Paul in I Thessalonians 3:8 stated, once he received Timothy’s report about the Thessalonian believers standing firm in the faith instead of fleeing the faith because of persecution, “now I can live (since) you stand fast in the faith.” Now I can relax and enjoy life because my burden of concern for you has been lifted, Paul seemed to say.
Paul’s statement reminded me of another decree about enjoying life and really living. Jesus, in a conversation with the critical Pharisees recorded in John 9 and 10, states one reason He came: “I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly.”
The context is Jesus’ healing of the blind man and the Pharisees’ reaction to that miracle. Jesus then used the image of the sheep and the shepherd. In towns at the time, often sheep of several shepherds shared pen at night. The doorkeeper guarded the gate and oversaw access. Thieves would climb the fence and steal. Shepherds would enter by the door and call their sheep by name. The sheep would recognize the shepherd’s voice, separate themselves from the others and follow his leading.
Then Jesus states, “I am the door” (John 10:9). This blind man may have been excommunicated by the hard-hearted Pharisees (John 9:34), but his attaching himself to Jesus gained him entry into the Kingdom of Heaven.
In that context, Jesus contrasted the thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy with the Good Shepherd (10:11) who gives His life for the sheep, declaring that they (we) might have life and have it more abundantly (10:10).
The Greek word for abundance points to surplus, more than enough. The abundant life does not necessarily promise a long life, nor an easy, trouble-free life. Rather, the abundant life points to a full and meaningful life of knowing and following Jesus.
Jesus wants us to thrive, to really live and enjoy life every day, as opposed to filling life with worry and only striving to survive another week. A recent article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution used the term “Flourishing” in describing the rising hope coming from Covid 19 vaccinations and the desire to get back to “normal,” whatever that is.
Flourishing is the opposite of languishing. From a secular perspective, flourishing is “living the good life. We usually think about flourishing as living in a state in which all aspects of a person’s life are good . . .” according to Tyler J. Vander-Weele, director of Harvard’s Human Flourishing Program.
After a year of Covid stress and uncertainty, how do we get on the road to flourishing? According to the professors interviewed:
First, diagnose yourself. Are you moving towards flourishing and thriving or away? Do you have a sense of purpose each day?
Second, celebrate the small things. After a year of Zoom, people want to gather and celebrate in person birthdays, graduations, and even small successes. Celebrations mark life’s accomplishments.
I like the idea of gathering. From a Christian and biblical perspective, gathering with our fellow believers on Sundays to worship and study God’s Word should become priorities again, since we’re fully vaccinated. And even if we’re not, we can keep wearing our masks. Sundays should be for celebrating!
Third, continue gratitude. We saw a rise in thankful expression during the Pandemic, whether it was cheering on healthcare workers or thanking frontline workers of all kinds. Gratitude is always appropriate and should be ongoing. Taking time to reflect on what we’re thankful for enriches life.
Fourth, find purpose in everyday routines. Daily routines and accomplishing small projects can contribute to this feeling of flourishing, these professors state. Even something as small as cutting the grass can make you feel as if you’ve accomplished something.
Fifth, I’ll add my two cents worth. Trust Jesus. Follow Him closely every day. Keep your eyes on Jesus and seek first His Kingdom. Apply Galatians 2:20 daily: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
To me, that’s really living!
(“Tips for Flourishing as Life Returns to Normal,” www.ajc.com, May 16, 2021).