Do you ever feel like everyone has an answer for everything, but you can’t seem to grasp any of it? Marie Kondo knows the secrets of how to declutter us. Dave Ramsey will dig us out of debt. Weight Watchers is going to help us finally lose weight and feel great. And for anything they might have missed, Joel Olsteen will show us how to, “Live Our Best Life Now!”
You would think with so many gurus running around today, we would all be so much happier, more organized, productive and thinner. Despite the availability of all this information, though, many of us still struggle with feeling like our life has meaning. We struggle with the haunting doubts of, “not enough.”
“I am not enough.”
“My finances are not enough.”
“My health is not enough.”
“My house is not enough.”
“My relationship is not enough.”
“My accomplishments are not enough.”
If the experts are available, and they are very willing to share their secrets to happily ever after with us, why are we still struggling? What are we missing? What is the key to an abundant life? Is it even obtainable?
The word of God sure seems to suggest that we are to be, “Living our best life now,” “Sparking joy,” and all the rest.
2 Corinthians 9:8 says, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:”
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”
So, what are we missing? What have the gurus figured out that we haven’t figured out? Let’s start with an honest look at how we perceive “experts.”
Business As Usual
When you are considering any expert on any topic, it is important to remember that this person is sharing their methods on one topic. This person has a knack for something. It might be health and fitness. It might be decluttering your house. It might be finances. It might be motivational speaking. What you need to remember, though, is that this is one person with a talent. It does not mean that they hold the secrets to the universe.
We often latch onto some expert, and we assume that if we can tap into what they are teaching it will not only declutter our kitchen, but maybe if the house wasn’t so cluttered the kids and I would feel calmer and the children would behave better. If I lose weight maybe my spouse will find me more attractive and it will fix our relationship problems. If I just follow this plan and get out of debt no financial disaster can touch me.
We set some pretty unrealistic expectations on these methods. Marie Kondo never promised to make your kids behave better. She just wanted to help you get rid of some junk. Dave Ramsey didn’t promise you’d be insulated from all catastrophes. He only says he can help you spend money more wisely. Weight Watchers is certainly not claiming to fix people’s relationships. They just want to help you lose weight.
It is also important to note that the gurus, not just picking on the above mentioned people, are running a business. These are business people. Regardless of how good their intentions are, at the end of the day they are hoping to make a profit off of sharing their knowledge on the topic they have a knack for. I’m not saying this is wrong. In fact, it’s very wise to use something you are good at and passionate about to make a living, but still it’s a business. Expecting their knowledge to change your entire life is just as silly as expecting your barber to change your life when he provides you services at his business.
There is only one who has the words of life, and that is our Savior. There is only one who knows how to take the whole tangle of your life and weave a beautiful tapestry, and that is our Good Heavenly Father. There is only one who knows how to lead us through the most confusing, complicated, dangerous, dark days of our lives, and that is the sweet Holy Spirit. And thankfully God is not a business person. God will not charge us to learn His secrets of an abundant life. God just asks that we read it, believe it and practice it.
Less is More
Another misconception that we often have about the abundant life, is that more is more. When many people consider the abundant life, they think in terms of more. More money, more time, more fitness, more friends, more success. But Jesus spoke of the abundant life in terms of less.
In Matthew 16 Jesus starts to discuss with his disciples what his future is going to look like. He shared with them how he would be tried and executed. Peter did not like this talk one bit and began to resist Jesus’ words. Jesus explains things to him in verses 24 through 26, “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
In these verses Jesus is most definitely not talking about more, more, more, except in the context of giving more. He had already spent three years of his life giving, giving, giving and now he would give more. He would give his life. He makes it very plain to the disciples and to us, that the path to an abundant life is not climbing the ladder of success, packing the bank account, or keeping up with the neighbors, be they named Jones or otherwise. Christ here defines the abundant life as a life of giving and losing.
This flies right in the face of our ideas on everything. We are programed from childhood to get all the gold stars. The more gold stars you have on your chart the better you are. Better than the others. Superior. This gold star mentality follows us into our teen years when having the best clothes and the most popular friends and the coolest car feel like a life or death drama. Unfortunately, most people do not grow out of this even into adulthood. The competition and the humble brags, and the deep seeded pride bubbles at the surface every time we get the nicer car, or the bigger house or when our child excels at anything. We are still after the gold stars, but just in more and more expensive ways now.
But does all of this grasping leaving us feeling fulfilled? The problem with being caught up in competitions of this nature is that they are never really over. There will always be a nicer car, a bigger house, a more prestigious promotion.
The problem with grasping is that it is exhausting, and unscriptural. What does Jesus say about our materialism?
"Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
Our good God, who created us, knows how our minds work. He understands human psychology because he created the human. So, God understands that the human mind thrives when it is focused and operating in the present moment. The grasping for more, and the striving for attaining something down the road goes against our very psychology.
Even modern psychologist are starting to see the importance of living in the moment and releasing our grasping mentality. Psychology Today author Jay Dixit claims, “Mindfulness (living in the moment) reduces stress, boosts immune functioning, reduces chronic pain, lowers blood pressure, and helps patients cope with cancer.”(1)
More and more cancer treatment facilities are incorporating mindfulness practices with patients in order to help them deal with the pain and stress of their diagnosis. (2) What modern science is now proclaiming is what Jesus taught in Matthew 6. The human mind can only thrive when dealing with now. If we stretch too far backward, we will be thrashed with regret. If we reach too far forward we will be overcome with the future. Living for more, more, more is not living in this moment.
Dorothy Had It Right
In L. Frank Baum’s classic book, “The Wizard of Oz,” a discontented little girl runs away from home. Hoping to just go down the road and join up with another traveler, she gets more than she bargained for and is whisked away to another world entirely. Her life gets turned upside down in her quest for something better, something different. The story concludes with Dorothy safely back at home in her own bed with some new insight on contentment. Her famous quote holds more wisdom that most of us realize.
“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again I won’t look any further than my own backyard because if it isn’t there I never really lost it to begin with.”
It is always interesting to me when pop culture reflects Biblical ideals. In “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy is very plainly here citing the philosophy found in Philippians 4:11-12.
“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”
It’s interesting when pop culture reflects Biblical philosophy because it is never credited as Biblical philosophy, and very often people latch on as if it were something new. Regardless of whether author L. Frank Baum ever acknowledged that this is a Biblical ideal or not is irrelevant, what is relevant is the truth of the ideal. When we are content with what God has already provided, we are immediately freed from grasping. Our minds can rest, move into a different mode entirely. We can live in the moment. When the human mind ceases from grasping, it can begin moving on another plane, and that is the plane of spirituality.
Grasping and spirituality cannot dwell together. The stress that a majority of the population feels on a daily basis is the direct result of grasping. Grasping for more money, more success, a better relationship, a different partner, more successful children, better things, fancier vacations. All of it is just grasping at things that have absolutely nothing to do with our spirituality.
You can be saved. Your soul can be sealed and headed to heaven, but if you do not cease from the grasping mentality which enslaves most people, then you will never live a spiritual life of peace and contentment here on earth. You will be a saved person, headed to heaven, who wastes their time on this earth always reaching for things on higher shelves that are just out of your reach.
Does God Ever Want Better for Me?
Here is the beautiful, upside down truth about God’s will for you. There may be things that God wants to change in your life. There may be material things that He wants to give you. There may be a bigger, better job he wants you in. There may be a better relationship He wants for you, or dozens of other changes. Or not. God has a different path for every individual Christian. You might be asking, “So how in the world are we supposed to know?”
When we cease from grasping, and tap into the secrets of the abundant life found in Christ’s message during the last supper, we can begin operating on a spiritual plane in which the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth. John 16:13 “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak:” The Holy Spirit cannot guide someone who is consumed with grasping, though. The Holy Spirit cannot communicate with you and lead you while you are distracted by man’s path to abundance.
God does want an abundant life for us, and the path to that abundant life is hidden in the words Christ spoke to his disciples during the last supper.
The Secrets of the Last Supper
Most of us consider the last supper a rather sad story in the Bible, which simply sets in place the rules for communion. Most churches today practice communion in some form or another. During communion the scriptures detailing the last supper are often read, but very few of us stop to consider the deeper meaning in these verses.
If you consider these verses in a new light, you can see Christ’s entire ministry, His entire plan for living abundantly on this earth. You can also see what he desires for each of us.
Luke 22:19 "And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.
In John 6:35 Christ refers to Himself as the bread of life. “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”
Galatians 2:20 explains to us how that upon salvation Christ takes up residence in us. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
So, if Christ is the bread of life, and Christ is in us, then upon salvation we become bread as well. To understand the path to abundant life, you must understand your identity in Christ. There is a reason that Christ called Himself the “bread of life.” There is also a reason why he chose to brake bread, and not some other food at the last supper. Bread is a universal symbol for sustenance. It is something that can help you survive. It is one of the most basic forms of food which man has been thriving on for thousands of years.
You don’t believe that, just check out the bread aisle at your local grocery store during any kind of threatening weather. Snow storms, tornadoes, hurricanes. We wipe out the bread first. Why is that? Because it is hardwired into our biology through thousands of years to know that bread will sustain us. It is no accident that Christ calls Himself bread, and uses bread at the last supper. So the metaphor of Christ being the bread, and of us being the bread since Christ is in us, is suitable for this study on the last supper.
The Giving of Thanks
But what does he do with the bread? He is sitting at the table with his disciples, Judas included. He is literally hours away from being captured and murdered. Take note that this moment takes place right before his prayer in the garden experience. In just a few more verses, (41-45) He is going to pray to His father to remove the cup from Him. He prays and asks God to find another way than the way of the cross.
So understand this scenario, Christ is sitting at the table with his closest friends, and his betrayer, he is hours away from death, and He is dealing with some sort of doubt, which he doesn’t deal with until after supper while praying alone. But despite the betrayer at the table, despite the conflicts in His own heart, despite the gruesome death which is only hours away, Jesus takes the bread and the first thing he does with it is give thanks.
In this darkest moment of His life, Christ found something to be thankful for. Jesus Himself met his trials with thankfulness. Not complaining. Not anger. Not stress. Thankfulness. He looked through the darkness of his moment and determined to find something to give thanks for.
This is our first step toward abundant living; a continuous sense of thankfulness. Gratitude can completely change your perspective on anything. Gratitude and praise is the one thing that God honors above sacrifice. Psalms 49:9-14 says, “I will not take calves out of thy house: nor he goats out of thy flocks. For all the beasts of the woods are mine: the cattle on the hills, and the oxen. I know all the fowls of the air: and with me is the beauty of the field. If I should be hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof. Shall I eat the flesh of bullocks? or shall I drink the blood of goats? Offer to God the sacrifice of praise: and pay thy vows to the most High.”
No matter what the situation you are in, it is not worse than the situation Christ was in. He gave thanks. When you shift your mindset to an attitude of, “I will be thankful no matter what. I will show gratitude for something in every situation,” you open wide the door for the Holy Spirit to lead you into the abundant life.
The next thing that Christ does with the bread (remember He was the bread and we are the bread) is He broke it. “And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it..” A loaf of bread is most beneficial only after it is broken. It might be broken through being cut, or it might just get ripped apart, or someone might just take a bite right out of it, but there is always a breaking of some kind. Bread most be broken before it can be useful.
So, if Christ was the bread, what did this mean for Him? He was broken on the cross, and it was only through that breaking that He was able to fulfill the plan of salvation for us. If we are the bread, what does this mean for us? It means that we will face brokenness too. There will be pain, problems, tragedies. These things will feel like we are being broken apart. But we are not. We are being broken so that we can fulfill the last part of Luke 22:19.
“And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them.” When we experience brokenness, it gives us the opportunity to give ourselves to others. We can only join in real communion with others when we share our brokenness with their brokenness. This also flies in the face of everything we are taught. We are taught to uphold an image of perfection. So, we go through life grasping at this image and exerting so much energy into building this image and keeping it propped up. But Christ was not about perfection the night of the last supper. Christ was about thankfulness, brokenness, and givenness. Our path to abundance lies in our willingness to thank God in every situation, accept our brokenness and offer our brokenness to be in communion with others in their brokenness. That is where fulfillment lies, in the relationships. The real, fulfilling, deep relationships are always with the people we let in on our brokenness. You never really feel in communion with the people you are propping your perfection image up for.
You want an abundant life? You want to cease from the stress of grasping? You want to feel fulfilled and connected and in communion with those around you? You don’t need more money. You don’t need newer, more exciting relationships. You don’t need to lose 10 pounds.
You need to find something to be thankful for in every situation. You need to quit denying and resisting the fact that you are broken. You need to give yourself, broken just like you are, to others who are broken too. Christ gave us the secrets to an abundant life right there in the last supper. During His darkest, saddest moment on earth, He shares with mankind the path to abundance and joy.