“I am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly“
(John 10:10). But read John 10:1-11
Among the Pennsylvania Dutch people there is a humorous proverb: “Too soon we get old, too late smart.” And you may have felt that way when the days, months, and years sped by. Maybe you are glum because you realize that you can’t possibly learn all you need to know, or visit all the places you want to see, or accomplish half what you long to do.
Back there centuries ago, a psalmist, in such a blue mood, actually chided God in words like these: “Behold, thou hast made my days as hand breadths; and my lifetime is as nothing before thee” (Psalm 39:5). And there is many another similar passage in the Bible; but Jesus put it differently when he said, “I am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” Length of life he did not promise; but fullness of life he did.
That abundant life-rich, exciting, satisfying is yours, not in some far-off future, but here and now. That is, it is yours if you are ready to meet the conditions. What are they?
Actually, Jesus does not spell them out in this passage, but they keep cropping out in the Bible as it deals with quantity and quality of life. In present-day language those conditions might be stated somewhat like this:
Be sure, first of all, that you aren’t getting any younger. Whatever your age today, you must alter your manner of living from day to day to “act” it. Of course, there is a place for the teasing about ages: old men can call their cronies “young fellows,” and young men can back-slap their contemporaries with “old boy,” and graying women can speak of “the girls.” But, being serious, you have to know better.
Then, accommodate your living pace to your years. One of the most beautiful and meaningful parts of the Bible is Ecclesiastes 3, which begins with the words: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” That is to say that some experiences are for the young, and some for the old, and some for those in middle years. When people step out of their age brackets, they may get into the newspapers, but they are not getting out of life what is their due.
Some years ago, John Oxenham, the British writer, was fascinated by the Bible’s report that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). A book, The Hidden Years, was the result; and it is a warm, tender account of what Jesus might have done during those years when he was growing up. (In the story, he even had a dog named Tobias!) There is no authentic word, of course. All we have is Luke’s short sentence. But we can be sure that the growing Jesus was thinking the thoughts and doing the deeds that prepared him for his world-changing mission. He was adapting his living to the changing years.
Next, keep in mind that although “the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4), much of the world’s best work has been done in the twilight. Sophocles writing his “Oedipus” when he was 90, and Goethe finishing “Faust” at 82, and Michelangelo putting the dome on St. Peter’s of Rome when he was 87, and Isaac Newton making his most important discovery when he was 85, and Einstein and Steinmetz, even in this century when many workers are said to be “too old at 40,” doing their best work when they were between 60 and 80-all these examples prove that there is no law of diminishing returns in abundant living.
Then, be thankful for the gifts that only the passing years can bring. In Unforgotten Years, Logan Pearsall Smith has these unforgettable lines: “Our bones are ripening, it is true, for their ultimate repose, but how small a price, after all, is that to pay for the knowledge we have acquired of the world and men, for the splendid panorama of literature and the arts, which years of travel and study have unrolled before us, and above all for those adequate conceptions in whose possession, according to Spinoza’s wisdom, true felicity consists.
Not only for your declining years, but for your ascending years, and all the years in between, Jesus offers the unsearchable riches of abundant living. Living modern? His standards are still ahead of the times. Living the full life? What could be better rounded, more complete, than the abundant life he came to share? Living it up? That’s what he wants you to do, assured that the more of his kind of life you use up, the more you have left.