Embrace the abundant life God wants you to live.
by Carlos Whittaker
JOHN 10:10 SAYS THAT Jesus came so we may have life and have it in abundance. But most of the past twelve months didn’t seem to care what John 10:10 says. You know what I mean? The year had the Australian bush fires that killed over 1 billion animals. A pandemic spread across the planet. Many of our relatives got sick and we couldn’t be with them. Our economy collapsed. Unemployment raged all across America. The Olympics was canceled. The tragic death of George Floyd and many others led to civil unrest across the globe. Nova Scotia had a horrific mass shooting. There were actual murder hornets. Flint, Michigan, still has no clean drinking water. Locust swarms of biblical proportions devastated African crops. There was a Saharan dust storm that destroyed many lives. A massive explosion in Beirut killed thousands of people. And our presidential election divided families and friendships in the unhealthiest of ways.
Yet we can also say that past months contained everything we know to be true about the gospel — God is in control.
John Eldredge said, “The accumulation of event after event that we are assaulted by erodes our confidence that we are a part of something grand and good and reduces us to a survival mindset. We’ve been told that we matter to God. And we sort of believe it. But life has a way of chipping away at the belief that He means us well.”
I couldn’t agree more with that statement. It’s been so much. And inevitably, what happened was that more and more Christians sat out a year. We said things like, “As soon as this is over, I’ll get back into the game.” It’s almost like we were waiting for life to finish so that we could finally experience all that John 10:10 has to offer.
But I have news for those of you who might feel the tug to retreat to a corner, who might feel that life is just too much. The good news is that the gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t dependent on how you feel.
The Good News
In spite of how we felt, the circumstances and our experiences didn’t change the gospel. But feelings can cause us to start believing things that aren’t true. Things like, “God is holding out on us” or “We are messed up beyond repair.” Believing these things can make us apathetic.
The good news that Jesus spoke of in John 10:10 is about eternal life, but that’s not the only promise given. A life of abundance is available here and now on this side of heaven. Healing. Fullness. Abundance. These things are available to us. Does that mean we will all experience these things each and every day before we spend eternity with Jesus? No. But if it’s possible to have an abundant life, why would we want to chase after anything less?
This promise of life to the fullest is for now. You don’t become a Christian and wait for heaven. You become a Christian and experience a little of heaven on earth.
I think for many of us this confusion begins when we misunderstand what life in abundance actually means. The verse has been taught incorrectly for generations. I vividly remember thinking that life with abundance meant I would have a nice car, a vacation home, my kids would behave, nobody I loved would ever get sick, my marriage would be flawless, and I would have a nice retirement savings waiting for me when I’m ready to retire. But the truth is that John 10:10 has nothing to do with accumulating things and everything to do with accessing Jesus.
You may be thinking to yourself that you have tried accessing Jesus all year, and things didn’t get any easier. You listened to all the latest worship songs. You faithfully attended virtual church services. You downloaded and listened to all the right podcasts. And still the last twelve months were brutal, and you couldn’t see and hear the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Well, I have some more good news for you. You don’t have to try harder. You actually have to do the exact opposite.
Turn It Up
When we lower the volume of life, the volume of God goes up. It’s so true. If anyone says to me that they can’t hear the voice of God, my first statement is for this person to look at his or her screen time and calendar. How in the world are we supposed to hear the voice of God when the volume of everything else is so loud?
We were created for conversational intimacy with the Holy Spirit. “The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:3-4).
We were created to hear His voice.
Slow It Down
Don’t think that this is just a current problem. No. Slowing down enough to hear the voice of God has been a problem for humanity long before 2020 hit.
Let’s rewind a few thousand years and look in on our friends, the Israelites. These people, who if you remember were the chosen people of God, couldn’t slow down enough to hear the voice of the God who chose them. Moses was always telling the Israelites to be quiet. Seriously, look at Deuteronomy 27:9. It’s one of the final statements Moses said to the Israelites: “Be silent, Israel, and listen! This day you have become the people of the LORD your God.”
I love that there is an exclamation point thrown in there for good measure. Moses was literally yelling at them to lower the volume of life, so the volume of God goes up.
You might remember when the Israelites were at the edge of the Red Sea with the Egyptian army hot on their trail. While they were freaking out, Moses literally had to yell at them: “Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD” (Ex. 14:13, KJV).
This is next to impossible for us to do. We can’t even wait at a red light and sit in silence for 30 seconds without the desire to pick up our phones and check our notifications.
But what happened when the Israelites finally stood still? God split the sea so they could walk right through it. In their silence, the Lord provided.
So what about you? In which areas of your life will you intentionally lower the volume, so that the volume of God goes up? In which areas will you stop rolling up your sleeves trying to fix things, and instead, allow God to fix them?
What if the way to actually catch up with God is to deliberately slow down?
Jesus did ministry at three miles an hour. Jesus did ministry at the pace that His own feet could travel. That’s how fast we walk — three miles an hour. Jesus didn’t rush. Far be it for us to minister in ways that outrun the pace of the Holy Spirit.
If you want to finally bring healing to the trauma and pain of your past, might I recommend that you slow down and allow the blood of the cross and the power of the resurrection to bring you the healing that no amount of hustle could ever bring on your own?
Healing is waiting. Freedom is waiting. And we must remember that it’s not going to be waiting at our speed. Dare I say that healing is actually waiting at God speed? Which is much slower than the pace of our lives.
Carlos Whittaker is an author, speaker, and worship leader. He speaks at some of the largest churches in the country and at conferences, including Catalyst, MOMcon, and many others. A People’s Choice Award winner and host of a popular podcast, he is also the author of Mom Maker and Kill the Spider. Carlos lives with his wife, Heather, and their three children in Nashville.
This article originally appeared in HomeLife magazine (March 2021). For more articles like this, subscribe to HomeLife.