Wonderful Abundant Life
You see, George, you’ve really had a wonderful life.
George Bailey needed the wingless angel Clarence to teach him that, despite all his difficulties and unfulfilled dreams, he was a blessed man. George was so consumed with all that was “wrong” with his life that he missed the wonderfulness of it. He failed to recognize the abundance of his blessings during his time of trial (which seemed to him to be perpetual). We are able to identify with George.
Failure to Believe the Promise
How often do we fail to believe the promise of Christ that the purpose of His coming was to give abundant life to His sheep? We suffer persecution, endure trials, see our dreams remain unfulfilled, and, like George, begin to wonder abundantly about our life in this world, instead of rejoicing in the wonderful abundance of our life in Christ. King Jesus tells us that He gives us life abundantly — life eternal and ever-growing, a life of joy and peace. The word that He uses in this text indicates that we receive more than life’s essentials, for He “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all we ask or think (Eph. 3:30).” This is a glorious promise and one we need to embrace daily.
The plans that we make and the persecution we take are two primary obstacles to us embracing this promise of God; both got in George’s way.
A great deal of Mr. Bailey’s frustration with his life was the result of not heeding the clear teaching of Scripture regarding the plans of man and the will of God. “The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps (Prov. 16:9). Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the LORD will stand (Prov. 19:21).” A young and enthusiastic George boldly proclaimed, “I know what I’m going to do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next year, and the year after that.” As each day and year in George’s life passed and his best plans continued to be derailed, he became increasingly frustrated with his life. How often are we guilty of the same sin?
Life Doesn’t Go as We Plan
We become distraught and disgusted with our life because it isn’t going the way we mapped it out. We question Christ’s promise about abundant life, not because He fails to give it but because we fail to get it. In particular we fail to get the teaching of God’s Word through His servant James:
Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’ But as it is you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin (4:13-17).
George, as Mr. Potter rightly discerned, was a warped and frustrated young man. He and we become so when we arrogantly boast of our plans without acknowledging that every one of them is dependent on the will of the Lord.
George Bailey sought to live and stand for what was morally right. As he did, suffering commonly followed. Whether it was remaining home while his brother went off to college, Mr. Potter’s evil schemes to take down the Building and Loan, or Uncle Billy’s absent-mindedness, George was the one was “stricken all day long (Ps. 73:14a).” Like Asaph, George may have thought, “Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence (v. 13).” Such thinking is senseless, ignorant, and beastly (v. 22).” This, too, led to George’s failure to see how wonderful his life really was. We are not immune to such sin.
Persecution & the Abundant Life
Christ has promised us a life of persecution as well as a life of abundance. The first half of John 10:10 indicates this:
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.“
Later in John’s gospel (15:20) Christ tells us that persecution is guaranteed. Paul writes:
“Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12)”
“Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).”
Tribulation and persecution are not contrary to abundant life, but an essential part of it,
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 5:10; see also vv. 11-12).”
We can miss the abundant life that is ours, especially during times of trial, unless we desire and rely on Christ alone.
“Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart mail fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Ps. 73:25-26).”
Abundance in Jesus
We have One much better than the angels to teach us that He came to give abundant life to His sheep. Even when we are afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down it is so that the abundant life of Jesus may be manifested in us (2 Cor. 4:7-12). Whatever “loss” we suffer is nothing compared to our gaining Christ and experiencing abundant life in Him (Phil. 3:7-11).
In Christ, we know that all things work together for good; in Christ, we know God will freely give us all things; in Christ, we are justified and cannot be condemned; in Christ, we have a constant intercessor; in Christ, we overwhelmingly conquer even through trials, tribulation, persecution, distress, and all of life’s difficulties; in Christ, we have complete confidence that nothing and no one is able to separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:28-39).
You see, Christian, you really have an abundant life.
This article was originally published in Every Thought Captive magazine, 2007.