Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Beyond Survival: Life that is More

(Note: Please try to ignore the formatting issues. I spent hours trying to fix but to no avail. Sorry for the visual clutter)

Beyond Survival: Life that is More

Most of us are familiar with the story of Lazarus, Mary and Martha’s brother. In John 11:21-26, Jesus responds to hearing about Lazarus’ death. He goes to the tomb and meets Mary and Martha. They both tell Jesus that if he had been there their brother wouldn’t have died. How the story ends or should I say begins? Lazarus is brought back from the dead.
But before Jesus does this, he tells Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.”And in verse 26 Jesus asks her a question, “Do you believe this?”  Now remember, He asked this before he brought Lazarus out of the tomb.
What a great question. Do you believe this? To go past knowing to believing. Real belief. There is this quote about these verses I found years ago. I didn’t personally know who had written it but it turns out it came from something Al Menconi had written. He said, “Jesus was making a couple of claims. First, he is the resurrection. Jesus is the one who makes the future resurrection happen. He has the power of resurrection. He claimed that anyone who believed in him would not stay dead, but would be raised because of him! He also said he was the life. One who believes in him will have a life-what life ought to be. One of John’s themes is that Jesus came to bring life. By that he meant not just existence, but life as God intended.”
Life as God intended. The word life in John 11 literally means the state of one who is possessed of vitality, a life real and genuine, active and vigorous, and devoted to God.

Our key verse for this weekend is John 10:10. At the end of the verse, Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Now there is always caution of taking just one verse and building on it apart from its context. So what else was Jesus talking about when he said this?
In John 10 Jesus basically identifies himself. He’s talking about his sheep and how they know the sound of his voice. He says he’s the gate and the good shepherd who he lays down his life. He tells us there is a thief who comes to steal and destroy but how as the good shepherd He comes so that the sheep may have life and have it abundantly. 
Jesus came, died, and rose so that we could have a life that is more. But what is that? Do we as Christians really live a full, vigorous life devoted to God? That word abundantly in that verse means over and above, more than is necessary, something further, much more than all. That’s what Jesus meant by abundantly.
In their book Repacking Your Bags, Richard Leider and David Shapiro wrote, “on the whole, we are a society of notoriously numb people. Lonely, bored, dependent people who are happy only when we have killed the time we are trying to save. We worry constantly about making a living but rarely about making a life.”
A few years ago the Lord impressed upon me that there was this disconnect- in my life—that I had somehow side-stepped really understanding and ultimately living out the abundant life and had settled on just existing, just surviving.
At that time, I was going through my second cancer diagnosis and I remember asking the Lord, “Is surviving so bad?” Many of us are survivors of cancer, abuse, tragedy. We might take a kind of inner pride in the fact that we’ve come against something and we’re still here.
On the surface, survival seems like a good thing because it not only means to exist, but to persist; to carry on despite hardships. Consider the popularity of all the reality survival shows out there. I have to admit I’m kind of a survival show junkie. I am fascinated with how people willingly put themselves in often very desperate circumstances, sometimes for money but sometimes just to see if they can do it. But I had to wonder if my survivor mentality had affected my spirituality.
Is having this inner fight, this inner pride a good thing or a detriment to spiritual growth-to living the abundant life Jesus talked about. Now the need to survive is a basic human need. If you’re struggling in water, you’re going to fight to stay afloat. Lifeguards often tell of how people who are drowning will fight them because they’re so desperate to survive.
Because I’ve seen over and over how looking at things in the natural can enlighten us spiritually, being the teacher that I was, I decided to do a little research on survival to see what the experts in the field had to say and to see if there were any spiritual parallels that could give us some insight.
First everywhere I looked it talked about something called the rule of three. In any extreme situation you can’t survive for more than: 3 minutes without air3 hours without shelter3 days without water3 weeks without food. 
I decided to really go to the experts. According to the US Army Survival Manual, in order to have a positive outcome, there are six basic survival skills and needs. What do you think number one was? 
Attitude. More than anything else, attitude can determine how successful you are and can even determine whether you live or die. When you’re in a difficult wilderness situation you need to avoid panic. Their suggestion?  Remember to use a “S-P-E-A-R”: Stop, Plan, Execute, Assess & Re-evaluate. They say if you follow these steps, your mind and body will be engaged in positive action that will help you avoid panic. When you have a positive attitude, your chances of survival are greatly improved.
The next thing is shelter, knowing how to find or build a shelter. Many people who are forced into survival situations often get into serious trouble because of direct exposure to the elements. Having a shelter is important to prevent or minimize heat loss, or if in a desert environment, to minimize water loss.
The third one in order of importance is water. The human body is composed of up to 78% water. It should be no surprise that water is higher on the list than fire or food. Many people who are lost will die due to dehydration.
Number four is fire. This is one of the most useful basic survival skills to master. It can help warm your body or your shelter, dry your clothes, boil your water, and cook your food. Fire can also provide psychological support, creating a sense of security and safety.
Number five is food. We need to know how to not only get our food, but how to prepare it. You know when I read this I thought, “That’s where they’d lose me.” I might be able to catch a rabbit but as a vegetarian, I’m more likely to make a pet out of it than skin and eat it.
The last one is having naturalist skills. It makes sense that the more I know about nature, the better I’ll be able to survive in the outdoors. If I spend a lot of time in the woods, I’ll be much more in tune with the sights, sounds and ways of that environment.
Seems very basic: a good attitude, shelter, clean drinking water, fire, food, and being familiar with the environment, things you need in order to just survive. To just meet the needs of the flesh.
I don’t know about you but sometimes I feel like I am in survival mode all too often. When the pressure is on and everyone is looking to you for answers, you are tired, mentally and physically, you feel stretched to the breaking point. There are times when all you can think about is I’ve got to get out of bed, put one foot in front of the other, grab a cup of coffee.
So is survival really so bad? Don’t we need these basic physical things to move on to higher things? Maslow in his hierarchy of needs seemed to think so. Don’t we first need to survive to get to the thrive part? After all, survival tests our individual resolve. Am I strong enough? Do I have what it takes?
But wait a minute. Did Jesus say “I have come   so that you can just have the techniques and skills you’ll need so that you can just physically survive? So you can live out each day just putting one foot in front of the other?” No, he said he came so we could have abundant life. Life that is more. You see the reality is our greatest need is not physical it is spiritual. Survival, as presented by the world, only focuses on the physical.
So what is the abundant life that Jesus referred to? What do we think it is? We need to consider what we believe because we’re going live out those beliefs. Do we think it is more success? A Bigger house? More stuff? No health issues?
Now we might not vocalize these things to others, but we have to ask if there’s any hidden remnants of our old lives lingering around our belief systems. If there is, they will eventually come to the surface. So let’s begin to break it down:
First and foremost we need to understand that this abundant life Jesus talked about was not just about a here and now life. It is eternal—life that is over and above, something further. Because we’re here now, it can be easy to get world-focused instead of other-world focused. But we were reborn into an eternal kingdom.
There are over forty verses in the New Testament about eternal life—no beginning, no end, life real and genuine. But do we really believe this? I had to wonder if I failed to live the abundant life in the here and now because I didn’t really take the time to appreciate the eternal reality of that life.
I firmly believe that if you don’t have a solid fix on the destination, you’ll have a misunderstanding of what it takes to get there. You will be confused when the road takes a sudden turn. My sister and I recently drove down to South Carolina. We are notoriously famous for getting lost. This time I used an app called waze and the first thing it asks you is where are you going? You can’t plan a trip without knowing where you’re going.
As a Christian, You need to know where you are going.  The abundant life is above and beyond the here and now. We need to realize that God’s abundance is not limited to the physical world we’re familiar with and live in (height, width, depth).
Years ago I read this book by Hugh Ross called, The Extra Dimensionality of God: Beyond the Cosmos: What Recent Discoveries in Astrophysics Reveal about the Glory and Love of God. It made me consider how over the years I had unwittingly limited God and His power.
Ross proposes, “…what follows then from string theory and from all the recent findings in particle physics and astrophysics is that God must be operating in a minimum of 11 dimensions of space and time.” He believes we have difficulty understanding the immensity of God because of “our inability to visualize phenomena in a realm beyond our experience.”
God is above and beyond, more than we can ever ask and definitely more than we can ever imagine. His abundance is eternal.
Now, there are some things as Christians we intrinsically know. We know that longing for things that are temporary doesn’t contribute to an abundant spiritual life. It’s not having a lot of stuff.
I think one of the biggest misconceptions about the evidence of an abundant life is that you’re always walking around smiling, that you never yell at your kids or lose your temper or honk your horn. That it’s a Stepford-wives kind of perfect, stress-free life. It’s not. What is that anyway?
At this point I prayed and asked the Lord about all this and here are a few things He spoke to my heart to help me get going on the right path:
An Abundant life is a life where the reality of who God is and who we are in Christ is being out in increasing measure—a life that desires to glorify God and worship Jesus. It’s a life where we eagerly go to His Word each day. It is a life where we learn to wait in grace and run in his strength with single-mindedness of heart.
An abundant life is where we allow the Holy Spirit to move more and more in our lives as we learn to hear the still small voice we begin to obey what we hear. It’s drawing close to God so that our lives begin to reach deep down into His where we become rooted. It’s growing in our enjoyment of the journey and seeing the bigger picture when the particular scene we are in is difficult. Why? Because we know how the story ends.
Abundant life is not only kneeling at the foot of his throne but at the foot of his cross. Oswald Chambers wrote we need to understand that Gethsemane and Calvary are the gateway into abundant life.
Now I don’t know about you right now but at this point I started to get a bit overwhelmed, so I asked the Lord, “Just tell me.  How do I get and maintain this life? I think I was looking for the How-To’s.” Here are the five steps to an abundant life. That if I just followed a formula I could just get to the place where the Lord would all at once sprinkle abundant life over me like fairy dust and puff, I would suddenly find myself living in the land of God’s abundance kind of like Dorothy in Oz.
Yeah it usually doesn’t work that way. Yes, there are those times where we’re given those miracles of the instantaneous, but I think because we are the kind of people we are, with the kind of natures we have, more than not we need to learn and grow in and through lessons and trials so we can not only have a deeper, richer relationship with God, but so we can genuinely reach out into other people’s lives who are going through perhaps the same troubles we’ve seen. The lessons I’ve learned that have had the biggest positive impact on my life have been those that have taken time to learn.
So at this point, the Lord began to direct me to look at what was preventing me from dwelling in his abundance. So I asked and the first thing the Lord brought to my mind was misguided affections. What are those?These are worthless longings; to wish for that which has no value; setting the heart upon the fulfillment of the temporary. Col. 3:5 in the Message Bible puts it this way:
And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That's a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God.
Grabbing whatever attracts your fancy—setting your heart on things and feelings instead of God.  That kind of adolescent thinking and acting doesn’t generate the maturity we need.
I also found that my misguided affections led to the tithing attitude about my life: 90/10. 90 percent is mine to control and God gets just 10 percent. In our attempt to manage our lives, we forget who God is and who we are in Christ, we compartmentalize Him into obscurity.
David Eckman in his book Knowing the Heart of the Father wrote, “Many believers have spiritual dementia. They rapidly forget who they are in Christ. Wandering off from where they are cared for-the presence of God-they stumble along through life, sometimes more in the way than helpful.” We stumble through a life that’s been unequally portioned out, with God getting the three day-old leftovers. Col. 3:2 tells us to “set our affection on the things above not on the things on the earth.”
We set our hearts on the if-onlys in life. If only I had this, if only God would do that. When I live like this, I’m setting my affections, what’s near and dear to my heart, on the conditional not on the sure fastness that is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
How do misguided affections inhibit abundant life? If I’ve placed my heart on the temporary things that appeal to my old man and if I care more for the life I want rather than the life God desires me to have, I’ll never fully experience the exceedingly vibrant life that Jesus died for.
The second thing the Lord brought to my mind was false dependence. How does a false dependence prevent abundant living? I had to ask what I was depending on. Was it my own strengths and natural talents? My own agenda? Perhaps My relationships?
What is a false dependence anyway? It is a false need, requirement, addiction and even craving. Gal 3:3 “Are you so foolish and so senseless and so silly? Having begun [your new life spiritually] with the [Holy] Spirit, are you now reaching perfection [by dependence] on the flesh?” (The Amplified Bible):
Dependence on the flesh denotes mere human nature; it’s a dependence on the earthly nature of man apart from divine influence. So when I have a need and rely on myself, my own ability to succeed, to survive, I miss the opportunity to thrive in God.
But remember it’s not dependence that’s the problem; it’s false dependence. Is there a good kind? Absolutely. One of the things we can depend on is Jesus’ Word.
John 8:14: Jesus replied, “You're right that you only have my word. But you can depend on it being true” Our own view is limited.1 Cor. 13:12: “Now we see but a poor reflection; then we shall see face to face. Now we know in part; then we shall know fully.”
The next thing we can depend on is the Word of God the Father. Romans 3:4 
Not on your life! Depend on it: God keeps his word even when the whole world is lying through its teeth. (The Message):
Oswald Chambers wrote, “Let the attitude of the life be a continual “going out” in dependence upon God, and your life will have an inexpressible charm about it which is satisfaction to Jesus.” Don’t we want our lives to have an inexpressible charm about them? Years ago, people would never think to use the word charm in the same sentence when describing me. I was definitely not charming.
For me, issues with false dependence seemed to pop up when my sense of well-being felt threatened. I seemed to have a kind of carnal bag of tricks that I could easily reach into when the need arose. What was my default? Was it to rely on God and what Chambers calls “supernatural sense” instead of just the common sense that’s been my go-to my whole life? He wrote:
Is the Lord Jesus Christ being abundantly satisfied in your life or have you got a spiritual strut on? Never let common sense obtrude and push the Son of God on one side.
Common sense is a gift which God gave to human nature; but common sense is not a gift of His Son.
He says: Supernatural sense is the gift of His Son; never enthrone common sense. The Son detects the Father; common sense never yet detected the Father and never will.
Our ordinary wits never worship God unless they are transfigured by the indwelling Son of God…Are we living in such human dependence upon Jesus Christ that His life is being manifested moment by moment? Good question.
Supernatural sense feeds abundant living. Common sense feeds physical survival.
The next thing the Lord spoke to me about was ingratitude. Ingratitude inhibits abundant living. Ingratitude is really a discontentment. In the natural, we can be discontent with the particulars of our lives—our jobs, our spouses, our finances, maybe even our families. We complain: do I have everything I think I need? And do they have more than me?
An ungrateful heart releases a plague not only on the one who’s ungrateful but on all those who are connected with that person. It leads to judgment, bitterness, un-forgiveness. There is absolutely no way to live the abundant life with an ungrateful heart. Gratitude is important because as it says in Heb. 12:28:
Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe.
Gratitude is more than just a mere thank you. It is the gateway to an acceptable service or worship we offer God. But remember it’s gratitude, not guilt that leads to life. I think sometimes as women we’re all too often moved by a sense of guilt. Maybe over decisions we’ve made, or whether we’ve done enough.
Any number of things cause us to go into guilt mode. For years it seemed I was more motivated by guilt than by the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I had to learn the difference.
Guilt makes us feel shame, like we never do enough or it’s never good enough and ultimately it moves us further away from God eventually leading back into ingratitude. When we say, nothing I do   will ever be good enough so why try, a dissatisfaction begins to take hold and eventually poisons your heart.
Conviction is different. As we sense the Spirit convicting us and we repent, we’re set free from shame and are firmly positioned under God’s grace. We draw closer to our loving Father, and gratitude begins to grow and fill us.
The next inhibitor to abundant life is being stagnant, having no movement, being dense. I’ve spent a lot of time being dense in my life. We shouldn’t accept this in our lives because we’re in a relationship with a God who’s not stagnant. God’s not dead. There is a real danger in allowing this. Zep 1:12 says
It will come about at that time that I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the men who are stagnant in spirit, who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will not do good or evil!’ (New American Standard)
A stagnant spirit leads to a blaming heart. Not only blaming others, but ultimately blaming God. When you have no forward movement, you are like a stagnant pool of water. In the natural, stagnant water breeds unhealthy bacteria, making it not only worthless but deadly. The stagnant life goes nowhere. It is a life stuck in a survivalist state of mind. How do I know this? One of the first things they tell you if you’re lost in the woods is to stay where you are. Don’t move.
I’m not talking about avoiding those times of waiting the Lord calls us to. In fact, Francis Schaffer calls these times active passivity-waiting in Christ with purpose. Heb. 12:1 and 1Cor 9:24 both refer to running a race; you don’t just stand there and suddenly find yourself at the finish line. You have to run the race. You have to prepare, you have to start and then you have to keep going even when you feel like your lungs are going to explode.
Php. 3:13-14:
Forgetting (or neglecting) what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Straining toward; stretching one's self forward in Christ, toward God. It’s not human striving. It’s spiritual determination fueled by God, leading us toward His presence. Keith Green has a song “When the praises start” the first lines are “My son, my son, why are you striving, you can’t add one thing that’s been done for you. I did it all while I was dying. Rest in your faith my peace will come to you.”
Pressing on in Christ strengthens us, striving in our own strength depletes us, burns us out. Now don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying as long as you are busy you are living an abundant life. Losing yourself in busywork, whether we call it Christian service or not, can be a distraction maybe even a way to avoid going deeper with God on a personal level. 
What is the opposite of stagnant? Alive, awake, breathing. We need to consider: Are we alive in Christ? Awake to the movement of the Holy Spirit? Are we daily breathing in His every Word? We used to sing this worship song: "You are the air I breathe." We need to consider if this is true in our lives.  
The next thing that hindered my living an abundant life was Fear. That was a big one for me. This is closely related to stagnancy; we don’t move ahead because we are afraid. 57 times “do not fear” appears in the Bible. Now I don’t make light of fear.
I’ve been afraid many times in my life. Just recently, getting on a plane, feeling the turbulence, didn’t exactly make me like jumping for joy. But I’m learning that those times when fear starts to creep up and begins to take hold that they are wonderful opportunities to not only press into my Jesus for His peace,  but they can become opportunities to allow Him to grow me past those things I learned in the world.
Now don’t confuse recognizing a dangerous situation and responding appropriately with being paralyzed by fear. If I had let my fear of flying stop me from coming here I would have missed this wonderful blessing. When you think about it, paralyzing fear isn’t rational as a Christian. Because the reality is we have a God who is bigger than our fear.
Because we don’t serve an abstract, hands-off God, we can find comfort in how He intercedes on our behalf. Consider 2 Sam. 22:13-20 which describes the God we serve:
He thunders from heaven; his voice resounds. He shoots arrows and scatters our enemies, He reaches down from on high and takes hold of us; he draws us out of deep waters; he rescues us from our powerful enemy, from our foes who are too strong for us. He brings us out into a spacious place. He rescues us because he delights in us.”
You are rescued by a powerful God who delights in you. Let that truth sink in.
But as a species we are easily filled with fear. We’re afraid of the unpredictability of the natural elements, we are afraid of what we see, of what we can’t see, often more afraid of the unseen because then our imaginations come into play.
In Matthew 10:31, Jesus tells us, "So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” He tells us don’t be afraid because we feel we are insignificant like a sparrow. Who am I? What do I matter? Here the word fear means to put to flight by terrifying. What is Jesus basically telling his disciples? To not to rely on the fight or flight instinct—by the way, a key element in surviving.
What do we see animals do when they are afraid? They either fight and attack or they flee and run away. But in all honesty don’t we do the same thing when we’re afraid? Think about it. We strike out at others or we retreat into ourselves.
How does fear prevent me from living the abundant life? When I give in to fear as the highest reality in my life, I’m disconnecting from God’s reality that I am truly safe in Christ. It minimizes that truth.
There is a lot of fear in survival. Will I have enough to eat? Will I freeze to death without a warm shelter? Will a bear eat me for dinner? These are all important things to consider in a survival situation. But when we carry physical fear of survival into our spiritual relationships with God, we find ourselves just existing, not living, just waiting for the other shoe to drop. 
Do not fear. And if you do? Be honest. Lord, this terrifies me. Confide in the One who loves you and can give you His peace and comfort. What does it say in Romans 8:35: who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  Shall a loss of a job or a cancer diagnosis or a death of a loved one?  No.
Nothing can ever separate us from the love and protection of our Savior. This physical life is not even a blink of an eye when compared to an eternity with God. Grasp that His protection goes much deeper than just preserving this earthly body.
The next thing that inhibits abundant living is loss of identity. We live as who we were before we got saved. We drag the old man into the new life and rely on him to take us forward.
It’s like here we are standing in our new life with all our bags packed from our old one. Imagine coming into this new life, you’re standing before Jesus, and he says welcome child, um, what’s all that? You’re kind of embarrassed that he’s noticed the mounds of baggage you’re dragging into the kingdom. “Just some things I thought I’d need to help me along, Jesus.” Really? Can you imagine saying that? But that’s kind of what we do.
Do we sometimes forget who we are in Christ? Do we forget we’ve not only been bought with a price, we’ve been redeemed by love, restored by grace and made new. We are a new creation in Christ. We all know 2 Cor. 5:17: you probably have that memorized
This is not just some clever quote that simply becomes just a quasi-spiritual verse on some refrigerator magnet. Literally this verse reads: Therefore if anyone is in Christ, that which was from the beginning has passed away, behold, new things have come into existence, have been finished.
It is finished. Remember where Jesus spoke those words. Being made new is a reflection of the finished, completed work Christ did on the cross. We are made new.
Allow the Lord to remind you of your newness. Allow him to take you past who the world made you. I never ever thought I would ever be someone who could be a teacher. I was too self-conscious, too insecure, too burned out from the choices I’d made in my life. But as I grew closer to God He began to shape and mold me into someone new. Remember who you are in Christ. And you will be amazed at what he can do in your life.
The last area that The Lord brought to my mind was a little different. One Sunday morning in church we were all praying, and I’m not even sure what I was praying about but the word blight came very strongly into my mind, and I knew it had to do with this study.
I wrote it down and went home and looked it up. I’ve heard of it; in fact, one year our tomatoes didn’t grow right and looked awful and our neighbor said it was the blight.
So in the natural, what is blight? It is a disease that makes plants dry up and die, something that causes harm or damage like a disease. How does this apply to us and to abundant living?
As Christians we can become dry, brittle, breaking whenever a wind, a trial, comes up. Listen to the description of plant blight and see how it applies to us spiritually: I didn’t change the wording at all: As the plant starts to die, it can dry up. Parts of the plant may break off or collapse, depending on the source of the infection.
Consider has something infected your belief? What causes you to break off from God or from fellowship. What causes you to collapse under the weight of trials?
The gardening site I looked at said:
Blight can spread from plant to plant, causing an entire crop to become infested and useless.
There are many contributors to spiritual blight but one of the most treacherous is loss of hope. It’s the disease that causes us to live a half-life, just barely surviving.
In Ezekiel 37, which is titled the Valley of Dry Bones, it speaks of a vision Ezekiel had where the Lord showed him a valley of bones. In verse two, it says: “He led me back and forth among them and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.” In verse 11, the Lord tells Ezekiel “son of man these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say our bones are dried up and our hope is gone, we are cut off.” Why are the bones dry? Because hope is gone. Verse 11 tells us they are cut off, literally separated and divided in two.
They have become unattached from their One, True Source. The only hope is for the Lord to open their graves, restore tendons and flesh, and breathe His Spirit into their dryness. The benefit of this supernatural resuscitation far exceeds that of the individual. Did you know for us the loss of hope is contagious?
You see when one member of the Body of Christ is affected by dry bones, meaning hopelessness, the whole body suffers, just like how blight is spread from plant to plant, causing entire crops to become infested and useless, in the same way hopelessness can spread throughout a family or even a church.
The site then said:
Early blight strikes toward the beginning of the growing season, while plants are developing. Plants may have difficulty sprouting, or sicken and die soon after getting established.
Blight can strike towards the beginning of the growing season. So many times as I enter a time of growth in the Lord, that’s when the battle for my heart and mind seems the fiercest. And spiritual blight can infiltrate the heart anytime. In the natural, a late blight can wait until the end of the season and attack when plants are fully mature. Symptoms of spiritual blight can occur anytime during our walk with the Lord. Meeting with Him and daily, reading his word and praying keeps us connected to our true source of health.
There are so many Scriptures where Jesus used the natural world to instruct. Think about the gospels: Matt. 6:28-32: the lilies of the field; Matt. 13: the parable of the sower; Matt. 13:31: parable of the mustard seed; Matt. 20: parable of the vineyard.
These verses are just a few examples of how you can look at the natural to understand the spiritual. How is this possible? Romans 1:20 tells us:
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
We need to consider if there is blight in our lives that has clouded our vision. This is really important because as 1 John 1 says: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.
Has your perspective been clouded by loss of hope? Have you become deaf to His still, small voice? Have you strayed and allowed the world to be your all-consuming influence? What does your life proclaim? If you are living a blight-infested life, what you see, and hear and ultimately proclaim about God will be tainted.
Now, once we consider what hinders abundant life, Jesus poses an all-important question. In the 5th Chapter of John, verses 36-40, Jesus is talking to those who wanted to kill him and he addressed their questions:“These scriptures are all about me and here I am, standing right before you, and you aren’t willing to receive from me the life you say you want.”
We need to ask ourselves, how willing are we to receive the life Jesus has to offer? My first response is “Yes! Lord, I’m willing.” But doesn’t something happen between the saying yes and the working out of the life.
 I found myself asking the Lord can we really live a full abundant life when we sometimes feel like we are dropped in the middle of nowhere, away from familiar resources, away from friends, away from what is predictable?
Consider how people who are put in adverse situations come out of them. Some come out better, some worse. Like when we go through a really rough trial: we either become stronger in our faith or we become more ridged in our belief that we are victims. We might even make inner vows: I’ll never put myself in that position again won’t be vulnerable won’t be used, won’t be…
We very often determine the direction of our lives based not on the lessons we’ve learned but on the hurts we’ve experienced.
But there is hope because the answer to whether we can live abundantly is a resounding yes. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us: His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness. That word everything literally means: all things; everything we need. And it's His power. He has given us everything we need to live. We need nothing more.
But do we know that divine power? We won’t be able to live a spiritually abundant life if we don’t know the One who gives it.
In Matthew 16:14, Jesus asks his disciples who do people say he is? They say some think he is John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or a prophet . But then Jesus asks who do you say I am. In verse 16, Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Where do we get our information on who Jesus is? Everybody has an opinion. But if we truly want to know who he is we have to look at who he said he is.
John 14:6 is a very well-known scripture. Jesus states that he is the way, the truth and the life. We need to stop and consider what he is really saying. We need to delve beneath the surface to the abundance of what is being revealed here.

He is the way. Jesus is not only the way to the Father, he’s the way through the desert, through the valley, the doorway to the place of healed emotions and wholeness and the pathway on which we stand and walk.
He is the truth, the standard that erases the grey areas of our lives, the truth that tears down our walls, invalidates our excuses, the truth that exposes and reveals
And He is the life. He is our sustenance who grows us up in the way we should go
his death provided a way back to relationship with the father, and his resurrection paved the way to eternal life with him.
Are you in a place where you are beginning to consider walking in God’s abundance? It begins where everything begins: with a posture of repentance, humility, gratitude and a genuinely seeking heart. Been walking with the Lord for a while but the past week, months, years have been difficult to say the least. Don’t let your discouragement define your walk. I’ve done it and I can tell you it doesn’t end well.
Lay it all at the throne of His grace and leave it all at the foot of His cross. Take the time, get alone with the Lord. Lay all the difficult questions and doubts before him and wait. Wait for His peace. Wait for His gentle response because the reality is-He thinks you are precious.


We began looking at things important for physical survival. We next looked at what abundant life is and what keeps us from it. Now I’d like to come full circle from natural physical survival to abundant spiritual life now back to the elements of survival.
How can I say this after what I just shared? When I said we shouldn’t stay in survival mode in our Christian lives? Because if we really think about it those instincts, those things we need to survive must have been placed there by God in the garden. Human beings need certain things to survive. They’re intrinsic. We need water, we need shelter, we need food.
I believe before sin entered into the picture, these survival instincts and needs were not just a physical necessity to aid us in maintaining our earthly bodies. Because the original plan was for man and God to have relationship, God placed in us and in the natural world what would be necessary to sustain that relationship.
Think about it. Since sin entered the world, these God-given instincts and needs have only focused on the physical. What the body needs to survive. Before they must have been intimately tied to the spiritual and placed there to not only give us practical things to aid us as we pursue God, but to remind us of our need of Him, to teach us delve beneath the surface of  the natural world to understand the spiritual. When we get saved, we are born into a new life, reconnected to our Creator and are once again able to reconnect to God's original plan. When we get saved, we are born into a new life, reconnected to our Creator and are able to once again reconnect to God’s original plan. We are now able to gain insight and apply spiritual meaning the physical. These things are to be reminders of what we need in the spirit. I know this all might seem like reaching just to make things fit, but honestly, when I began to look at these things, the Lord began to enlarge my idea of what it all meant. When I began to look at these things, the Lord began to enlarge my idea of what it all meant. In this life, we can often find ourselves in wilderness situations. The meaning of the word wilderness in the New Testament means places that are lonely, desolate, where we feel deserted by others. God has given us not only what we need to survive in these situations, He has given us more than we need so wee can thrive. 
Let’s look again at the six things we started with this morning but this time in a new light. Let’s revisit them and consider how spiritually important they. Remember the Army manual and the things they said that were necessary for survival?
The first thing I spoke about had to do with attitude. In the natural, we understand that having a good attitude is imperative. When we have a bad attitude, we close ourselves off. We’re defeated before we begin. What about spiritually? Why is attitude important to an abundant spiritual life?
Your spiritual attitude is your outlook on the things of God. How do you see your life? The people around you? What has formed your attitude? Do you see the world around you with a transformed mind?  Romans 12:2: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” That word transformed means transfigured. In fact, it’s the exact same word used when describing what happened to Jesus on the mount. Renewing means renovation, a complete change for the better. We need to stop allowing our attitudes to be shaped by the world and allow them to be transfigured by a renovated mind.
Remember the survival manual suggested that when you are faced with a potential survival situation use a S-P-E-A-R: Stop, plan, execute, assess and reevaluate. Well spiritually, I say don’t use a spear, use a S-W-O-R-D.
S=salvation: It has to begin here. When you understand what has been done for you, the sacrifice, the love, your attitude about the world changes. Those around you aren’t there to serve you, you’re there to exhibit the love, the generosity, and the grace that has been extended to you. It changes the way you see the world around you.
I remember when I got saved. I was in high school. My friend took me to a coffeehouse and when they had the altar call, I practically ran to the front. I had never heard that Jesus had died for me and wanted to give me a new life. I remember when my mother came in to get me because I had been in there a really long time. I ran up to her and threw my arms around her and yelled I’m saved! You would have to know what our relationship was like at that time to understand what a miracle this was. I no longer saw her as the bitter, angry judgmental woman that she was. She became someone I just had to share this good news with.
Even though she thought I had joined a cult and made me go see a priest; nevertheless, my view of her had changed. My salvation had begun to change my attitude. Now is the time to come to him and now is the time to rejoice in the sacrifice that was given for you.
W=worship: Worship puts your mind in proper perspective. Worshiping God sets your eyes and heart and your mind on Him, not on your own circumstances and limited understanding. In our American Christian culture when you talk about worship it usually has to do with the songs we sing. What do we call those who lead us in song on Sunday mornings? Worship leaders.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love that time in church when we sing corporately. It helps to get us in the place where we begin to refocus ourselves toward God. But if we simply confine our idea of worship of God to just music, we are missing the wealth of opportunities He gives us to partake in meaningful worship outside of a Sunday morning.
You know, in the Old Testament worship simply meant to serve or bow down to. Ps. 2:11 it says: Worship the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling. The word worship here means to serve. Allow the Lord to enlarge your idea of what it means to worship Him. Use the time you’re given, wherever, however small, Whatever form your worship takes, do it often.  Worshipping, serving, bowing down to God can alter your attitude.
O=obedience: To obey is better than sacrifice. Consider how does obedience affect your attitude? Obedience denotes an understanding of who you are in Christ, who you really believe God is. But how we obey is important. Grudgingly?
Fine, I’ll go into church early to clean the bathrooms if I have to. I hope they appreciate this.” We know what it’s like when our children obey us but resent it. Not very pretty is it? Not only is God aware of how we obey him, the world is watching too. Ro. 16:19 : For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you. Willing obedience softens a rigid attitude.
R=remember: Over and over again in scripture we are told to remember. Especially in the psalms. Remember means to call to mind. Consider: What do we bring to mind? Psalm 77 starts with the psalmist remembering the former days, remembering God and groaning. But he doesn’t stop there; he doesn’t pitch his tent in the valley of “woe is me.” He ends with remembering that God is the one who performs miracles.
Bring to remembrance not only the miracles God has done in history, but what he has done in your history. Willing obedience is the gateway to a transformed attitude.
D=dwell: Where do you spend your time? How long do you stay there? In Psalm 61:4 it says, “Let me dwell in Your tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings.” The desire to dwell in the presence of God.The word dwell there means to remain, settle down, to inhabit. Where you have settled down, where you inhabit, will affect your attitude.
If you spend a lot of time in the presence of grumblers chances are you will become a grumbler yourself and end up with an impoverished attitude toward others and toward God. Abundant living requires a mind, an attitude that is stayed on Christ.
The next thing that is important in spiritual survival is shelter. I repeat, where do you live? The psalms are full of references to shelter: being sheltered in his tabernacle, sheltered in his presence, being found in the shelter of his wings.
Shelter literally means hedged and shut in, to block and stop the approach, and to cover. When we inhabit the shelter God provides, we’re secure, we don’t have to be afraid because In Him we are hedged in and covered. The reality is when we get saved we no longer live in a temporary shelter we’ve created but instead, we live in the One who has created everything.
What is the last mention of shelter in God’s Word? Rev.7:15-16: (In reference to those who have come from the great tribulation) That's why they're standing before God's Throne. They serve him day and night in his Temple. The One on the Throne will pitch his tent there for them; no more hunger, no more thirst, no more scorching heat.” 
Just as in the natural we need shelter, spiritually we need the
shelter of God’s love and protective grace.
Next is the need for water. We know in the natural water is very important to our well-being. What about water for spiritual survival? For abundant life?
Remember the story in John 4 about the Samaritan woman who came to the well to get water. Jesus asks for water and then proceeds to tell her about her life. In verse ten Jesus says, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
The woman came for water to satisfy her natural thirst, but Jesus provides a water that’s living to satisfy our spiritual thirst.
Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If a man is thirsty let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."
What did he mean? Vs 39 explains: “by this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to later receive.”
What we take in is what will come out. Living water that Jesus provides—absolutely necessary for spiritual health. We need to daily allow this water to become a part of who we are.
The next is fire. I love that fire is before food. Food satisfies our hunger, but fire, passion sustains our souls. In Matthew 3:11, John says that Jesus would baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire. The word fire there literally means fiery fire.
Matthew Henry wrote about natural fire and its spiritual counterpart in his 17th century commentary. Listen to how he compares the two:
Is fire enlightening? So the Spirit is a Spirit of illumination. Is it warming? And do not their hearts burn within them?
Is it consuming? And does not the Spirit of judgment, as a Spirit of burning, consume the dross of their corruptions?
Does fire make all it seizes like itself? And does it move upwards?
 So does the Spirit make the soul holy like itself, and its tendency is heaven-ward. Christ says I am come to send fire,
The fire of God to ignite our passion. To have a desire, an ache for the Lord. Are we passionate for God? Do we burn for Christ?
The next thing necessary for survival was food. In the natural we need food but spiritually we also need food. In John 4:31-34, the disciples tell Jesus to eat something. He tells them he has food to eat that they don’t know anything about. What was his food? Verse 34: “to do the will of him who sent him and to finish his work.”
Doing the will of God and finishing the work he has given you to do. Spiritual food. This food goes even deeper: John 6: 35: Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry…” and again in John 6:51: "Jesus says, I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever."
That word eats  literally means to consume or devour. Does this describe our relationship with Jesus? You know just as David Eckman wrote that many of us have spiritual dementia, I think we also have a kind of spiritual bulimia when we read the word of God, which also nourishes us.
We read some passages, maybe a chapter, maybe check off the scripture in our read the Bible in a year plan. We might chew on it for a little while but for whatever reason we never take the time to meditate on its meaning for us personally, to swallow so it can become a part of who we are.
It’s as if we spit it out before it has a chance to nourish us. Now it doesn’t mean that you have to just sit for hours and hours and hours. Just talk to the Lord about what you read, sit quietly in his presence, even for a few minutes at a time if that’s all you have, allow the Lord to nourish you throughout the day with His word.
Even though in the natural we can live three weeks without food, think of how weak we’d be if we did that. Ever watch survival shows like Survivor? The contestants might have small amounts of food to eat, rice, maybe some coconuts, or whatever they can find. The change in their bodies when they are done is concerning. They look emaciated.
Spiritually, if we go without feeding on the Word of God, feasting on the Bread of Life, we will not only be weak, but the longer we go, we can become spiritually emaciated. That word means to waste away like a skeleton. It means withered, shrunken, pinched, and gaunt. Does this sound like someone who is living in abundance?
Feast on God’s Word, feast on Jesus, the Bread of Life, and feast on the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
The last thing the army manual says we need to survive are naturalists skills. How can we translate this into the spiritual? Why would God place this need for man to understand and be familiar with his environment? First, I say the more you know about the physical reality you live in the more abundant your life can be spiritually.
Phillip Keller wrote: “Yet divine revelation is irrevocably bound up with the basic subjects of the natural world…” He says that we need to “recognize the fact that God is author and originator of both the natural and supernatural (spiritual). The same basic laws, principles and procedures function in these two continuous realms. Therefore, it follows that to understand one is to grasp the parallel principle in the other.” From A Shepherd looks at the 23rd Psalm
Remember we read Ro. 1:20 where it said that God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made. There is a connection between the creation and the Creator that when looked at through the Spirit’s guiding lens, can teach us about God.
Now I’m not saying begin to worship nature and make it more than it was intended to be. I’m saying as you dwell in the presence of God take the time to allow Him to teach you about how the natural world works and how there are lessons and principles to be clearly seen that point to Him. 
There is also another aspect to our environment that we need to be familiar with so that we can move beyond just surviving our time here. So we can be equipped to thrive. Eph. 6:12:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
We live in an angry world that will only get worse. We need to understand where that anger originates so we can respond appropriately. In nature, trees are identified by their fruit. If there’s an apple hanging off the branches, it’s an apple tree.
Well, it’s like that in the spirit. When you see people exhibit the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, you know that it’s from the Spirit of God.
When you see people acting in hateful, angry discord, they’re impatient, selfish, there’s infidelity, an inability to control their actions, then you know it’s being driven by the spirit of darkness. Understanding this reality makes us better able to handle the people and circumstances that often come against us.
Choosing spiritual life translates into how we live life in the natural. One feeds the other. We choose. Is our spiritual life feeding our natural life? Or is our natural life trying to feed and sustain our spirits?
Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make.
Oh, that you would choose life, that you and your descendants might live! Choose to love the LORD your God and to obey him and commit yourself to him, for he is your life.

I’d like to conclude with a kind of call to this life. We can’t allow the world to whisper words into our hearts that defeat and derail us. Words that ultimately influence how we live.
In Eph. 5:14, we are told: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." We need to decide to wake up and live. You know sometimes as we get older we can become saddened or sometimes even apathetic over the way we think our lives have tuned out.
Our bodies seem weaker, our resolve might be waning. There might be prayers that seem to go unanswered for years.  But be encouraged and listen to the words of Oswald Chambers: We all have any number of visions and ideals when we are young, but sooner or later we find that we have no power to make them real. We cannot do the things we long to do and we are apt to settle down to the visions and ideals as dead, and God has to come and say-‘Arise from the dead’.When the inspiration of God does come, it comes with such miraculous power that we are able to arise from the dead and do the impossible thing.”
What might God be drawing you to?  Is it to a deeper trust in Him in a seemingly impossible situation? Is it to take a step out in faith? Consider what He might be calling you to. Don’t allow the enemy of your heart to tell you that the visions and ideals the Lord spoke to you is beyond your grasp; that the life, the abundant life has passed you by and all that’s left for you is just a bare existence.
The reality is that there is more. God desires to breathe His life into your life. He has called you to an abundant life—where Jesus is glorified and worshipped, a life that waits in grace, runs in His strength, and a life where you daily learn to enjoy the journey. A life that is in Him for in Him dwells everything you will ever need.
Abundant living? Thriving? Think about who Jesus’ words were originally directed to. His disciples. On the surface would you say they lived an abundant life, that Jesus lived an abundant life? Imprisoned, shipwrecked, beaten, martyred, crucified. Paul and Silas understood God’s abundance. How else would they be found praying and singing hymns in jail after being “severely flogged.” So we know Jesus was talking about an abundance that the world doesn’t recognize or appreciate.
Learning to live a truly abundant life is an ongoing journey; it’s fueled not by feelings or by the seemingly impossible details of our current circumstances but its fueled and sustained by the promises of God. 
It’s taking those misguided affections and in increasing measure, setting them on eternal things. It’s developing a dependence on the surety of God’s word and Jesus’ sacrifice over and above everything that the world says. It’s living in honest gratitude that continually feeds and sustains us, knowing he has given us more than is necessary. It’s being alive to the movement of God’s Spirit, and being awake to the sound of His voice.
Abundant living is learning to trust amidst the fearful voices of the world and knowing, really knowing who you are in Christ. And finally you know you are living in God’s abundance when you truly believe and understand that you have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus and that you have hope, a hope that is over and above any hope the world offers.
But just as Jesus asked Martha if she believed him, he asks us the same question. Do you believe? Do you believe that God is enough? Belief that transcends a mere understanding.
There is a story about a tight-rope walker who was famous for daring stunts. This one time, crowds gathered to watch him walk across a thin rope strung precariously over a canyon hundreds of feet deep.
First, he simply walked across, from one side to the other. Then he did it blindfolded. The crowds cheered as he rode a unicycle across. He was unstoppable.
Suddenly he turned to the crowds and said, “You’ve seen me walk this rope blindfolded. You’ve seen me ride across it without so much as a flinch. Now I will do my greatest trick. I will push a wheelbarrow across to the other side. Who here believes I can do it?” Everyone shouted, “Of course. We’ve seen you do so many tricks with our own eyes. You can do it!”
He set his eyes on one man in the front. He took the handles of the wheelbarrow and wheeled it over to the somewhat startled onlooker.
“Do you think I can do this?”  he asked.
“Well, yes” said the man.
“I mean, do you really believe I can push this across and back without falling to my death in the canyon below?”
“Yes, yes, I do. I watched you walk blindfolded. I watched you do everything without even flinching. Yes, I know you can do it beyond a shadow of a doubt.”
The stunt man was quiet for a brief second, and looking intently into the man’s eyes said, “Then get in.”
Jesus calls us to get in. To believe and trust that in Him is everything we will ever need for abundant life. Even when the trial you are in seems never ending, even when your heart feels ready to burst for waiting for a breakthrough, and to believe and trust Him especially when you’ve fallen and feel there’s no reason to get up,
God’s abundance? God by his very nature exudes abundance: abundant love, abundant mercy, abundant grace.

In Him there is more than you will ever need. Life—life as God intended—is a choice.
So today, Choose life so that you will live. Choose the life God has for you.