The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Sometimes I struggle with the idea that the Christian life is all about eternity. So often the focus is all about getting to heaven after we die. It almost makes it seem like this life is just a holding pattern for the life to come; that it really doesn’t matter. Is the Christian life just about some hope for the future or does it have relevance to this present life as well?
I want to suggest that our hope for the future should enhance and enrich our life in the present. When God created this world and placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, He intended for them to fully enjoy everything that He created. They were free to partake of all of the delights of this world, with the exception of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:15-17) When sin entered the world, the created order was twisted, but God’s plan that we enjoy His world remained. Our ability to fully enjoy this world was impaired, but not eliminated.
One of the things that is a hindrance to people coming to faith in Christ is the idea that they will no longer be allowed to have fun or enjoy themselves. In an effort not to be tainted by the world, too many Christians have chosen to live austere, joyless lives. They have mistakenly concluded that to enjoy the pleasures of this world is sinful. In an effort to be holy they have become hollow and lifeless. They put all of their focus on “when we get to heaven” and miss the many joys that God has designed for them along the journey.
It reminds me of a family that I knew long ago. The point of their vacations was to see how many miles they could travel in a week. They would travel thousands of miles, but never really stop to see and enjoy the things that they passed along the way.
The struggle for believers is that many of the things that God designed for our pleasure have been corrupted by sin. To indulge in these things in their corrupted form leads a person to spiritual and personal death. Jesus addressed this in John 10:10. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. Satan has twisted the pleasures of this world into instruments of death. Jesus came to restore God’s original plan. He came so that we could rediscover this amazing gift of life that God has given to us.
In this fallen world, we need godly discernment to know how to live an abundant full life. In 1 Timothy 6, Paul tells us that the key to living the abundant life that Jesus talked about is developing the proper perspective. It is not the stuff of this life that is evil, it is how we use it that makes it good or bad.
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
There are several things to highlight in what Paul had to say. Paul does not condemn possessing the things of this world. He tells us to not be arrogant about it. Everything we have is a gift from God and is to be used for His glory. God has given these things to us for our enjoyment! The good things of this world are gifts from God. As James says, Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)
Paul also makes the point that God wants us to use wisely the gifts that He has given to us. Instead of hoarding them for ourselves, we are to share them with others. In reality, our enjoyment is increased through sharing what we have rather than being decreased. For example, Suanne and I thoroughly enjoy the North Shore of Lake Superior. It is one of our favorite places in the world. Because we enjoy it so much, we delight in sharing it with others. We delight in introducing them to all of the places that we have loved.
Paul also makes the point that the way we use the gifts God has given to us in this life will make a difference in eternity. How we live our lives now matters. It matters for now and for eternity. When we live our present life with the right perspective, we truly experience life to the fullest. God does not want us to stoically endure life until we get to go to heaven. He wants us to fully engage in life, making the most of every opportunity He gives to us. The more that we delight in the world that God has created, the more glory and honor we give to God.
Jesus wants us to live an abundant life both now and in eternity. The goal of eternity with Christ is an essential part of the Christian life. But let us not miss the delights of the journey that Jesus is leading us on to get us there.
How then shall we live? We should live fully engaged in this present life, with our eyes always on eternity.