When God calls
Part 10: Called to serve
In the care of the Good Shepherd, we can live life to the fullest.
One day when I went to the gym for my weekly workout, a woman I had never met climbed onto the empty exercise machine adjacent to me. After some small talk, she began to share how she came to faith in Jesus Christ. (Sometimes I think “Talk to me” is written on my forehead!) I was just trying to keep up my pace and breathe as I listened. What really got my attention was when the woman said she was concerned that her sister, who brought her to faith, was worshiping in a church with a pastor whose teachings were very strict.
“I don’t know what’s going on with my sister and that church,” she told me. “I just know that Jesus came to give us life and life abundantly.”
Later I began to think about what it means to have abundant life. Most people are trying to live an abundant life, seeking happiness and fulfillment socially, emotionally and physically. But a society that gives us access to an abundance of material things can be hard on our spiritual lives. A candidate for ministry in my presbytery wrote, “I’m often left wondering if it is more difficult to grasp God’s presence when we live in a society plagued with gross overabundance.”
On the other hand, when the economy is down or we believe that we don’t have the resources to do what is needed, a mentality of scarcity often prevents us from experiencing the abundant life that Christ promises.
God’s generous provision
The theme of abundance is prevalent throughout the Old and New Testaments. In Genesis 1–2, God creates the earth and everything in it for Adam and Eve to care for and enjoy. In Exodus 16–17, God gives food and water to the Israelites in the wilderness. From the familiar phrase “my cup overflows” in Psalm 23 to the Gospel story of Jesus feeding fish and bread to five thousand people, with bountiful leftovers, the Bible offers plenty of evidence that God generously and graciously provides for people in need.
In John 10, Jesus is having one of his many discourses with the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day. He has tried to explain his mission to them, but they don’t understand. So Jesus tells them a story, similar to a parable, about the Good Shepherd. Jesus identifies himself in three ways in this story: as the shepherd, the gate and the voice.
The task of a shepherd was difficult in an arid land, where bandits, wild animals and other dangers threatened the sheep. Like the sheep’s relationship with the shepherd, our relationship with Christ begins with our recognition that Christ is the one who protects us from danger and provides for our needs. As the shepherd, Jesus leads us along the winding road of life, among all the other things that beckon for our attention. As the gate, Jesus allows us into his presence and guards us from things that are not life-giving. As the voice, Jesus calls us to come to him for guidance.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, has come to give us not only life, but life abundantly (John 10:10). The word used in Greek is perissos, which means “exceeding, going beyond, more than enough.” In Christ we have the opportunity to experience life’s many blessings. We can cultivate and use the gifts we have been given and share them with others. We have the ability to become better stewards of our time, money and talents and to spend more time growing spiritually. We may face trials, but we are assured that nothing can overtake us as long as we are in the care of the Good Shepherd. There is no doubt that God wants us to live life to the fullest.
In good times and bad
Jerryd Bayless, a professional basketball player for the Toronto Raptors, says his motto is “Live life abundantly.” In a post on his blog (JerrydBayless5.com), he explains how he keeps a positive outlook even though life as an NBA player can be difficult. While being traded from one team to another is hard, he says, it has given him the opportunity to be exposed to different people and experiences. When his father had a serious heart attack, Bayless learned some valuable lessons. This trying experience taught him that he was not in control; rather, God controlled all things. He also realized that people don’t live forever and vowed to spend more time with his family and friends.
Bayless has the right outlook on life. The abundant life we have in Christ allows us to experience God’s bountiful blessings and opportunities in good times and bad.