In John 10:10b, Jesus reminded his disciples the reason for His coming: He came so that they may have life in abundance. Some of these followers experienced the abundant life Jesus was discussing. Others, chief among them being Judas Iscariot, due to unbelief, missed the flight. A burglar sneaked from behind, stole, killed and destroyed them.
Let us delve deeper and look at two of the apostles of Jesus – Peter and Paul. They experienced abundant life. Didn’t they?
After sipping from the fountain of Jesus, Peter became bold. He preached to multitudes without cowardice. Through Peter, Aeneas was healed, and Dorcas brought back to life (Acts 9:32-43). Peter is one of the few chaps who really understand the supernatural prison break (Acts 12:5-17). He literally walked from prison to rejoin his buddies.
Astonishingly, in another episode, Peter lay tranquilly in prison fully aware that he was to face the executioner the following day. Contrast this Peter, to the Peter who denied Jesus in the Gospels: One is enjoying abundant life, and the other is enduring a limited life.
There are other miracles and excellent works wrought by the Holy Spirit through Peter (healing of the lame man, the story of Ananias and Saphira).
Paul, on the other hand, through the power of God, healed the crippled (Acts 14:8-10), casts out divination spirits (Acts 16:16-18), Sang in prison until the doors swung open and chains fell off (Acts 16:25-26), brought Eutychus back to life (Acts 20:9-12), and many more miracles.
Is this the end of the story?
No! That is not the whole story; it is merely one side of the coin. The other side of the coin contains accounts that most of us don’t fancy. Unfortunately, these stories are still part of the abundant life that Jesus promised us.
The gift box of abundant life still contains arrests (Acts 4:3), threats (Acts 4:8) and imprisonments (Acts 12:1-10; 16:16-40). Later on, we find Peter being crucified upside down in Rome by Emperor Nero. Paul would be imprisoned again and stayed in chains for quite a time before being decapitated.
They were lonely, deserted by friends, and endured great turmoil.
That is the other side of the coin.
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.
Mark 10:29-30 [emphasis added]
What is faith, and how is it connected to abundant life?
Hebrews 11 explains what faith is. It gives the best answer to the question ‘what is faith?’ Most of us read the definition of faith in verse 1 and quit there. We seldom read the whole chapter to see what faith in practice means. It is only when we read beyond the opening verses that we see the other side of a two-sided coin we call faith.
For example, we are told that Abraham obeyed God. Faith is obedience to God. We cannot claim to exercise our faith when we are living in disobedience. It doesn’t work that way. God works according to His Word, and He does not bend to feed our greed. Part of Abraham’s Faith involved living as a pilgrim in a strange land and agreeing to sacrifice to God his only son.
If you happen to check the ancient secular history books, you will hardly find the names of heroes mentioned in the Hall of Faith. It is because faith does not necessarily make one famous. In fact, in human standards, these people were nobody’s as their faith earned them world disdain.
Faith is not a mental conviction but rather acts (By Faith, Abel ‘offered’ a sacrifice). Faith is very discriminative. It is selfish in the sense that it chooses spiritual over material and eternal over temporal.
Faith is not equal to practising retardation or pettiness. As a matter of fact, by faith, we ‘understand’ that the universe was made by God – creatio ex nihilo. ‘Understand’ is not a monkey business word. It carries more weight than we sometimes imagine.
Consequently, abundant life is equal to a life of Faith in God as seen in the Books of Acts and Hebrews, and in point of fact, the whole Bible. It is two-sided, just like a coin. One side has miracles and niceties. When flipped, the other side contains, threats, floggings, prisons, thorns in the flesh and other things we do not like hearing. Nonetheless, they all work for the glory of God and for our good.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28 (KJV)
Abundant life entails healing the sick, raising the dead, sleeping serenely in prison-like Peter – running a revival in prison-like Paul and Silus – and many more.
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We always talk about fruits but forget to point out the processes and the raw materials – seeds, planting, weeding, pruning, and the roots – that accouche fruits.
“Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated”
Hebrews 11:36-37 (NIV).