This weekend we will complete the season of Advent, wherein we have been anticipating the coming of the Lord, and move to Epiphany, which celebrates the appearance or manifestation of Christ. This change of seasons provides an annual opportunity for us to reconsider Jesus’ purposes for coming to earth and to see what adjustments might be made in the New Year to better align our lives with those purposes.
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10
Jesus spoke these amazing words in the midst of a discourse following a miracle he had worked giving sight to a man blind from birth. The religious people of the day (Pharisees) were trying to convince people that Jesus was “a sinner” and “not from God.” Much of the first half of John 10 is Jesus drawing a contrast between himself and Satan (the thief), and then Jesus declares a primary purpose of his advent: That (we) might have abundant life!
On the surface, we tend to acquaint abundance with longevity, but the Greek words for “life” and “abundance” leave no doubt that Jesus was speaking of a quality and not quantity of life. This Greek word for life is “zoe” which means “the absolute fullness of life,” and his use of “abundantly” literally means “superior, extraordinary, surpassing, uncommon”!
My contemplations on Jesus’ stated purpose led me back to an out-of-print book by Richard Exley entitled, “The Rhythm of Life.” In this tome, Rev. Exley shares his personal journey of discovery that abundant life could only be experienced when there is the proper balance in one’s life of four essentials: work, worship, rest and play. Here are a few notables from Rev. Exley’s writings:
- Work is not a curse; neither is it a consequence of man’s fall (Gen 2:15). Rather, work is a blessing from God intended to help us find fulfillment through the exercise of our individual calling, gifts and talents. It is an expression of the creative nature we share with God. (Eccl 2:24-26; 3:12-13; 5:18-20) If work is the primary source of our identity or we make accumulation of wealth the main goal of our labors, we will find only futility.
- Worship enables us to forget ourselves for a while. It is the only cure for our deadly self-centeredness. Noted psychologist William James observed, “The only truly happy people I know are those who have found a cause greater than themselves to live for.” When a person truly worships, he forgets himself and what others might think of him. God becomes everything and transformation becomes possible.
- Rest. Is it possible that much of the current stress-related illness and general decline in mental health has its roots in our total disregard for rest? Rest was God’s idea (Gen 2:2). He thought it up and called it the Sabbath. (Ex 20:10, 11, 8) Rest is more than a good night’s sleep or physical recuperation. It’s a time when we forget our problems and life’s pressing demands long enough to remember who we are; when we pause in the mad busyness of living and remember a special moment from the past; when we embrace the lost art of “being quiet.” The Sabbath renews us so that we can effectively involve ourselves in a broken world.
- Play. The word “leisure” comes from a Latin word meaning “to be permitted.” More than ever, today we need to learn how to give ourselves permission to relax, play, enjoy life, and enjoy God and others for who they are. Leisure is more than just non-work. It can lead to new experiences, ideas, people and places. But play easily becomes “working out” or something similar when we must feel productive even in our play. REAL play’s only goal is play itself!
At this Christmastime, “The Most Wonderful time of the Year,” I encourage you to do those things necessary to create divine balance in your life. My guess is that, in doing so, one year from now you will be able to say you are experiencing more of the abundant life than ever before!
- Pastor Donna Larson