The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it ABUNDANTLY!
Living the Abundant Life is your God-given privilege. In fact, it was Christ's driving purpose behind His ministry and it's the secret to Biblical health!
“And what exactly is Biblical health?” you may be wondering.
Biblical Health Defined
There are seven areas of the abundant life that Christ refers to in John 10:10, and you need to take care of them all to experience true Biblical health: spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, financial, occupational, and social.
Each area of your life is connected to all the others. Like a chain, you are only as strong as your weakest link. If your physical body isn’t performing how it should, it’s going to weigh you down emotionally and cause strain in your relationships. If your job isn’t going well or you aren’t working up to your full potential, it’s going to impact your financial health and your mental health by raising your stress levels.
It's really all about Biblical health, which is about finding balance in all aspects of life and seeking to improve each and every area without letting one lag behind.
Essentially, every area of your life falls into one (or more) of these categories, and, YES, it should be your goal to master every discipline.
- Spiritual – Having a thriving relationship with your Creator.
- Physical – Maintaining a strong, healthy body.
- Mental – Being intellectually sound and having the Mind of Christ.
- Emotional – Being at peace and enjoying a balance of healthy feelings.
- Financial – Having enough to provide for your family and to be BIG givers.
- Occupational – Truly enjoying the work of your hands.
- Social – Fostering deep, mutually beneficial relationships with friends, family and people that you encounter every day.
REMEMBER: Great habits are formed daily and require consistent commitment. Make it your determined effort to press through, no matter how hard it may seem or how many times you fall!
Now let's look at each aspect of the Abundant Life in a little more detail to help you experience Biblical health in every area!
The Abundant Life Problem
In this day of atheism and agnosticism, where being true to whatever brings personal joy is someone's moral compass, spiritual abundance is rarely found among people. Too often, people give their lives away in the pursuit of happiness and chase after pleasures that only satisfy temporarily. Sadly, many people gloss over the fact that they are spiritual beings made in the image and likeness of God, and they never tap into their true potential as God's children.
The Abundant Life Solution
Fulfilling your purpose in life – experiencing spiritual abundance – is found in realizing that you are a spiritual being, made in the image and likeness of your Creator. In His design, it is only through a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ that someone can truly tap into the spiritual abundance that is our portion in life. When we become born-again, as it is referred to in Scripture, we are saved from the pit of personal despondency, hopelessness, and eternal separation from our Creator.
As we read of God walking in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve during the cool of the day, we see that the original design for people was centered on the reality that our Creator desires to have a personal relationship with His creation. We are made to know God, to be with Him, and to have a living fellowship with Him. Spiritual abundance, therefore, is simply walking out God's will in our lives and experiencing the fulfillment of living out our destiny.
Common Abundant Life Roadblocks Overcoming Them
Many people struggle in their search for spiritual abundance. The reasons for this vary, but 3 commonalities are apparent.
- People lose sight that they serve a living God is who active in all of our lives. Jesus tells us to “ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” This not only implies, but also commands that as we continually seek God in every aspect of our lives we will be fulfilled and satisfied.
- People who become lazy or misguided do not work at their faith, and their walk with God weakens like muscles that atrophy without use. James offers some key advice on how to keep our faith alive with some action-steps we all should be engaged in. “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart; this man's religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” In other words, keep on doing good to those less fortunate, watch out that you don't let your tongue run rampant so it doesn't hurt yourself or others, and stay away from guilty pleasures that the world offers. They only result in dissatisfaction and depression anyway.
- Pride also prevents people from seeking God's direction and help in their lives. The remedy? Simple, really. First of all, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” Then, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (4) Remember, our Lord is only a cry's distance away and is always orchestrating our
circumstances for our eternal good. He refuses to bow down to us or follow our lead, however. And why should He? Does the pot tell the potter how to form it? Nope. And neither should we.
Be sure to join a join a local fellowship that has small groups that meet at homes or some other friendly setting. This will help build relationships to keep you from losing focus as you encourage and hold each other accountable to settle for nothing less than God's perfect will for your lives. Press in and keep your eyes focused on the prize. True satisfaction – spiritual abundance – is certainly to follow!
One of most significant revelations someone can experience is that their body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Bible says that our bodies are not our own. They have been “bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body!”
If our bodies truly belong to God, then we have a moral responsibility to take care of them, right? What better excuse to throw away the, “I have to exercise or eat right because I don't want to get sick or die early,” mentality than to be eternally obligated to honor our Creator by taking care of our health? No wonder most diets and exercise regimens fail us. By having a purpose and vision that only satisfies ourselves, they are destined to fall short as we lose focus and motivation to continue. However, like most commandments in the Bible, the obligation to eat right and stay fit to honor God supersedes our “me-centered” focus. It gives us eternal significance and even benefits those who practice Biblical health behaviors in practical, tangible ways.
Learning from the Blue Zones
During his TED talk, “How to live to be 100+,” National Geographic reporter Dan Buettner shared some key insights in what make the world's “Blue Zones” uniquely distinct from average communities. Blue Zones are regions of the world whose elders live with vim and vigor to record- setting age and include the following areas: the highlands of Sardinia; the northern part Okinawa; and the Seventh-Day Adventist community in Lomo Linda, California.
Blue Zone Commonalities to Emulate
- Live a life of motion. None of these communities exercise. They live a life of movement and tend to walk a lot, the only proven way to prevent cognitive decline. They also garden. In addition, Blue Zoners deliberately lack the many conveniences that we take for granted and do things “by hand,” forcing them to stay active.
- Keep the right outlook. Blue Zoners downshift regularly, which helps them see purpose in their lives. Most Blue Zone communities actually have distinct words to express a sense of purpose and destiny for their lives. Not surprisingly, prayer and slowing down one's lifestyle pace have been shown to reverse the inflammatory responses that are responsible for most chronic diseases.
- Eat wisely. Each Blue Zone eats a predominantly plant-based diet, and a few eat just moderate amounts of meat. Most importantly, they don't overeat and have strategies to stave off gluttony. The Okinawans, for example, have a 3,000 year old adage credited to Confucius that they say before their meal to remind them to stop eating when their stomach is 80% full.
- Esteem elders. In Sardinia, honoring the aged – instead of seeing them as burdens – has proven to not only increase life expectancy, but also has benefited their youth as well. In what has become known as the “Grandmother Effect,” it has been suggested by researchers that evolutionary selection favors survival to increasing age because older members of a social group can increase the survival chances of their grandchildren. (4)
- Never retire. In Okinawa, there is no word for “retirement.” They work until they die, in whatever capacity they are able to, and this gives purpose to their lives and a keen sense of accomplishment.
- Worship. Every Blue Zone is directly connected to a divine purpose in their lives. The Seventh-Day Adventists take this reality very seriously. They have a sense of belonging to a faith-based community, which has been proven to be worth 4 – 14 extra years of life expectancy.
- Build lifelong relationships. We know that isolation kills. Blue Zoners value lifelong relationships. In his TED talk, Buettner reported on a group of five Okinawan women who have known each other for 97 years, with their average age being 102! Like most Blue Zoners, Adventists spend time with like-minded people so they remain encouraged to keep the principles that have worked so well over the years.
Start following these 7 key principals practiced by Blue Zoners spanning the globe, and you will be certain to experience Abundant Life and Biblical health in no time!
Mental abundance deals with a fully-functioning and maximally operating mind. This is what the Bible refers to as the “Mind of Christ.” It expands beyond what we commonly think of as intelligence or IQ. It has been suggested that if you want to grow in life, increasing your mental capacity is a must. By increasing your mental capacity, you will be able to handle more projects, assume larger responsibilities, and live out your true potential.
Although technically an organ, the brain performs very much like a muscle. Like any muscle in your body, the brain operates under the “use it or lose it” principle. Consequently, brain fitness is one of the fastest growing areas in educational programs for children and adults. It is just like your physical ability to lift heavier and heavier weight in weight training. People with greater physical capability will be able to lift heavier weight effortlessly, while those with less capability will tire themselves out or not be able to lift it at all. Similarly, as people need train their muscles to increase their physical capability, we need to train our “mental muscles” to increase our mental capacity.
Two Ways to Strengthen Mental Muscles
- Do things that are just outside your comfort zone and try something new. Some examples include: learn a new hobby; read a new genre of blogs; take a different route to work; make friends with people from a different culture than your own; listen to a different type of music; find the most unpleasant task in your to-do list and do it first; and be friendly, initiating conversation with people you don't know.
- Use the opposite side of your brain. If you are left-brained dominant, try reading a novel, beginning an art project, or playing a musical instrument; anything related to visual processing, big picture thinking, intuitive processing and processing ideas simultaneously will build up the right brain. If you are right-brained dominant, however, consider doing some brain teasers or word puzzles; basically, any task or test that involves deductive reasoning, working through a problem in a sequential order, or working with distinct facts and figures will enhance this part of the brain.
You Built Up Your “Brain Muscles,” So Now What?
Once you build up your “brain muscles,” it is vital to remember these 4 common sense approaches to mental abundance:
- “We have the Mind of Christ.” The mind of Christ is simply knowing what God's will is and doing it. True mental abundance lies in staying in tune with your Creator and keeping your mind in line with His. This is the cornerstone of the entire building. Walking in synch with God's Spirit is an absolutely must for anyone who wants to experience mental abundance.
- “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Don't forget that the generous Giver wants to lavish on you the abundant riches of mental clarity and strength. Albeit only a prayer away, be patient. His timing is not always our timing, and you may have to wait a little while to get the answer you're looking for.
- “The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Even the most educated people never stop learning. They are lifetime students. Get in the habit of making mental abundance a way of life.
- “Man's steps are ordered by the Lord. How then can a man understand his way?” We have the tendency to be obsessed with having to know every little detail and having to figure out a reason for everything. Don't fret about the little (or even the big) things. Mental abundance is dependent on letting go of the incessant urge to know and simply trust and obey the leading of God's Spirit.
Regardless of what people have told you, regardless of the scores you earned in school – you CAN enjoy mental abundance!
So what is “emotional abundance?” Happiness, of course! When people were referred to as “blessed” in the Old and New Testaments, they were, in effect, saying that they were enviable, fortunate, and most importantly happy. That is why the Hebrew word esher and the Greek term makarios meaning “blessed” are used interchangeably with the word “happy” throughout the Bible. Time and time again, God lays out the roadmap to happiness through stories, proverbs, and commandments. The Book of Proverbs is used extensively in offering sage advice on how to achieve emotional abundance. Finding wisdom, guarding our mouth, and watching our hearts are timeless keys to happiness.
- “How blessed is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding. Her ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who hold her fast.”
- “With the fruit of a man's mouth, his stomach will be satisfied; he will be satisfied with the product of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
- “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”
Happiness: The American Dream
As Benjamin Frankilin one stated, “The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You still have have to catch it yourself!” Assuming that the American Dream still rings true for most people, let's take a closer look at what contributes to emotional abundance.
Positive Psychology – a branch of psychology that studies effective interventions to help build thriving individuals, families, and communities – has included extensive research on what makes people happy. Research has suggested that 50% of our happiness levels are determined by a genetic set point/range, 40% by our intentioned actions, and only 10% by life's circumstances (e.g., income, social status, place of residence, age). Taking into effect the science of epigenetics and our ability to turn certain genes on and off, it appears that the 50% that is subject to genetics can be “altered” or modified by our thoughts and actions. Thus, it remains to be seen that up to 90% our ability to be happy is completely contingent on us.
According to a recent Gallup World Poll, people can expect to live 28 years longer in the happiest nations. These are generally places where people have their own internal standards and are satisfied in their work – using their skills, mastering a career, and loving what they do. Generally, these are not places where there is social competition or excessive materialism, regardless of affluence. Economic growth, however, does not necessarily drive up emotional abundance. When money buys someone out of the burdens of homelessness, then money can in effect, “buy happiness.” But once basic needs are met, money has little to do with happiness.
Strong, healthy social relationships are the one common denominator of all the happiest places on earth. Other contributing factors to happiness include:
- Life satisfaction
- Doing activities we you love
- Loving other people
- Using skills
- Constantly learning
- Curbing anger and negativity
- Having life goals that are bigger than yourself
- Having more green space
- Short commutes to work
An interesting finding is that raising children does not contribute to happiness or sadness. Research shows that if someone desires to have children, then child rearing will bring great happiness. Whereas, if someone does not like children and the responsibilities associated with raising them, then child rearing will contribute to sadness. This should be taken as a keen warning for every married couple, because “children are a gift from the Lord” the Psalmist says. It would be most unfortunately if they weren't in this mindset when they find out they were pregnant.
Like everything, perception is reality. “The blessing of the Lord truly makes rich and He adds no sorrow to it!”
Arguably the most controversial subject in the Christian church today, financial abundance means many different things to different people. Studying ancient Israel, however, offers clues to how God designed financial abundance and the Abundant Life associated with being God's “chosen people.”
The Land of Milk and Honey
After calling them out of slavery in Egypt, God sent the Israelites to Canaan. This country was repeatedly referred to as “The Promised Land” in the Bible – a land of “milk and honey,” where all of their needs were not only met, but also copiously supplied. The Israelites were sent to an environment that was full of green pastures and beautiful to behold.
As God uses our circumstances to shape us into the image of Christ, we will all experience seasons of relative plenty and lack. But if you find yourself rarely living in a “milk and honey” situation financially, you may want to look a little deeper and spend some time in prayer asking God why you seem to be struggling all the time. You may be surprised at what He reveals to you!
5 Steps Toward Entering the Promised Land
- “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Whether it is getting out of credit card debt, saving for your children's college education, or planning for retirement, keep God in the center of it all. Pray, seek professional counsel, and wait until He reveals the path you should take toward financial abundance.
- “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” In other words, as we seek the Lord and reverentially fear in Him in worship, respect, and love, He lavishes His wisdom upon us. Ultimately, we will be better prepared to handle the temptations of wealth and will gain valuable insight into how to obtain it.
- “There are precious treasures and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a self-confident and foolish man swallows it up and wastes it.” Remember that it is God's intention to abundantly bless you and your family with not only your daily necessities, but to lavish on you precious treasures as a parent desires to bless their children with all sorts of pleasant things. What “precious treasures” looks like is relative and really should not matter. What is important, however, is that we do not waste what God has given us on fruitless endeavors. Investing carefully, being generous to the needy, and valuing our gifts by making the most out of them honors our Creator.
- “I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread.” We are the righteousness of God in Christ and our citizenship is in Heaven. Walk in confidence that God will lead you to financial abundance. Financial abundance is not worrying about tomorrow or next month or next year. Faith is a foundational principle.
- “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. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.'” Planning too far ahead can be disastrous. Being prudent about retirement and future expenditures is one thing. Living for tomorrow by neglecting today is quite another. Practically speaking, we really have no idea what tomorrow will bring forth, so balancing the duties of today with the preparation for tomorrow is pivotal.
Ultimately, financial success is relative and comes in an unlimited number of packages. One word of caution in your quest for financial abundance: be careful what you ask for. As the Book of Proverbs says,
“Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”
Occupational abundance lies in what Positive Psychologists call “flow.” Proposed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, PhD D, the concept of flow has been widely referenced in the field positive psychology where researchers measure things like states of happiness, values, strengths, virtues, and talents. Csikszentmihalyi began to study people who subjected themselves to strenuous physical, mental, emotional, and even financial stress to accomplish their goals for no apparent reason other than the fact that they thoroughly enjoyed what they were doing,.
Finding Your Flow
Csikszentmihalyi described the experience of flow, a “synergy of different aspects of consciousness where you wish you could go forever because it feels like you are completely fulfilling something that you can do you well and see it happening and feel that nothing else matters.” Flow is a place where people have very clear goals and is what athletes commonly refer to as “the zone.” Moment- by-moment, people who flow know exactly what they have to do in an almost surreal, out-of-body experience where life-purpose and satisfaction are at the pinnacle. Outside of pitching a perfect game or bowling a 300, other tasks commonly experienced as flow are playing music, painting, writing, sewing, or any other sequence-oriented task where you can let your mind go and simply allow your innate intelligence to operate in full capacity. According to Csikszentmihalyi, flow is completely focused motivation. It is a single-minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate experience in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning. In flow, the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but are positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand.
The crux of it all is this: If you flow at work, you'll love it. If you don't, then you'll be content at best and hateful of it at worst. Occupational abundance is absolutely thriving at what you do for a living. In fact, you're so good at it and it gives you such fulfillment that you'd even do it for free. Free? Yep! Ever wonder why people in certain careers never retire? Think about athletes who keep coming back for that one extra season, or CEO's of successful companies who stay on as “consultants” until they're too old to work. It's not for the money;, they're already wealthy! It's
because they flow at work and find such significant satisfaction in their work experience that they struggle letting it go.
When choosing a job offer is more dependent on your retirement and health insurance benefits instead of the activities you'll be doing for 40+ hours a week, then you're probably not going to be flowing at work. This is the difference between the proverbial “J-O-B,” and a vocation where your work provides meaning to your life. And, if you're not flowing at work – the place you spend most of your waking hours – your chances for true life-satisfaction and happiness are slim. Pray and seek the Lord on what it is that He has designed you for. Who better to seek direction on what it is that makes you flow than your Creator?
Social abundance lies in creating vital, life-giving relationships with people and is a key to happiness. The world authority on happiness and well-being research, Dr. Ed Diener, has studied 155 countries (99% of the world) and has come up with some very telling conclusions.
Learning From the World's Happiest Countries
The world's happiest countries are:
- New Zealand
- United States
Strong, healthy social relationships are the one common denominator of all the happiest places on earth. For example, Latin American countries like Costa Rica are considered relatively happy.
Supporting culture, large extended families, and numerous celebrations makes life enjoyable for them. Also noteworthy are the Masai, a small herding culture in Africa. They are a proud people who have high self-esteem, as they are self-sustaining, able to live off the land, and they enjoy their social relationships
Role of Social Media
With the advent of social media, social abundance is becoming tricky to obtain. Designed to be physically present with people, we lose much of the personal touch in spending time with our friends and family on Facebook or on the phone texting.
One consequence of social media is the danger some relationships end up in due to networking on the plethora of sites available on the internet.
Quoting Jonah Berger, an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts, Desert News reports that, “Because there's not a particular person in front of us, you don't always think of the consequences of sharing things.” Berger contends, “When there is someone standing next to us, we realize the consequences. It's a little harder to see the consequences of our actions” when communicating over the internet.
From an old flame getting rekindled to gossip separating lovers, the word “Facebook” was included in more than one-third of divorce filings last year, according to a survey done by Divorce Online and reported on by the Wall Street Journal. Social media, according Rachna Jain, a psychologist with clinical specialization in couple and marital therapy,” is definitely another distraction from primary relationships.”
4 Steps to Building Solid Relationships
With these sobering facts in mind, we must focus on establishing meaningful relationships in ways that will prove to be sustainable.
- “When a man's ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” A solid walk with God is key to social abundance. Peace within ourselves, with our close friends and family, and with those we do not readily get along with is only possible with His divine help and guidance.
- “He who conceals a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends.” Don't gossip; period. Nothing good can come from it. If you would not say something to someone's face, then it shouldn't be said behind his or her back.
- “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” The Golden Rule, doing to others as we would have them do to us, is pivotal. Be the trust, faithfulness, and love that we want to see in our friends.
- “A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” If you have two to three life-long relationships with people who are closer than family, then consider yourself blessed. Spending a great deal of time with many people stretches us too thin. Remember that of the thousands Jesus ministered to on a daily basis, He focused His attention on just 12 disciples; and of those 12, He reserved a special place for Peter, James, and John as seen on the Mount of Transfiguration and other places.
Developing fruitful relationships takes time, energy, patience and focus. The result is well worth the effort!
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it ABUNDANTLY!”
~ John 10:10
If there is one thing I have learned in life, it is to be patient with myself. When reading articles like this don't get overwhelmed with the mountain of to-dos. Take each day as it comes. Celebrate successes – no matter how small or seemingly insignificant they may be – and give yourself a little more grace. We don't expect all that much of babies. do we? Gradually, we add on responsibility (and accountability) to our children and we should do the same for ourselves.
Peace and love my friends. My hope and prayer is that you and your family truly experience the Abundant Life in every area and remember to enjoy the journey. Life is all about the experiences, not about the end destinations!
~ Dr. Z