The Abundant Life in Christ
(A Life of Service)
(pre July 1995)
"I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10:10)
"And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thes. 5:23)
The first eleven chapters of Romans are wonderful chapters, and contain many important verses concerning doctrine. Some of these verses may readily come to your mind, such as 8:28. There are those today who do not have much time for doctrine, and think that there are other things they should concern themselves with. I am not among them. St. Paul exhorted his young "son in the Gospel," Timothy: "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." (1 Tim. 4:16) However at this time I wish to have you think about things that are eminently practical. You will find that the remaining chapters of Romans are just that: practical.
Would you please turn in your Bible, if one is available, and read Romans 12? The whole chapter, as you no doubt recall, has wonderful words of exhortation and encouragement, and is well worth a few moments of study before you come back to what I shall have to say.
I will quote the first two verses, however, in case it is not possible for you to refer to a Bible at this time. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
Notice a key word in verse one. It is the last word: service. It has been pointed out that there are several main aspects of the abundant life in Christ. On another occasion we may be able to consider some of the rest of them. One has to do with being yielded to the Lord in all things. Another concerns separation, being separated to Christ and from the world. Two others are being filled with the Holy Spirit of God, and being mature Christians.
In the topic there is another key word you may have noticed: abundant. Most people like the idea of abundance, and there is good reason for that. When it comes to our entrance into heaven, we should all strive for "an abundant entrance in." There is a hymn that centers on that important thought. You may be familiar with it. It is based on the verses in Peter's second epistle (1:10-11): "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
Unfortunately, many people are not as concerned as they should be about this kind of abundance, and are thinking constantly of an abundance of material goods: houses, lands, and all the things that go with them. What did Jesus have to say about such a preoccupation? A great multitude of people had gathered to hear Him preach, and He had given them much to think about. "One of the company," we read in Luke 12, was evidently too much concerned with material things to listen attentively to what Jesus was saying. He said to the Lord: "Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me." (verse 13) Do you remember His reply: "Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." (v. 15)
If the abundant life in Christ is a life of service, as our title indicates, just what kind of service does the Lord expect of you and me? I cannot say for you right now, for I do not know your circumstances and your background. But I can say with confidence that the Lord expects of you and me a life of service to others. It may be a noteworthy one that the world will someday applaud, as it did the lives and deeds of men and women such as David Livingstone, Hudson Taylor, and Mary Slessor, the humble Scottish lassie who became a lifelong missionary to Africa, and earned the respect of countless native tribesmen, British officials, and the public at large. Or, it may be a life of service lived in obscurity that only eternity will recognize at its full value.
Hudson Taylor was not interested in fame or fortune: he was called to serve the Lord, and was determined to be obedient at any cost. A brother of his had other ideas, and determined that he would win fame for himself and his family by entering politics. He was successful in gaining a coveted seat in Parliament, in the House of Commons, and many would think that his life had been a great success for that reason. Someone later on wondered about his achievements, and looked up his name in an encyclopedia. What do you think he found? No long list of illustrious deeds, but only a simple statement: "Brother of Hudson Taylor." Wasn't that ironic? He had thought he would win fame for his family, but was remembered only because he was the brother of a servant of the Lord.
You might say, I am not up to making the great sacrifices, and the great contributions to the cause of Christ, that Hudson Taylor, pioneer missionary to China made. No, but you can do something. What would the Lord have you consider? The great cathedral of Milan was being dedicated, after being under construction for many, many years. Among the throng at the dedication was a little girl who happily stated, "I helped with the building of this cathedral." One of the guards, splendidly attired for the important occasion, was amused that such a little girl would think she helped build the cathedral, and asked her what it was she had done. Certainly she was not the architect, nor was she a stone mason, nor a carpenter, nor any of a host of other workers. The happy little girl's reply was that her father was one of the workmen, and she had brought his lunch! She had been a helper indeed, and would anyone dare deny it?
The little girl brought her father's lunch. That was a simple act, was it not, one that almost anyone could do? Yet Jesus stated, in Matthew 10:42, that "whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward." Isn't that wonderful? And many have been given ability and talents by the Lord to do much more than give a cup of cold water! You may be among them.
Charles Spurgeon, the great English preacher, told the story of a man reading a list at prayer meeting of people to pray for. As he was going down the list he noticed mention of a poor widow who was in need. He realized that it was unnecessary for him to pray about that need. He could take care of it himself! And he did. D.L. Moody once had a similar experience. A number of Christian business men were assembled to consider some urgent needs of the Lord's work. As they were discussing the matter someone present said something like this: "There is no need for us to spend time in discussion or prayer about this need. Among us we are well able to take care of it ourselves." And they did.
If you have read all of Romans 12, you know that one of the important verses comes near the end: "If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head." This brought to my mind the marvelous story in Second Kings 6. You may remember that during the time of Elisha the prophet the king of Syria was making war against Israel. He planned his strategy, after taking counsel with his soldiers, and time after time found that the king of Israel anticipated his moves. He was understandably very unhappy about the matter, and suspected treachery on the part of some of his people.
One of his servants knew better: it was the man of God, Elisha, who had told the king of Israel what to do, not a traitor in his camp. The king of Syria surrounded Dothan, where the prophet was staying, and early in the morning thought he would take him captive. Elisha prayed to the Lord that He would smite the army with blindness, and Elisha was able to lead them to Samaria, into the power of the king of Israel. "Shall I smite them?" the king asked Elisha. Instead, the prophet instructed him to provide food and drink for his enemies and send them home. That is what he did, and we read these wonderful words: "So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel." (v. 23) Can you not imagine the bloodshed and vengeance that would have resulted had the king of Israel killed his helpless captives?
World War II was on and a visitor asked the President of the United States why a "frail, sickly man" was helping him in carrying out his responsibilities as President. He replied something like this: "A stream of men and women come through my door. Almost invariably they want something from me. Almost all, that is, except that 'frail, sickly man,' as you call him. He wants only to serve me."
The Lord can use a little girl, or a "frail, sickly man," or anyone else that is willing to consecrate all to His service. Are you and I willing to be used of Him as He directs?
A good "memory verse" to consider in closing is the last verse of Romans 12: "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." Is this not something we can apply every day of our lives?