“Who dares despise the day of small things…?” – Zechariah 4:10a, NIV
“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” – John 10:10b, NKJV
I’d wager that we’ve all seen a shot glass a time or two, even if we’ve never tipped one back and swallowed some fiery contents. (Full disclosure: I have). There isn’t a drop of alcohol in my house, but I have a couple of shot glasses nonetheless. Some recipes require their use, like the chocolate creme de menthe cake my mom makes all-too-rarely. (Love that thing). And when talking about the abundant life, shot glasses make excellent metaphors.
No, really. They do.
We tend to view our lives as these great, gaping things, and we search for something large enough to fill the holes. The cliche is that we’ve all got a “God-shaped” space in our hearts, and there’s a lot of truth in that. But let’s be honest. When we see ourselves as bottomless wells, we try to throw things in to stop the sense of falling and ease the ache. No matter how devoted we are to the Lord, we’re always on the lookout for something in addition to Him.
Because really and truly, we don’t quite believe that He’s enough.
Oh, some days are better than others. Some days we can sing, “On Christ the solid rock I stand! All other ground is sinking sand!” with gusto and with complete sincerity. Other days? Well, we slog through that sinking sand hoping to find whatever it is we think we need to make our lives better.
Ultimately, it’s idolatry and that’s the great struggle of humanity. Money, titles, position, power, clothes, looks, family. You name it, we’ll chase it. We all assume that the abundant life means all of those things. We assume that a life full and overflowing with joy and contentment means that we’ll have everything we want. Even the most devoted of Christians deals with this assumption.
We need a change of perspective.
We need the shot glass life.
But first, what was Jesus talking about when He stated that He came to give life, and abundant life at that?
“Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good—a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it.”
Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.
“I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him.
“I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father.” – John 10:1-18, MSG
We see that Jesus’ offer of the abundant life is settled explicitly within the context of salvation. People who don’t know Jesus don’t have “more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” Period. This has absolutely nothing to do with wealth or power. An abundant life begins and ends with knowing Jesus.
Here Jesus calls Himself the “Good Shepherd.” He talks about how He cares for the sheep, who represent us. Do you know what sheep need? A safe place to sleep (shelter). A safe place to run and play (a fenced pasture). Good water to drink. Food to eat (grass, hay, grains, minerals, the occasional treat). Protection from predators (provided by the shepherd and faithful herding dogs). Grooming. Healthcare when they get sick. Above and beyond all else, they need a shepherd they can trust. A shepherd who keeps close watch over the flock, who will risk his own life to keep them safe, who shows his affection with petting, playing and the odd snuggle.
Did you notice what sheep don’t need?
I’ll let you provide the answer yourself.
Jesus is telling us, in no uncertain terms, that the abundant life is found in being with Him. That’s it. He is the source of everything that we truly need.
When we think of our lives as boundless and fathomless, we wonder if it’s possible to ever feel complete. We are ever-aware of the emptiness. We doubt that the Lord can fill us up. Surely we need something else, something in addition to Him. Or we see God as some sort of cosmic vending machine, One who will give us everything we want if we punch the right combination of buttons.
Jesus never once says that we entitled to anything. We’re not even entitled to a relationship with Him, though He graciously offers it to us. But it ends there. He doesn’t say, “I will save you AND make you the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.” He doesn’t say, “I will save you AND make sure you never get sick a day in your life.” He doesn’t say, “I will save you AND…” anything.
He says, “I will save you.”
And that is over, above and beyond anything and everything.
So I wonder what would happen if we started seeing our lives as shot glasses. It takes very little to fill and cause one to overflow. If we see our days and our needs in this compact way and both begin and end with the awesomeness of salvation, the amazingness of knowing God, anything else is a surplus. It’s the extra icing on the proverbial cake.
That surplus is to be found all around us. A fresh and unexpected bloom on the rose bush. The heat radiating from a dog’s body and he presses himself against your leg. An inside joke with an old friend. The feeling of cleanness after a shower. The smell of bacon. Or a freshly-baked cookie. The squish of sand between your toes. A child’s laughter.
Sheep don’t care if they’ve got millions in the bank or a new car. They just follow where the shepherd leads. They romp in the fields, drink from streams, bathe in sunlight. Their lives are totally full and fabulous because they trust in the one leading them. What more could they ask for?
What more could we?
Grace and peace along the way.