A Shepherd looks at the GOOD SHEPHERD #9
THE ABUNDANT LIFE
I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it
more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives
his life for the sheep (John 10:10b-11).
ANY SHEPHERD WHO is a good manager always bears in mind one
great objective. It is that his flock may flourish. The
continuous well-being of his sheep is his constant preoccupation.
All of his time, thought, skill, strength, and resources are
directed to this end.
Nothing delights the good shepherd more than to know his
livestock are in excellent condition. He will stand in his
pastures amongst his sheep casting a knowing eye over them,
rejoicing in their contentment and fitness. A good stock man
actually revels in the joy of seeing his animals flourishing.
There are several reasons for this.
First, and perhaps foremost, is the simple fact that sheep
that are in good health are free from all the trying and annoying
ailments of parasitism and disease that so frequently decimate
sheep. He does not have to worry about sick or crippled animals.
They are thriving under his care.
Second, it means that most of his time and attention can be
devoted to the development and care of the entire ranch. This
will assure his stock of an ideal environment in which they can
prosper. He can supply abundant pasturage, clean water supplies,
proper shelter, protection from predators, ample range, and ideal
management in every area of the ranch operation. This is the best
guarantee that the flock in his ownership will derive maximum
benefit from his expertise.
Third, his own reputation and name as an esteemed sheepman
is reflected in the performance of his flock. All of his
expertise and affection for the sheep is shown by how they
prosper under his watchful eye. When they are thriving he also
benefits. Not only does he prosper but he feels richly rewarded
in soul for all his strength and life actually poured into them.
Put another way it may be said that the outpouring of his own
being is to be seen in the excellence of his stock. It is very
much a demonstration of the eternal principle that what a man
gets out of life is what he puts into it.
Reflecting back over my own years as a sheepman I recall
clearly those happy, contented times when I literally revelled in
the wellbeing of my sheep. Visitors would often remark how
contented and flourishing my flock appeared. But only I knew how
much work, effort, tireless attention, and never-ending diligence
had been expended on my part for this to be possible.
My sheep had literally been the recipients of my life. It
had been shared with them abundantly and unstintingly. Nothing
was ever held back. All that I possessed was in truth poured out
unremittingly in order that together we should prosper. The
strength of my young body, the keen enthusiasm of my spirit, the
energy of my mind, the alertness of my emotions, the thrust and
drive of my disposition were all directed to the well-being of my
flock. And it showed in abundant measure.
This is the graphic picture our Lord had in His mind when He
stated simply, "I am come that they might have life, and that
they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the
good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep."
If we pause to reflect here a moment we must see that any
person is "good" in whatever he undertakes to the degree in which
he devotes and dedicates himself to it. A "good violinist"
becomes a good violinist only by putting his time, talents, and
attention into his art and instrument. Likewise a "good runner"
becomes a top athlete only to the extent that he will invest his
strength and energy and interest in his sport. And the degree to
which anyone becomes "good" is the length to which he will go in
giving himself unhesitatingly to his chosen vocation.
Thus, in speaking of our Good Shepherd we are compelled to
consider the enormous generosity with which He gives Himself to
us without stint. The very nature and character of God,
exemplified in Christ, convinces us beyond any doubt that He
literally pours Himself out on our behalf. All of the eternal,
ongoing activities and energetic enterprises of God have been
designed that we might share His abundant life.
We are not, as the people of His pasture, merely the
recipients of good gifts which He dispenses to us in random
fashion from afar. To think this way is to be terribly
impoverished in our lives.
For much of my early Christian life I labored under this
delusion. To me God was a distant deity. If perchance I needed
extra strength or wisdom or patience to face some perplexing
problem He who resided off in the immensity of space somewhere
could be appealed to for help and support in my dilemma. If my
conduct was commendable He would probably, hopefully, cooperate.
He would condescend to comply with my requests. If all went well
He might just drop down a bit of wisdom or strength or patience
to meet my need for the moment.
To imagine or assume that this is abundant life, or abundant
living, is a caricature of the true Christian life. Yet
multitudes of God's people struggle along this way. Their lives
are impotent and impoverished because of it.
The simple truth is that the abundant, dynamic life of God
can be ours continuously. It is not something handed out in neat
little packages as we pray for it sporadically.
A man or woman has the life of God to the extent that he or
she has God. We have the peace of God to the extent that we
experience the presence of Christ. We enjoy the joy of the Lord
to the degree we are indwelt by the very Spirit of God. We
express the love of God to the measure we allow ourselves to be
indwelt by God Himself.
God is not "way out there somewhere." He is here! He not
only resides within anyone who will receive Him, but equally
important is the fact that He completely enfolds and surrounds us
with His presence. He is the essence of both our inner life and
"O God, You are here! O Christ, You have come that I might have
abundant life. O gracious Spirit, You are as invisible as the
wind yet as real as the air that surrounds me, which I inhale to
energize my body! You are within and without.
"It is in You, 0 my God, that I live and move and have my being.
You are the environment from which my total life is derived. You
are the energy and dynamic of my whole being. Every good and
every perfect bestowal is derived from You. The vitality of my
spirit, the energy of my emotions, the drive of my disposition,
the powerful potential of my mind, the vigor of my body; in fact,
every facet of my total, abundant life is a reflection of Your
life, O Lord, being lived out in me and through me."
To become aware of this is to become charged mightily with
the abundant life of God, in Christ, by His Spirit. This is to
experience being "in Christ," and "Christ in me." This is to know
God. This is to enjoy eternal life, the life of the eternal One
being expressed through my person. This is, as Paul put it,
"knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection."
This life of God, given so freely to us in an undiminished
supply from an inexhaustible source, is not intended to end in
us. We are not an end in ourselves. The abundant outpouring of
God's life to His people is intended to be an overflowing,
out-giving, ongoing disposal of His benefits to others around us.
More than this, it is designed to bring pleasure, delight, and
blessing back to our Lord Himself. It is not just a case of His
blessings being bestowed on us, but also our abundant lives in
return being a blessing to Him.
"Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his
holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his
The full and complete awareness of this concept of abundant
Christian living can come to us only as we grasp the nature and
character of God, our Father. The Scriptures reveal Him to be
love. By that is meant not a selfish, self-indulgent, sentimental
love, but its opposite.
The love of God spoken of so extensively is total
selflessness. It is God, in Christ, sharing Himself with us
unhesitatingly. It is He giving Himself in glad, wholehearted
abandonment to us. It is God pouring Himself out for His people.
It is God losing Himself in our little lives that we might know
the abundance of His life. It is God giving Himself to us without
measure in overflowing abundance so that in turn His life spills
out from ours to go running over our weary old world in streams
The life of God comes to us in many ways. So majestic and
marvelous are they that this little book cannot begin to list or
catalog them all. The life of God given to men is the same life
that energizes the entire cosmos. It sustains the universe. It is
the essence of being.
The best a mere mortal can do is to go quietly to some
place, still, alone, there to meditate before the splendor of our
I sense something of His glory in the wonders of the world
He made: the flaming sunrises and sunsets that still the soul;
the awesome grandeur of mighty mountain ranges and sweeping
plains; the restless roar of ocean waves and winds and tides; the
fragrance of forests or the green glory of rich grasslands; the
austere stillness and rugged solitude of gaunt deserts; the
delicate beauty of flowers, trees, and shrubs; the incredible
diversity of insects, birds, and mammals; the beauty of sun and
cloud, snow and rain.
All of these contribute something to the total environment
which supports and sustains me. Each in its own way contributes
to the well-being of my person. They energize and feed my body.
They stimulate and quicken my soul. They enrich my spirit. They
make me what I am ... a man sensitive, receptive, and alive to
the world around me - my Father's world - His provision for my
well-being, joy, and abundant life. He has come. He has made it
all possible. He has put it at my disposal for full and enriched
All that is sublime, beautiful, dignified, noble, and grand
has this as its source. The finest in our literature, music,
arts, science, and social intercourse has its base in the
generous giving of our Lord. All that contributes to our physical
health, energy, and acumen as individuals is grounded in the good
gifts and undiminished life of God poured out to us upon the
And yet in His magnanimous and magnificent generosity He
does not just leave it at that. God has deliberately chosen to
articulate Himself in terms I can comprehend. He has spoken. His
Word has been received, recorded, and reproduced in human
writing. He has not withheld His will or wishes from us
earthlings in mystical obscurity. It is possible to know
precisely what He is like. He has articulated Himself in
meticulous terms understandable to man. He has given us clear and
concise self-revelations as to His gracious character, impeccable
conduct, and friendly conversation. We know who it is with whom
we have to do. He does not deal with us according to our foibles
and failings, but in amazing mercy and gracious kindness, as our
As though all of this is not enough, He has gone even
further in coming to us as God in man. He, the living God in
Christ, has come among us, wholly identified with us in our human
condition and human dilemma. He has not spared Himself. He was
born among us, lived among us, worked among us, served among us,
taught among us, died among us, rose among us, and ascended among
us to reclaim and repossess His place of prominence.
All of this He did willingly and gladly to deliver us from
the plight of our own peril upon the planet. He came to set us
free from the folly and foibles of our own perverseness and
pride. He gave His life to redeem us from our slavery to sin and
selfish selfinterests and Satan. He gave Himself to seek and to
save us who were lost. He came to call us to Himself. He came to
gather us into His family to enfold us in His flock. He gave
Himself to make us His own, the recipients of His own abundant,
To those few, and they are relatively few, who have
responded to His overtures, He still comes, even today, and gives
Himself to us by His gracious Spirit. He is with us. He is our
counselor. He is our companion. He is our "alongside one." He is
our comforter. He is our closest friend. He is here in rich and
"I am come that you might have life, My life, and that you might
have it in overflowing abundance." These are still His words to
To be continued