Jesus said He came that we “might have life and have it more abundantly.” This sounds good, right? Who wouldn’t want a more abundant life?
Proverbs 29:2 records that, “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice.” Thriving is what God intended for us. It’s what God saw when he made life, and “saw that it was good.”
To thrive is to have newness of spirit, vigor and strength, as opposed to weariness or fatigue. I expect we’d all choose to thrive, but not necessarily choose Jesus’ way of thriving.
In Matthew 20:25-28, it is recorded that Jesus addressed his disciples one day: But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Last fall, men from our church helped seed grass around my house. We prepared the ground, killed the weeds, planted seeds and watered the ground. It took a lot of care for the grass to thrive — yet a few weeds still found their way into into my thriving grass.
Weeds come naturally. Thriving does not. There are obstacles to thriving, but none greater than selfishness. When we begin to live for God, or rather, God begins to live in us, our selfish lifestyle is replaced with a servant lifestyle.
Most problems that develop between people can be traced to selfishness. Most of us know what it’s like to be around someone who’s selfish. And we’re pretty good at recognizing selfishness — when it’s someone else being selfish. In the spirit of Jeff Foxworthy, “You might be selfish if...”
• You have a genuinely difficult time letting someone else have the remote control
• You pick up the last piece of chicken, take a bite out of it, hold it up and say, “Does anybody want this?”
• You know all the words to the song “I Did It My Way.”
• You have a lifetime subscription to “Self” magazine
• You rush to be the first in line at a funeral procession.
• Your favorite picture at home is the mirror.
• You’re on a date and say, “Enough talk about me ... let’s talk about what you think of me.”
• You’re a baby, a toddler, a preadolescent, a teenager, or an adult, male or female.
It’s important to understand that we’re born self-serving creatures. From the day we’re born, our world revolves around ourselves. We’re all familiar with the Toddler Property Laws:
If I like it, it’s mine. If I can take it away from you, it’s mine. If I had it a while ago, it’s mine. If I say it is mine, it’s mine. If it looks like mine, it’s mine. If I saw it first, it’s mine. If you’re having fun with it, it’s mine. If you lay it down, it’s mine. If it is broken, it’s yours.
That’s the nature of a baby — and of what the Bible calls “the flesh.” As we mature we learn to overcome that self-serving nature. At least, we’re supposed to. But, until we really allow Someone Else to be in control, we’ll be controlled by the flesh. Its No. 1 priority is to preserve and to satisfy itself.
Eugene Peterson, in his book Earth and Altar, records for us, “If I am an atheist in my heart, making myself sovereign in place of God, and therefore arranging things in accordance with my appetites and needs and fantasies, I become a pirate in society. I relentlessly look for ways in which I can get what is there for my own uses with no regard for what anyone else gets. If I am an atheist in my heart, it is not long before I have become a cancer in the gut of the country.”
Unless our lives are directed by SomeoneHhigher, we’ll naturally live for ourselves. His name is Jesus.
To follow Christ is to serve and love others selflessly. When we come to Christ He changes our selfish hearts to servant-oriented hearts. We live for Christ, and His purposes. And we experience abundant life.
In Christ, greatness comes from service. After He washed His disciples’ feet, John 13:13-17 record that Jesus said to them, “You call me ’Teacher’ and ’Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
Every opportunity we choose to love, smile, be kind, give financially, volunteer and say “thank you,” we demonstrate the lifestyle of a grateful, servant-oriented Christ-follower. If you desire to live the abundant life, the life that thrives, then follow Jesus’ example and find a need and meet it.
The Rev. Bob Grimm is senior pastor of Life Church in Walla Walla. Contact him at 509-526-3450. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.