It has been said that the tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it.
A story is told of an artist who sculpted a beautiful angel and wanted the master artist, Michelangelo, to inspect it and give his opinion. So Michelangelo carefully looked at the sculpture from every angle. He examined it. He thought about it for a while. Finally, the great artist said, “Well, it lacks only one thing.” Then he turned around and walked out.
The artist didn’t know what his sculpture lacked, but he was embarrassed to go and ask Michelangelo. Finally he sent a friend over to see the artist to try and find out what the statue lacked. Michelangelo told him, “It lacks only life.”
That could be said of a lot of people today. They have all of their ducks in a row, so to speak. They have the house, the car, the spouse, the kids. They have the career. They have money in the bank. They have everything going the way things ought to go to supposedly be living life to its fullest. But they lack only life. It reminds us that we can get all A-pluses yet still flunk life. Henry David Thoreau spoke of men who lead lives of quiet desperation. Some people are living lives of quiet desperation, not really having what they need. They are searching, trying to find some sense of purpose or meaning in their lives. They are still lacking life.
Jesus had something to say about that. He has told us what our lives ought to be all about: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10 NKJV). Here Jesus was contrasting what he offers with what “the thief,” the devil, offers. The enemy of our souls comes only to steal, to kill and to destroy. But Jesus came so that we might have life more abundantly.
We find this statement of Jesus’ within the context of John 10, where he is talking about the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. Jesus is that shepherd, while we are the sheep. In fact, we share a lot of traits with these wandering, mindless animals that are constantly getting themselves into trouble. Jesus is not only our Shepherd, but he is our Good Shepherd. The word Jesus used for good includes the meaning of morally good, but it also could be translated “beautiful,” “winsome,” “lovely,” or even “attractive.” Jesus is the beautiful, attractive, winsome Shepherd. The Shepherd’s plan for his flock – more specifically, God’s plan for you as his child – is that your life would flourish. And it is his absolute joy to bless you.
Sometimes we have a false concept of God in which we see Him up in heaven, being sort of stingy with his blessings. We think he doesn’t want to give out too many of them and that he doesn’t want to spoil us, so we must earn them by good behavior. But nothing could be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is that God wants to bless you even more than you want to be blessed.
We read in the Old Testament that God instructed the priests to pronounce a blessing over the Israelites on a regular basis. They were to pronounce it over the people again and again, so it would be ingrained in their brains and etched in their hearts to the point they could almost say it in their sleep. The blessing was this:
“The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (Number 6:24–26)
God was effectively saying, “I want my people to hear this again and again: I love to bless them. I will keep them. My face will shine upon them. And I will give them peace.” This is the desire of the Good Shepherd: to bless you, to lead you to green pastures and still waters. The abundant life is what Jesus offers.
Now, the abundant life Jesus spoke of is not necessarily a long life, though it may be, but it certainly is a full one. Medical science will seek to add years to our lives, but only Jesus can add life to our years. And having lived on both sides of the fence, having been both a believer and a nonbeliever, there is no question that this side – living the life that God wants me to live – is the best side.
It reminds me of the lyrics of a song by Shirley Caesar from years ago:
But if heaven never were promised to me,
Even God’s promise to live eternally,
It’s been worth just having the Lord in my life.
Living in a world of darkness,
He brought me the light.
If somehow the Bible had been changed and there were no promise of heaven, if there were no afterlife, if we just stopped existing when we died, but everything else was true, I still would be a Christian on that basis alone.
To have Christ in my life, to have his leading, to have his guidance, to have his blessing, to have these standards to live by and to guide my life by … I still would be a Christian for these things alone if there were no heaven.
But the good news is, friend, there is a heaven. There is an afterlife. There is the hope that every Christian has: life, and that more abundantly.