What does the word “abundant” mean to you? I got thinking about the word “abundant” while talking with a friend. She said she was waiting to find her “abundant life”. This was in reference to the passage in the Bible where Jesus said “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10). That made me question “What is this abundant life?” Is it about having an abundance of things, great wealth or worldwide celebrity status? Is it about getting everything you want? I used to work with a guy who always said “I want everything that’s coming to me.” I told him “No you don’t.”
The abundant life might be having a clear understanding of your life’s purpose and mission; self-actualization; an elusive accomplishment for most people. The Rolling Stones sing you can’t always get what you want but sometimes you might get what you need. Maybe that’s the abundant life; getting everything we need. Unfortunately, basic needs of safety, shelter and food are also a form of an “abundant life” that eludes many people. A lot of people feel like they’ve realized the “abundant life” if they can, by their own efforts and abilities, maintain a “comfortable” life; a life suspended comfortably between having everything and having nothing.
If we’re honest, we have to acknowledge just about everyone wants it – the stuff, the purpose, the comfort. We really do seem to want everything we think we’ve got coming to us. Our focus in pursuing the abundant life seems to be fixed on what’s in it for us; how can we make OUR lives better. This approach to “the abundant life” gets turned on its head when we consider something called “Servant Leadership”.
I’ve studied the life and work of Robert K. Greenleaf (1904-1990) who coined the term “servant leader” and founded the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership. Servant Leaders strive to make sure other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The hope in serving others in this way is that those served will “become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous and more likely themselves to become servants.” ~ Robert Greenleaf.
One of the marks of a servant leader is that they reproduce themselves. Is that the definition of the “abundant life”; to exponentially multiply lifegiving life? That is exactly what Jesus was speaking of when he said “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) Having nice stuff, being comfortable and happy and realizing self-actualization are all great human accomplishments, but they’re all finite in nature. They all “lose their shine” so-to-speak and end when you do. The thief spoken of in John Chapter 10, verse 10 steals joy, kills the human spirit and destroys hope. God created, gifted and equipped us to be His abundance everywhere we walk with Him, sharing the abundant joy, Spirit and hope of His presence with others. A life spent in that service is infinitely more abundant than anything else we can ever have or do.
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