Abundance

Do you consider yourself an optimist or a pessimist?

Is the glass as half-empty or half-full?

Do you focus on the darkness of the forest or the light that shines through?

Does God feel close to you or far away?

Your answers to these questions indicate whether you have an abundance or scarcity mindset. One mindset embraces far more life while the other stifles it.

Without Christ, hardships, heartache, and difficulties emphasize our emptiness. We cling to what makes us feel good for the moment, knowing it will not last. Good circumstances seem rare. Real joy and inner peace elude us. We may feel hopeless and helpless to find relief from our physical and emotional burdens. Far more life sounds like an impossible dream. We experience a negative mindset and spiritual scarcity.

When we enter a relationship with Jesus Christ, we move from spiritual scarcity to spiritual abundance. We trade death and condemnation for life and forgiveness (Colossians 2:13-14). Our life circumstances may not change, but our perspective does (Acts 26:17-18). We now have a source of hope and help (Psalm 33:20). We have access to inner joy and peace through the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13). We can trust in the promises that God is for us (Romans 8:31) and always with us (Ephesians 1:13-14). Besides our salvation, spiritual abundance — far more life — is the most precious gift God gives us. The Apostle Peter highlights the importance of this:

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1:4, NIV)

Whatever we do, whatever situation we face, God sees His children as holy and blameless. Our life, present and future, is abundant because our standing before God is secure. We have His love, blessing, and support no matter what. That is far more life. Rich, internal, and unshakable abundance.

There are many religious people who claim that following God will bring you good things in this life: promotions at work; bigger incomes; nicer houses; more toys; happy marriages; good children; and more. When something bad happens, they claim God is displeased and punishing your sin or lack of faith. But that is not what God’s Word says.

If you belong to Christ Jesus, you won’t be punished. The Holy Spirit will give you life that comes from Christ Jesus and will set you free from sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2, CEV)

God will never punish His children, because Jesus already took that punishment on our behalf. Born-again believers in Christ are never out-of-favor with God. He never withholds blessings from us. He never scolds us. We are always holy and blameless in His sight. When we sin, the punishment has already been served, allowing us to remain connected to God through far more life. Our feelings do not separate us from God, even though our enemy, Satan, wants us to believe the guilt and shame we feel means God has turned away from us. Our sinful choices may yield natural painful consequences, but those are never God’s punishment. Instead, His Spirit continues to live inside of us and we continue to experience His abundant love, joy, peace, goodness, faith, and more. We continue to have far more life.

These [Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab, David, Samson, and many others], though commended by God for their great faith, did not receive what was promised. (Hebrews 11:39, VOICE)

Even people who are commended in the Bible for their faith did not see their circumstances improve. But God gave them something better than earthly riches: His faithfulness in the present and His promise of a Messiah who would rescue their descendants from the oppression of sin. Instead of removing their struggles, God gave them hope, joy, and peace as they endured. They experienced spiritual abundance and far more life as they awaited the fulfillment of His promise.

To embrace far more life, we must embrace God’s definition of abundance. It is spiritual abundance. Soul abundance. Heart abundance. It means we find our blessings by looking up to Him, not at the circumstances of our life on earth. Abundance means that regardless of our external circumstances, our spirit thrives.

The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (I Timothy 1:4, NIV)

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8, NIV)

For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:5, NIV)

For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17, NLT)

Grace. Faith. Love. Good works. Comfort. Righteousness. These are the riches that God offers us through Christ. This is the abundance of far more life!

Sisters,
Before reading this, how did you define abundance?
What did you learn about abundance?
Are you tempted to interpret difficult situations as God’s punishment or displeasure? What Bible verse reminds you of God’s true mindset toward you?
What tempts you to pursue material abundance over spiritual abundance?
Thank God for eternal abundance — far more life — through Jesus Christ!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso


Jars of Clay

We want to avoid physical and emotional pain, suffering, and death. But we cannot. As long as we are on this earth, in these bodies, we will face these unpleasant experiences. But the Apostle Paul shares a unique perspective:

We are like clay jars in which this treasure is stored. The real power comes from God and not from us. We often suffer, but we are never crushed. Even when we don’t know what to do, we never give up. In times of trouble, God is with us, and when we are knocked down, we get up again…Our bodies show what his death was like, so that his life can also be seen in us…And just as God raised Jesus, he will also raise us to life. (2 Corinthians 4:7-14, CEV)

We are like clay jars in which this treasure is stored. Clay jars are fragile, common items. They are not valuable, but do serve an important purpose: to hold something valuable. The same is true of our bodies; they are fragile and made of common components. (Selling the chemical elements of a body would only earn a few hundred dollars!) But they hold a treasure:

…Our message is that Jesus Christ is Lord…Now God is shining in our hearts to let you know that his glory is seen in Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:5-6, CEV)

The time will come when I, the Lord, will write my laws on their minds and hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Hebrews 8:10, CEV)

The treasure inside our bodies is a heart that knows Jesus and has been changed by Him! That heart connects to God, grows in love for Him, prompts us to be like Him, and reveals His glory to others. It is a privilege to have the treasure of far more life inside of us!

The real power comes from God and not from us. We do not have power to overcome sin and difficulty — to walk in far more life — on our own. Jesus promised His disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” (Acts 1:8). And we do! The Holy Spirit gives us the power to: understand spiritual truths, apply wisdom to the challenges we face, and obey God (Isaiah 11); speak the truth powerfully (Micah 3:8); share the gospel of Jesus with others (Acts 1:8); have hope, love, and self-control (Romans 15:13 & 30, 2 Timothy 1:7); and pray to God (Ephesians 6:18, Romans 8:26). I love how this verse describes what we have in Christ:

Children, you belong to God, and you have defeated these enemies. God’s Spirit is in you and is more powerful than the one that is in the world. (I John 4:4, CEV)

God empowers us to remain connected to Him, experiencing His love, joy, peace, hope, and more in every challenge we face. When we are disconnected from Him, we have the ability to find the breach and repair it by applying His truth. Our jars-of-clay bodies are not powerful, but the treasure they hold is!

We are never crushed…we never give up…we get up again. God’s power does not make us immune to pain, but it does empower us to spiritually thrive through it. Our connection to Him enables us to see earthly challenges from an eternal perspective. We know we are not fighting alone through this life; God is with us. He will give us direction, insight, and wisdom. He goes ahead of us and behind us, clearing a path for us to travel through life and ensuring our treasure gets through safely (Psalm 139).

Our bodies show what His death was like so His life can also be seen in us. The fact that we struggle yet exhibit far more life is a testimony to Jesus’ presence in our lives! Without Him, the trouble we face would bring despair. But we have joy, peace, patience, hope, and more from the treasure we carry. God’s power is not limited to our private struggles, it empowers us to love others, even when it is hard. Jesus said the love we show other treasure-bearers reveals to the world what is inside of us:

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35, NIV)

The apostle Paul writes a practical illustration of this:

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good…If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.  (I Corinthians 12:7, 26)

His power is clearly shown through our interactions with others in our jars-of-clay family. We demonstrate His presence when we suffer together, rejoice together, and use our spiritual gifts to bless each other. He has entrusted us with the power to extend His love and grace to others and grow their treasure!

Just as God raised Jesus, he will also raise us to life. The treasure we hold is not ruined or lost when our jar of clay cracks or shatters. These jars are only temporary homes. I look forward to the day our treasure is freed from this fragile vessel and transferred to the glorified body God has waiting for us. (I Corinthians 15:42-44) Then we will experience far more life forever! But while we remain here, we embody His power and are called to carry His message of hope to other jars of clay.

Sisters,
How have you experienced your body being fragile but the Spirit within you strong?
How would you describe the “treasure” in your own words? What Bible verses can you think of that describe it?
What challenges has the Holy Spirit given you power to rise above? Where are you disconnected from Him?
How are you living out His instruction to strengthen and support other believers?
Bask in the treasure of far more life today as you share His message of hope with others!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso
Photo credit: Grace Kusta Nasralla from Pexels

Far More Hope

As you think about life, are you hopeful or hopeless? Your answer will be determined, in part, by where you are placing your hope.

Sometimes we place our hope in things that change. When they are going well, we are hopeful, but when they take a downturn, so does our hope. For example, if we hope in financial investments for our security, each time the stock market dips we will doubt our future. But when our hope is placed in the unchanging, it remains steady when circumstances shift. We have hope that a new day will dawn because it always has; the darkest nights have always given way to daylight and we are confident that will continue to happen.

During this uncertain time, where can we place our hope that is secure? The Bible offers an answer:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13, NIV)

Far more life is built on an active relationship with the God of hope. Do you think of Him as the God of hope? When I hear that phrase, I am reminded of His character, both what I have read in the Bible and what I have experienced:

God keeps His word. The Bible is filled with promises, some already fulfilled and some yet to be fulfilled. Since God has faithfully kept His promises we can have confidence that He will continue to do so. Keeping His word confirms He is the God of hope.

God’s plan prevails. When God created the earth, He had a plan: an eternal relationship with us. He has communicated that plan to people throughout the ages, inviting them to join Him in fulfilling it. Yet His plan is not dependent on us, so we cannot ruin it by refusing to join Him or making mistakes. Far more life on this earth is part of His plan, but the best is yet to come! Revealing and enacting His plan shows He is the God of hope.

God is powerful and good. He sets the course of each celestial object in the universe. He arranges each atom just as He wants it. He controls the seasons, the tides, the span of each life. Yet his goodness is revealed in every detail as well. Our bodies are perfectly suited for life on earth. We experience happiness and satisfaction. He promises to reward righteousness and punish evil. He offers us forgiveness. Demonstrations of His power and goodness prove He is the God of hope.

God is love. We are designed to put our hope in love. That is why so many books, movies, and songs focus on love. The message is reinforced by well-known sentiments such as “love conquers all”, “love means never having to say you are sorry”, and “all we need is love”. But humans are incapable of being a stable source of love. God’s love, however, never wavers. We can be confident in it because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, whose perfect love led Him to sacrifice Himself as the ransom our lives. And this gives us hope! Sacrificial, unconditional love sets Him apart as the God of hope.

Keeping our hope fixed on God, through Jesus, is an important aspect of far more life. But God asks us to take it a step further and share our hope with others:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.  (I Peter 3:15, NIV)

I was recently challenged with this question: what source am I most actively promoting as the reason for my hope during this pandemic? Is it a particular doctor? An elected official? A political party? A line of research? Or am I primarily hoping in God and pointing people toward Jesus?

Far more life has hope in eternal life, with God through Christ, which is evident in our words and actions. Hope allows His Spirit in us to stand out: we can remain calm when others panic; we can act with kindness and generosity when others are rude and selfish; we can grieve what we have lost while wholeheartedly celebrating what we have. During this time, hope in God opens the door for us to share how a relationship with Jesus gives us far more life, empowering us to live above our circumstances and remain hopeful.

This is how far more life puts hope into action:

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. (I Peter 1:13, NIV)

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31:24, NIV)

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. (Psalm 130:5, NIV)

You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word. (Psalm 119:114, NIV)

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. (Psalm 62:5, NIV)

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. (2 Corinthians 3:12, NIV)

Make this your motto: my hope is secure in God! Share it with those who are seeking hope. Far more life is the best gift you have ever received…and the best gift you can give to others!

Sisters,
Are you hopeful or hopeless?
In what are you placing your hope? Is that source secure or shifting?
What confirms to you that God is the God of hope? What causes you to doubt?
What source of hope are you promoting to others?
Who in your circle is seeking hope? How can you share the reason for the hope that you have?
Thank God for the hope of far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso