A westernized view of the gospel usually considers the “abundant life” as having a big bank account and other such things. The New Testament I read doesn’t necessarily lend itself to this kind of thinking but is more spiritual in nature. This is not to discount the inherent blessings or promises of God’s Word. Truthfully, “Your Best Life Now” isn’t confined to earthly riches and canning all you get. The writer of Hebrews said Abraham was “looking for a city whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10). This is heaven.
Paul, who understood the real blessings of Jesus Christ, both in how to “live the good life” as well as experience having next to nothing (Phil. 4:12), summed up this temporary existence on Planet Earth with the substantive glories of heaven when he wrote:
17 For our light, momentary affliction (this slight distress of the passing hour) is ever more and more abundantly preparing and producing and achieving for us an everlasting weight of glory [beyond all measure, excessively surpassing all comparisons and all calculations, a vast and transcendent glory and blessedness never to cease!], 18 Since we consider and look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are visible are temporal (brief and fleeting), but the things that are invisible are deathless and everlasting” (2 Cor. 4:17-18).
For Paul, the “light, momentary affliction” sometimes meant starvation, being stoned (without drugs), beaten with rods, jail time, social persecution, ostracism by the very brothers and sisters he was preaching to, shipwreck and sometimes personal sickness (2 Cor. 11:23-29) and “being hindered by satan” (1 Thess. 2:17-18). The prosperity doctrine pales in the face of such things, which most of us know nothing about.
On the other hand, God has “given us all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). Consider, however, that having all things doesn’t constitute enjoyment. How many miserable people do you know who “have it all” but not joy unspeakable? I’ve met a lot of confessors but many fewer possessors. It seems sometimes the prosperity emphasis has been overemphasized and the truncated gospel message to “get it all” with little effort is a bill of goods. There is no such thing in the New Testament.
Face it, some people inherited good things from their ancestry and some didn’t. Some are highly skilled and others aren’t. Some Christians got a rotten deal from their ancestry, whether in the form of genetic misfortune, poverty and/or sicknesses that seems to have no rhyme or reason to them. Some got great health through “Ma and Pa Kettle.” Curses and blessings are what they are except for Jesus’ incomparable sacrifice for us to enjoy and seek to uncover. Curses can be broken, and blessings can be found and released to flow, but laziness and denial of reality are not curses. They are walls separating us from the place called The Abundant Life.
The Bible often speaks of “entering the land.” For the NT Christian this really means finding Jesus at the deepest level, knowing and loving Him. Do you ever meet people who are broke as the Ten Commandments yet as happy as a clam? I have and was envious. “The Land” is really believing and entering the kingdom of God. Jesus told Nicodemus that unless he was born again he couldn’t see the kingdom (John 3:1-7). Further, He used the word entering the kingdom to one of Israel’s most knowledgeable teachers.
Seeing and entering are two entirely different things. Being born of the spirit is completely a work of the Holy Spirit. We repent, believe and He comes into our spirit (Rom. 8:16), and we are guaranteed eternal life. Walking in the Spirit or being led is a different matter. This requires our spirit to “connect” to the mind of the Holy Spirit by setting our minds on Him. It is NOT trying to decide, “What would Jesus do?” It is our spirit hearing and being led by the Holy Spirit. Period. The Bible is clear that the spiritual man or woman is characterized as such by where the human mind is set (Rom. 8:5-6). If the mind is set on our way of doing things, we are literally called “meatheads” or carnally minded (1 Cor. 3:1-4).
Though the kingdom of God is certainly a part of the heavenly realm, it also means here in the nasty and now. It exists where the Holy Spirit can intervene and break in. It ain’t necessarily church, that’s for sure, nor is it a bunch of religious talk. It is the awesome power of the Holy Spirit who loves to interrupt our religiosity and systematic methodologies when we allow Him to. I love it when He just says, “Joe, excuse me while I do my thing and you don’t do yours.” That’s joy unspeakable. It happened to me recently while I was sharing an insight – wham, bam, whoa! I felt like crying and laughing at the same time! What I was saying didn’t seem particularly powerful or insightful to me, but hey, heaven must have liked it!
When Jesus taught us to pray “Thy kingdom come,” here’s how the Aramaic – the language that Jesus actually spoke – says it. “Teytey malkuthakh” – “Come inside me, Daddy, in your full dominion. Take rule of my entire being from inside to outside. Let not only your Name, but your Being join fully with mine.” That’s a little different than most translations put it, especially The Amplifed Bible, the one Paul used. (Yeah, I know it was actually the King James Version.)
I have mediated a lot on Psalm 37 because it mentions a number of things required of us to enter the land or inherit the abundant life. I hasten to add that inheritance in the scripture most often comes after a certain amount of maturity is gained. Father usually doesn’t hand over kingdom authority to a bunch of reckless kids, who are self-centered and only interested in getting more stuff. (Somewhere in our mistaken understanding we Christians have inferred that “blessed” means having more toys.) If He allows it for an overly persistent and yet immature soul, it’s often a train wreck. Jesus’ emphasis was on taking something with you – storing treasures in heaven where moths don’t eat them up (Matt. 6:19-20). On the contrary, He was not happy with our getting “bigger barns” (Luke 12:15-21) while we’re here unless we practice selling off some of those barns to give to those in need.
Lest you think I’m down on wealth, you’re wrong. I’m admittedly financially challenged, however, there is certainly nothing wrong, according to the Bible, on being rich except that it can sometimes steal the real joy that only Jesus Himself brings. The rich young ruler was more interested in keeping it all than getting assurance of eternity. Interestingly, the scripture says, “And Jesus loved him” (Mark 10:21). But it must have broken His heart that the RYR walked away. He chose hell and his money. Note, too, that Jesus didn’t go after him with promises to the RYR of becoming chairman of the church financial committee or having his name engraved on a prominent pew or in an expensive artsy window.
Back to Psa. 37. I see a few things there that are required of us to do or not do to “enter the land.”
- Don’t worry about wicked people or envy those who do wrong (Psa. 37:1). There is a tendency in all of us to worry about what the wicked people are doing and the possibility that they’re “getting way with it.” God says, “Stop it.” They’re not going to get away with it so stop being envious.
- Trust in the Lord and do good (Psa. 37:3). He’s large and in charge and fully capable of taking care of business. Concentrate on doing good to others – even the jerks.
- Delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desire of your heart (Psa. 37:4). Many people never receive the desires of their hearts because they don’t do the first thing. Delighting in the Lord means in the good times and the bad. God spoke to me once and said, “Expect me not circumstances.” That’ll preach.
- Commit everything to the Lord, and He will bring it to pass (Psa. 37:5). Committing is another word for turning over everything. Prov. 16:3 says to “Roll your works upon the Lord, and He will cause your thoughts to be made conformable to His will, and so shall your plans succeed and be established” (Amp). God already has plans for you that are good and not evil (everybody quotes refrigerator verse Jer. 29:11), but few understand He wants to change our minds so He can give His plans, which we actually think are ours that were actually His). Huh? Oh, yeah, He just wanted us to give in so He could give us what He wanted us to have in the first place without our human manipulation.
- Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait for Him to act (Psa. 37:7). Be still? Wait for Him to act? Most can’t. It’s called take matters in our own hands and watch us make a mess of life. Sorry about the cynicism, but when was the last time you heard a Christian friend say, “I was still in the presence of the Lord and waited for Him to act”? Not very often if at all.
- Stop being angry. Turn from rage. Don’t lose your temper, it only leads to harm (Psa. 37:8). Hmmm… Angry Christians who have rage? Temper? Nah… we’re talking about people with smiley faces who have it all together. Whatever the case, the Psalmist is giving great advice here.
- Put your hope in the Lord. Travel steadily along His path. He will honor you by giving you the land (Psa. 37:34). Certainly in this day of hopelessness – when we see the worse things coming to pass and rescue seems remote – we need to put our hope in Hope Himself, not hope in a human being, government, a system, a denomination, or a political party.
It’s a good, then, to take stock of what we’re putting our stock in. As the old story goes, no one ever got to the end of life and wished he or she had spent more time at the office. Since learning and living agape (God’s kind of love) is the primary thing (1 Cor. 13), perhaps we should spend more time endeavoring how to do that rather than visiting Toys “R” Us so often.