Christ Came That You Might Live An Abundant Life

Sixty years ago, I accepted Christ as my Lord. My life changed completely. God allowed me to manage one of the largest, very profitable, retail stores in the west coast region. I have worked with many hundreds of people. Many did not have the opportunity to live that abundant life the Bible tells us we can have. I have played an active role in my church and have counseled many Christians who lived with constant stress. August of 2011, I wrote on dealing with pressure and stress. It has been read by thousands. I am repeating it once again and hope it helps you if you did not read it.

Is there any normal individual who does not deal with stress, maybe continually? There are numerous books written about dealing with pressure caused by families, relationships, work, health, financial problems, feeling inferior, social pressures of not fitting in, making decisions, taking risks, moral issues and the list seems never ending. How a person deals with stress depends on their degree of commitment, accountability, expectations, their confidence or one’s depth of faith. What does the Bible teach us about handling stress and pressure? It seems that from Genesis to Revelation it tells us to expect it, confront it, and accept it as an opportunity to build character and consider it pure joy because it develops perseverance. WOW! It sounds easy but it isn’t. Who looks forward to pressure and stress because the Bible says it may be good for you? We are told to consider it pure joy when we face trials because the experience tests our faith and develops perseverance. If that is true, then the more trials we have and the greater our stress the more faithful we can become and the more persistence we develop.

James 1:2 – 4 – “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

My experience has been that the older we get and the more spiritually mature we become the less stress we face daily. But there is always a time when an emotion hits the stomach and the blood pressure rises and one’s pulse starts beating a few beats faster. Some react with anger, some look for someone or something to blame, others become physically ill, a few want to run from it but, we are told to confront it. The Bible tells us to consider it a time of joy and an opportunity to test our faith. Would you pay a psychologist to tell you that?

Many of us do not realize there are two kinds of joy: worldly joy and spiritual joy. It is unreasonable to think we will always be confronted with pleasant circumstances. It is not unreasonable to expect and to have joy. The joy I am talking about comes only from the Holy Spirit. The joy we receive from God is continuous and is experienced at all times regardless of how difficult times may seem.

The Apostle Paul says it was this inner joy that encouraged him during his times of imprisonment and the many trials that he encountered. He relates about an inner joy that caused him to press on toward the goals of his ministry. We can develop the same joy the Bible says is available that keeps us positive going through unhappy situations.

The quality of that joy is dependent upon on relationship with Christ. We can’t fake it because it comes from our heart and it is spiritual. It requires that we must continually die out to our self-centered nature and pray that the Holy Spirit helps us to totally surrender and live according to the teaching of Christ. This does not happen overnight and depends on one’s faith to believe and willingness to make a commitment to become devoted to God and obedient to His ways.

God wants us to be patient and we must learn to wait on God. When we face a serious problem we want God to deal with the situation immediately. If every problem was solved instantly what would we have learned? This is why the Bible tells us that God allows trials and testing to develop our patience and character. It is extremely important that we go through these difficult times and learn to trust God and obey Him. God asks that we trust and depend on Him to strengthen our love and faith. Our reaction to problems tells much about our character. Do we become angry and bitter? Or, do we accept our struggles with joy knowing that God is aware and is allowing it to happen for a reason?

Life is not about how long we live or how well we live. It is more about how we live and who do we live for. No matter how life treats us, God can use us regardless of where we are or what we are doing. Never fear, God knows every detail that occurs in our lives before it ever happens. What we go through today may be God’s way of preparing us for His kingdom in eternity. Shouldn’t we want to be as prepared as possible?
James 1:12 – “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

I don’t know about you but when I go through times of testing I develop a closer relationship with Christ. At the same time I am reminded that there will be rewards in heaven that have been promised to us. It appears how we live here in this world and our relationship with Christ will make a difference once we leave this earth. The future should be more important than instance gratification that is offered today. But if our relationship with God is right we can have rewards both places.

Scripture says if we have the faith we can move mountains. Let’s work on our faith as we go through these tests and do so with joy.

P.S. For those few Christians who live miserable lives without joy, read Galatians, specifically the 2nd chapter. Those who still believe they must work their way to heaven and refuse to accept God’s grace are no different from the Judaizers in the early church. Those Jews believed men had to be circumcised and once converted they had to live by the 613 Jewish laws to become a Christian. Today we call them legalists because they are enslaved by works and have not received the freedom that comes through grace. Grace provides the freedom to have joy and an attitude of love which Scripture promises we will receive as a new person in Christ.

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