unheard of. Ezra had a life that I would call an abundant life, one that surpassed all others.
I believe the key in Ezra’s life can be found in Ezra 7:10. It says, “For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.”
So, the second key we learn from Ezra is:
2) Devote yourselves to the study and the observance of God’s laws and His word.
We must not just know God’s word and laws; we must also devote ourselves to observing them. When we devote ourselves to observing and studying God’s laws and his word, we will be blessed.
The final and third key to an abundant life can be found in the first verse I memorized in Teen Challenge: Mathew 6:33. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
“We must not just know God’s word and laws; we must also devote ourselves to observing them.”
3) Seek first the things of God and his kingdom here on earth.
This verse is a promise. God is literally saying as we seek Him first and the things of His kingdom then all these things will be given to us as well. When we truly desire God first and desire God’s kingdom to come to earth, He will give us our desires,
Psalm 37:4 is along the same lines. It says, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
And I love what the Good News Translation says. “Seek your happiness in the Lord, and He will give you your heart's desire.”
I think this translation captures it the best. When we go to God for our happiness and not the things of this world, He will give us our heart’s desires.
When I first read this verse when I became a Christian, I thought “Oh no, how could God give us the desires of our heart? We are sinful! Our desires are evil.”
But now as I have been walking with God for quite some time now, and as I have matured, I have started to truly understand this verse.
I believe as we grow in our walk and grow closer to God and dig into His word and truly are transformed by the renewing of our minds, we go from glory to glory. And as we mature and go from glory to glory our desires actually change.
Our desires will shift from worldly desires to kingdom desires, and when we are seeking God and seeking our happiness in Him, He will give us our desires. Why? Because our desires are his desires, our heart turns into his heart, we have His Spirit in us, and we desire the same that He does - His kingdom on earth!
I just want to end with this.
In my old job selling phones, I made a lot of money and I did not have to worry about money, but I was not fulfilled.
When I took on pastoring, it seemed like even more work sometimes, but I am the most fulfilled I have ever been in my life. I have never been so full of life and so passionate about what I am doing and building. At the end of the day, the thing that matters the most is seeing people come to God and the kingdom advancing!
There is nothing better in life than knowing that you have partnered with God in changing someone’s destiny and saving them from eternal life without God. There is nothing more satisfying and adventurous in this life than laying down your life to serve God, in whatever context your ministry is, in the marketplace or in the church. God has given each one of us different destinies and callings, but when you find what God has made you to do, nothing compares to it!
So, to sum up, remember the three keys:
Do not desire the things of this world and worldly treasure.
Devote yourselves to the study and the observance of God’s laws and His word.
Seek first the things of God and His kingdom here on earth - in your workplace, in your families, with your friends, and in other areas of influence.
I truly believe that if you haven’t yet started experiencing the abundant Christian life, you can change that by putting these keys into practice.