I do not know about you, but I was told (directly and indirectly) as a young child that if I wanted to be happy that I needed to get a good education, make a lot of money, maybe be famous, follow my dreams, be all I can be, work hard, invest for retirement, buy a good house, get married, have a couple of kids, and you will be happy.
I have grown up with visions in my head (given to me from TV ads) that the good life is having friends over for a BBQ, on the back deck, kids running and playing in the yard, dog at my feet, wife by my side, and beer in my hand.
Now, I am not against any of those things. Actually, I have most of them, except I am not famous, do not have a ton of money, still need to build my back deck, and I do not like beer (but would gladly exchange it for a Coke). But, I do have a Masters degree, I work hard, I have a great wife, kids who love to run and play, many friends, nice house, and hope to get the dog very soon :-).
But, is that happiness? Success? Is that the pursuit of life?
I would argue that all those things are fine, but if the dream life, “The American Dream” (whatever it is for you) is absent from knowing Christ, then that dream life is a trick, given to us by the devil and our selfish pursuits that will do nothing more than steal, kill, and destroy our lives.
In pursuit of the money and fame, we work hard, often leaving behind our spouse and kids, who, when we finally have the success, will feel abandoned by us because we did not pursue them. By the time we can afford the nice house, we need a new car, new TV, and new laptop in order to keep up with the ideologies that our TV commercial life (which does not exist for almost all people) convinces us we can obtain.
What is my point? Do I think we should lower our expectations? No. I think we need to change the target of our dreams. Because outside of TV world, kids get sick, spouses fight, people get fired, dogs die, houses burn down or need to be repaired, stock market has its ups and DOWNS, we get old and often get fat, addicted to beer, and at the end of the day real happiness and joy does not exist in any of that stuff.
Jesus said that He came to give us “life” and so that we can “have it more abundantly.” He was not talking about stuff. He was talking about Himself. The joy of knowing Him. The satisfaction of being accepted into the family of God. The contentment found in the pursuit of God. I find the greatest joy with my wife and kids is when Jesus is at the center of our family, not the TV, computer, or the vacation.
Now, that does not mean I think we should all be lazy people who do not work hard. It means, that we work hard at pursuing Christ. Not religion, for that is another thief who wants to steal your joy. But, the kind of pursuit that will exchange “the American Dream” for the everlasting joy of loving Christ and making His name known to others so that they too may be saved from the pursuit of thinking the ideas of TV commercials are the target for their life. No, there is something much more.
Jesus’ comment in the verse quoted in red above means that the pursuit of anything above or outside of Him and His will, at the end of the day, will deceive you, destroy you, and kill your soul. But, if we will follow Him, He will give us a life greater than could have ever imagined or thought of.
Some might be reading, thinking, Ron, I do not believe you. Well, keep on living for and pursuing the American dream, and I guarantee you that the satisfaction you think it will give, will not be there in the end. The decision to follow Jesus is one of faith. It begins there. It ends there. And, all I can say, is that Jesus has given me exactly what He has promised to me…abundant life in Himself.