Abundant Living

Sunday, 23. February 2020

Admiral Byrd told of an experience on one of his ventures to the South Pole: He was coming back to his hut when a "Whiteout" blizzard blew in and he lost sight of the hut. He carried a pole everywhere he went to test the snow.

When he turned around, he couldn't see his hut, he couldn't see to get back. What he did was he placed that pole in the ground and he would venture off a few steps and he did it three or four times and he never found his hut, but he always came back to that pole, that staff.

And when he was asked about it, he said, that was my "Center." If I failed to find my hut, I could return to the center and try again. He said three times I tried and failed, but each time I returned to my center without which I would have been lost and would have died. On the fourth attempt, I stumbled upon my hut.

Now what? Or better yet, Who? Should be our center? It is Jesus Christ. When you take into consideration that every person needs to have a focal point of reference, especially when it comes to our spiritual lives, the salvation of our souls, it needs to be Jesus Christ. And when you consider that Paul said it this way in Philippians chapter one, verse 21: "For to me to live is Christ." While Paul was alive, who was his purpose was centered around? Jesus Christ. He knew that to die was gain, but the apostle John says in verse four of John chapter 14, this is what makes him the center of our lives -- or should make him the center of our lives -- "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me."

If Jesus Christ is our center, then we have access to the father. We can return to him. If we should get off the straight and narrow path... We know that we can come back. And if we know who we are going to come back to, that being Jesus, we keep our focus. Paul said it another way in Philippians chapter three, verse 14 where he said, "I press toward the goal of the prize of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus." See, his focus was on heaven, but who's in heaven now? Jesus Christ. He's sitting at the right hand of God. Again, focus on our center, Jesus Christ. When we partake of the Lord's supper on Sunday mornings, what are we doing?

We realize that we are focusing on that cross, we're focusing on Christ. We're focusing on our center. What he did for us: his death, the blood that he shed becomes that central thought in our in our lives and enables us to go through him to the father. First John chapter two verses 24 and 25, "Therefore, let that abide in you, which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning of abides in you, you also will abide in the son and in the father; and this is the promise that he has promised to us: Eternal life." Eternal life is the true abundant life that we are striving for.

Why go through the son to the father? Because we want to live eternally. When we think about this, it requires us then to hang onto, to abide in, what we heard from the beginning. That gospel message of the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It becomes our center. When we abide in that center, then we will have access to that promise of eternal life.

Well, I would suggest to you also this morning, that having that center requires the child of God to have a certain amount of optimism. I think that is something that is very much needed. We live in such a dark world at times that that darkness kind of overshadows us and it, it depresses us. It creates anxieties in our lives and then it also inhibits us from moving forward. There is a saying there that the pessimist says, if I don't try, I won't fail.

Well, in the child of God's life, think about Admiral Byrd again. If on that third attempt he didn't find anything and he just gave up and not try it again, what happened? He failed. He would have failed to find the hut. And for us, in our lives even today, our attitude that makes for success in our individual lives is that if at first I don't succeed, what do we do? Try, try again. In our lives as children of God, we know that at times we're not going to win every battle in our lives, but we don't have to lose the war for our souls. We keep on trying. That is that sense of optimism that causes us to persevere in our own lives. Optimism, then, is necessary to be successful as a child of God. If I don't try, I can't succeed. So being children of God, we should be exceedingly optimistic.

When you hear the words, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Understand this. That is a spiritual message, not necessarily a physical message -- it has more to do with our perseverance as children of God, in a world that does not want us to survive spiritually than anything else -- but it doesn't matter what our circumstances are: If our focus is on Christ and he is our center, then we will be able to overcome our circumstances! And we're not talking about football games and a team needing to score a touchdown in the last minute and a half of the game, and they do that, then they say, "Well, we could do all things because Christ was with us." That's not what he's talking about. But we can overcome sin. We can can experience the blessings that come through Jesus Christ and we can overcome the difficulties of life. Then you think about here again in what the message that that Paul gives in in Romans chapter eight and verse 31, when it starts out, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" If you read that entire chapter, chapter eight, and you know then what he's talking about. He's talking about those individuals who are in Christ, those who individuals who've persevered in life, those people who have overcome because they were focused on their center. Jesus Christ.

The Psalmist says, "I will fear no evil for thou art with me." That is the attitude of understanding that no matter what comes my way with God with me, I can get through it. And then Jesus talking to his disciples in John chapter 14 in the discouragement and the things that were causing them to be discouraged because he was leaving them. He said, "You believe in God, believe also in me." Return to your center. Keep your focus. Keep that optimism. And I would suggest this this morning, and I'm going to say that quite often in this lesson, "suggest this." It is understanding that when you are this type of child of God, one who is optimistic, you have a better chance of being a personality that people are drawn to. You don't have to walk around with that dark cloud hanging over your head all the time. The eternal pessimists, what he does, he basically imprisons himself in a morbid jail of self pity and misery. But the child of God is one who will answer questions like this. How are you doing today? The best answer that I have ever been given in that. And I know that that individual was not having the best of days, but they still answered, "I'm blessed because I'm a child of God."

See, that's optimism of getting through whatever's there in front of you. As a child of God there is that optimism that we should have in our lives. That brings us to that point where it removes the need for the pity parties that we have. I remember growing up as a child and one of the things that that individuals would do, would be to try to snap you out of those pity parties. Remember somebody walking up to you and doing this and taking their index finger, spin it on their thumb and asking you what this is. It's the world's smallest record player playing, "My heart bleeds for you." As if they really care. Then you've got the world's smallest violin. That's this way. But it's just one of those things that we can be so self-absorbed at times in ourselves, our problems, that we forget about the riches of the grace that is ours as his children. Optimism, then, is the key to that prison that unlocks that door and releases the shackles of bitterness that we might have in our lives. Optimism is based upon that center that we have in Jesus Christ.

Then, Removal of Destructive Criticism: Don't be an individual that likes to cast the first stone. Is there such a thing as constructive criticism? Absolutely. So I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about the things that tear down that don't have any opportunity to build up; and quite often what that requires then on our point is us having a consciousness of our own imperfections. Which do you have in your eye? A Beam or a Speck? You know, Jesus in Matthew chapter seven addressed that because the criticism that was destructive there, was condemnation. That was what he was talking about. It's not telling them that they could not judge at all, but unrighteous condemnation because they didn't recognize their own inadequacies and their own failures. We have to look inward in those things. Romans chapter two in verse one, probably one of the most powerful verses right there coming after Paul has has mentioned those things that God has turned the minds of men over to at the end of chapter one -- and then he sits there and tells these individuals, you're inexcusable. Why? "Therefore, you are inexcusable, oh man. Whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another, you condemn yourself. For you who judge practice the same things." That's hypocritical. That's where destructive criticism comes a part of our lives: When we actually end up playing the hypocrite. A critic may often start false rumors to cover up his or hers inadequacies, but the price that is paid is self-condemnation. So don't be discouraged when you're criticized. Being a child of God, that's going to be inevitable; You are going to face some criticism. You're going to face some form of condemnation along the way. You see Jesus was reviled. Jesus suffered. He was threatened daily, but it did not keep him from accomplishing his purpose? No, it didn't. He ended up and coming to this earth, going to the cross and dying for us. And understand this, we're not going to please everybody 100% of the time. Peter said, "It is better if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil."

Sometimes we don't wrap our heads around a thought like that very well because we don't want to suffer at all -- for any cause. But understand this: As a child of God, there are going to be times that you're going to do the right thing and you'll suffer for it. I don't necessarily want to get into all the different types of examples of this, but these types of things that happen to us on a regular basis bring about destructive aspects to our lives. It makes us think negative thoughts all the time. But if we are going to be optimistic, what we have to do then is we have to remove the negative. We have to remove the destructive things in our lives. Sometimes that might mean that we need to disassociate ourselves from certain people and move on so that we can return to our center.

Try to understand. Try to be more understanding. We are in a congregation of people right here, and we are all different. Every one of us from time to time -- we're not going to agree 100% of the time on things -- and we have to understand that as brethren, that each one of us has a viewpoint that may not be the same as mine at times. Now, what I'm trying to get at is: The perspective of one individual is going to differ from another because each of us are looking through a different set of eyes. That doesn't mean we can't come to the same conclusions. Think of the four gospels: Four different men, four different writers, four different sets of eyes, four different personalities -- Yet they write about the same man and they come to the same conclusions about him. Now that's possible. We can do that.

If the United nations, whose building and offices are in our country, houses people from all around the world who have different political views and yet they're trying to come together to help promote peace. And yet every one of them looks different, most of them talk different, and they look at you and I or, or we look at them and we look at them as being different. The Chinese are in the news right now with this virus that's going around. But at one time there was an ambassador from China that was asked what strikes you as the oddest things about Americans. I think he said this with a smile on his face because we say the same things about them -- He said the peculiar slant of their eyes. But it's our perspective, it's how we look at things -- and it means that what we should be doing is learning lessons. Lessons that will help us live peaceably among all men. Romans chapter 14 and verse 19: "Let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things which may Edify one another." I believe Paul right there is especially talking to Christians and their behavior and their attitudes toward one another. But that principal can also be taken outside of the kingdom with our relationships with those in the world.

It doesn't have to be an adversarial relationship. It can be one where we can live peaceably among men. See, that's something we are actually supposed to pray for. That's what Paul said to Timothy, in First Timothy chapter two that we can continue to live peaceably. That's why we pray for our rulers in this world. And keeping that in mind. then we need to pursue this peace, not just at all costs, because you don't want to pursue peace at the expense of neglecting the will of God. The Lord's attitude was when he prayed in Matthew chapter 26, "Not my will, but yours be done." That should always be our attitude in our pursuit of peace -- in our pursuit of reconciliation in relationships. It should always be the will of God. Do you realize what happens when you do that? It takes you back to that center. It takes you back to the one who came give you that abundant life. He even taught his disciples to pray in Matthew chapter six, "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

And finally this morning, I want you to consider this: That it means a richer life!

A more abundant life is means that we can admit when we're wrong. Jokingly at breakfast yesterday morning, Ron said, "You all know that I'm right most of the time?" And I'm not going to disagree with him - I'm going to let him think that. But you know what? We're not all right, necessarily, most of the time. We want to be right all of the time, don't we? But one of the things that I understand by looking at scriptures is I'm not a perfect individual and I can look around this auditorium and it is good looking as a group of people as this is this morning... None of you are perfect, and I realize that... And you do too.

But one of the biggest things in our lives is coming to the realization that we are not perfect is, that we admit that imperfection. And when we do things that are not perfect in the sight of God, we're willing to admit those things. I've got four examples up there on the screen right now.

Moses is one of them, and yet Moses is one of those Bible heroes that people look at and think, "You know he's written about in Hebrews chapter 11. He is in that great hall of faith right there. He's an example of faith to us, and yet numbers chapter 20 verses 1 through 13, he messed up big time. What he did in numbers chapter 20 verses one through 13 cost him. He was not able to enter into the promised land because of this. You know, the people are complaining again about not having any water. And Moses and Aaron go off and they talk to God and God tells Moses to go back, you take your staff and you speak to the rock and water will come forth. Moses, I understand. I can picture Moses right now in my own mind (and it's not necessarily Charlton Heston) but the mind of Moses right now. He says, these people are getting on my last nerve. And all they are doing is whining and complaining. And God has done everything for them to supply their need and when he gets back to the rock -- in his anger at the children of God -- he sits there and is yelling at them. You want water? And he strikes the rock twice. Water still comes forth. But why was that wrong? He didn't speak to the rock the way God told him to. Moses knew that and later on he admitted that.

Saul, the king, in first Samuel chapter 15: The command is given to him to go into battle with the Amalekites and utterly destroy them. And he comes back, with the animals and the King of the Amalekites. Samuel sees them. Samuel takes the King of the Amalekites and kills him. Saul, eventually, after all this -- after he tries to play the blame game -- said, "The people wanted..." So that's why we did this. He admits that he sinned in the sight of God.

Peter denies Jesus Christ three times. Imagine the tears that he had when Jesus turned and looked at him. We know Peter repented because we know what Peter did with his life after that.

And then Paul, a man who describes himself to his, student Timothy, as "the chief of sinners." How can he come to a conclusion like that? Well, because in acts chapter eight in verse three, "he made havock on the church." He talked about this when he was on trial on his way to Rome to see Caesar: when he stood before Festus and Felix and Agrippa, he mentioned the fact that he thought that he must do many things to destroy the church...

...and yet, after he was converted, he realized just how wrong he was, and I believe Paul reminded himself from time to time, like he did with Timothy, of just what he had done. He said, I'm the chief of sinners.

Well, what that richer life means then, to us who can admit our guilt, it means that confession can be made to both God and man. We can go to God in prayer. Matthew chapter six and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. James chapter five verse 16 we can confess our sins to one another. It's the understanding that we have an avenue in which we can repent of those things so that we can be forgiven of our inadequacies, our sins.

James says, confess your trespasses to one another and pray for one another. That you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man avails much. And once again, what I'm trying to get us to understand is that every time we do something like this, it refocuses us back to where our center. To the one who came to give us life and to give it to us more abundantly. You know, we may try to avoid mistakes by doing absolutely nothing. You know what that costs the one talent man for doing absolutely nothing.

So we are to be moving forward. If we go astray, we always come back to our center. "Therefore, to him that knows to do good and does not -- to him it is sin!" And we are to go about just like Jesus, described as doing good in our lives to truly live more abundantly in this world. And with that forgiveness is a prerequisite to abundant living. You know, you think about what takes place in scripture: Forgiveness is a beautiful act because it began at the cross for us. A beautiful act that begins with love, grace, mercy. It's a beautiful act because we've received it, but it's also supposed to be a beautiful act because we give it to others.

Never does the human soul appear so strong as when it forgoes revenge and dares to forgive an injury. And I think that when you consider these things; Forgiveness is one thing we cannot receive unless we're willing to give it to others. Now that's talking about those who are kingdom citizens right now. Those who have never obeyed the gospel, who receive forgiveness first and then they'll understand what it means to be a forgiven man means they are to be a forgiving individual. Forgiveness: It is a matter of mercy. The Psalmist David in Psalm 51 understood his sin with Bathsheba and he cried out to the Lord, "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving kindness, according to your multitude of tender mercies. Blot out my transgressions."

And we must not forget. We must remember that God will execute judgment upon those who do not forgive, and those who are not forgiven. "Without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy," is what James talks about in James chapter two in verse 13 why? Because mercy triumphs over judgment. So what is abundant living for us today?

Abundant living is living without fear. It is steeped in our faith, in God. In a God that will sustain us. In a God that will revitalize the hope within us -- a hope that for us becomes an anchor for our soul. You see, the Hebrew writer said it the best this way, "This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, in which enters the presence behind the veil." He was speaking of Jesus Christ, our center, the one who came to give us life to give it to us more abundantly.

So let us be of good courage. Let us be people who live that abundant life, understanding that we might lose a few battles in this life, but we don't have to lose the war. That we can live successfully; We can live abundantly in this age in which we live, and if we are successful in that endeavor: If we are willing to keep our focus on our center, Jesus Christ, then we will live the true eternal abundant life with him and the father in heaven.