Jesus Christ said that He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly! What does that mean for our life now and in the future?
One of my favorite quotes about life comes from the movie Forrest Gump:
“My mama always said, life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
Life can be unpredictable. It is hard at times. And it has many moments of joy.
The best thing about life, though, is that whether we’re enduring difficulties or enjoying good times, life has real meaning because of what God ultimately has in store for us.
Even there, Jesus started out with the bad news:
“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).
The thief makes life miserable, but in the end that won’t matter. The Giver of life wants us to experience life at a higher level—life that’s abundant in every dimension!
To understand what an abundant life is, first we should consider what regular life is. Most people go through life with some highs and some lows in a mostly humdrum existence.
Thankfully not every day is like the one portrayed in the popular children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst:
“I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”
But most people’s lives are not just a series of delicious chocolates either.
Drudgery, tediousness, discouragements, stress and anxiety can be frequent visitors in our real lives, so many of us seek to escape into our entertainment or addiction of choice.
But we always come back to regular life as we know it, sometimes made worse by our attempts to escape.
We long for something more.
And Jesus promised it—an abundant life, a meaningful life.
The context: the Good Shepherd vs. the thief
Jesus revealed this abundant life in the context of His teaching about the Good Shepherd. The analogy of leaders who care for their “sheep” and those who don’t can be found in several places in the Bible.
Jesus Himself is the Good Shepherd, the One who protects the sheep and has their best interests in mind.
But this story also has villains, ruthless thieves whose self-interests run opposite of the interests of the sheep.
The devil comes to steal, kill and destroy
Above all, Satan is the thief who seeks to steal our joy—and our lives.
As he did with Job (see Job 1:9-11; 2:4-5), Satan wants to make our lives miserable. He’s not only a thief, but a liar and a murderer (John 8:44), and he wants us to be discouraged, to give up, to question God’s plan. But really it’s Satan’s plan we should question.
His way involves looking down, focusing on life as it is now. God’s way involves looking forward and looking up.
Jesus came to bring life—more abundantly!
What did Jesus mean by life more abundantly?
In John 10:10 the word abundantly is translated from the Greek word perissos. Its range of meaning includes “over and above, more than is necessary, superadded . . . exceeding abundantly, supremely” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon).
God gives us purpose and joy in this life, and the promise of even greater purpose and joy in the life to come.The New International Version translates the last part of John 10:10, “that they may have life, and have it to the full.” The New Living Translation says, “to give them a rich and satisfying life.”
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary notes, “Jesus’ main purpose was the salvation (health) of the sheep, which he defined as free access to pasture and fullness of life. Under his protection and by his gift they can experience the best life can offer. In the context of John’s emphasis on eternal life, this statement takes on a new significance. Jesus can give a whole new meaning to living because he provides full satisfaction and perfect guidance (cf. Eze 34:15)” (note on John 10:10, Abridged Edition).
William Barclay commented in his Daily Study Bible: “Jesus claims that he came that men might have life and might have it more abundantly. The Greek phrase used for having it more abundantly means to have a superabundance of a thing. To be a follower of Jesus, to know who he is and what he means, is to have a superabundance of life . . .
“When we try to live our own lives, life is a dull, dispirited thing. When we walk with Jesus, there comes a new vitality, a superabundance of life. It is only when we live with Christ that life becomes really worth living and we begin to live in the real sense of the word.”
Abundance of blessings
Following the Good Shepherd leads to an abundance of blessings. As David wrote in the 23rd Psalm:
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (verses 1-3).
The Good Shepherd knows the good paths—the paths of righteousness. He designed our lives and knows the ways that work. Obeying His laws produces good results, as He explained in the blessings of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28.
For example: “If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them, then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.
“Your threshing shall last till the time of vintage, and the vintage shall last till the time of sowing; you shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.
“I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none will make you afraid; I will rid the land of evil beasts, and the sword will not go through your land” (Leviticus 26:3-6; see also Deuteronomy 28:1-14).
But David also wrote about the times we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4). God protects His sheep even in these difficult times, and these challenges can produce a different kind of blessing.
There is purpose, meaning and hope even in the difficult times we experience. In those darker times we learn lessons, grow in faith and become more mature—all of which are necessary to prepare us for the ultimate abundant life God is preparing us for.
God’s way works, and obedience will produce an abundance of blessings in this life. Even more, these blessings are reflected in the prophecies of the time when the Kingdom of God will rule over the earth.
Abundance of increase
One of God’s promises of the time when Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, will rule is found in Isaiah 9:7.
“Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”
What better way to describe the abundant life Jesus offers!
Abundance of meaning
The abundant life Jesus offers is not a life of boredom and meaninglessness. He has a plan and purpose, and He calls us to join Him in His mission.
That purpose transforms our lives, as it transformed the lives of the first Christians.
Jesus called fishermen to become fishers of men—to share with others the good news of the Kingdom of God and the opportunity to become children of God (Matthew 4:19)! Tentmakers taught the way of God (Acts 18:2-3, 26). Widows, too, threw themselves into service to fulfill their part in God’s work (9:39).
Today God is calling people from all walks of life into His Church to prepare for His Kingdom and to help support the preaching of the good news as we help in God’s work of bringing many “sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10). He gives us Sabbaths and festivals for rejoicing and deep and growing relationships. (Learn more about these in our article “God’s Sabbath Day: A Day of Refreshing” and “Christian Fellowship.”)
He gives us purpose and joy in this life, and the promise of even greater purpose and joy in the life to come.
To learn more about finding true meaning and purpose in your life, read “Everyone Who Thirsts, Come to the Waters.”
Abundance of time—eternal life!
Even the best physical life is temporary. Life is short, and then we die.
But the abundance Jesus offers not only extends life, it makes it permanent! The abundant life is a whole different sort of life—eternal life!
Jesus said about His sheep who follow Him: “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28).
It is hard to even imagine living forever. What does it mean? Well, for one thing it means no more plans and dreams and relationships will be cut short. There will be no more regrets, no more sorrows about things unsaid.
And as David beautifully put it, “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
Jesus offers a wonderful future life—eternal life! He gives real life, no longer temporary. And He will lead us on a path to fullness of joy forevermore!
Study more about these promises in our inspiring article “The Gift of Eternal Life.”