Craig Smith - The Key to Abundance
Well, hey. Welcome to Mission Hills. So glad to have you with us for our fourth installment of our Living Proof Series. If you’re new or you’re just joining us, let me catch up real quick. What we’re doing in this series, we’re taking a look at seven stories, about seven signs, which to most of us actually means seven stories about seven miracles that Jesus performed. But the man who was an eyewitness of those and who reported them to us, picked these seven signs and he calls them signs because they do more than just prove what kind of power Jesus has. They prove what kind of a person he is. They’re not just demonstrations he’s able to do these things, but they’re living proof of who he is. And honestly, they’re living proof of what’s important to him. And as followers of Jesus, what’s important to Jesus matters, right?
Because we’re supposed to care a lot about the things that Jesus cares a lot. So we need to know what those things are. And as we’re gonna see today, we’re not supposed to care a lot about things that Jesus doesn’t care a lot about, which is really unfortunate. Because it turns out there’s a lot of things that I think are really important that Jesus doesn’t give a rip about and I hate finding that out.
So, I’m just gonna tell you right now. Today we’re gonna take a look at a story that’s going to show that Jesus is really not at all concerned about something that a lot of us are really concerned about, at least I know I am. And I’m talking here about comfort. Yeah, I’m sorry. I’ll just tell you right now, bad news. Turns out, Jesus doesn’t give a rip about your comfort, which really stinks because I care a lot about it. In fact, I find myself making decisions on a pretty regular basis designed to maximize my comfort. Anybody else? And it’s not always big things. It’s little things that I do to maximize my comfort. Like sometimes, to be honest with you, sometimes when my phone rings and I look at it and I let it go to voicemail. Because my voicemail transcribes it, I can read it then and then I can text a reply back, which is just so much more comfortable. It just is, right? It’s not that necessarily I wanna avoid talking to those people, but it’s just a little bit more comfortable to text.
I think a lot of people feel that way about texting, which is why the phone app is actually probably the least used app on our phones, right? Because texting is so comfortable, right? I don’t know if anybody has done this. I’ll be honest. I do it. Sometimes when I’m in the grocery store, I got my cart and I’m gonna head down that aisle, but I looked down that aisle and I see somebody I know and I just keep going down to the next… Anybody else do that? It’s not just me, right? And again, it’s not that I necessarily wanna avoid that person. It’s just that I’m on a mission, right? I wanna get my Doritos and I wanna get out. I don’t want to have an uncomfortable conversation about why I have so many Doritos. They were on sale. I don’t wanna lose money on this thing, okay? It’s just more comfortable to not do it.
And speaking of grocery stores, like, the first time I walked into King Soopers and I realized they had installed like self-checkout lanes, I was like, “Hallelujah,” because I can go get my Doritos and I can check out and never talk to another human being which is awesome. And I know some of you are like, “What are you talking about? Like, going to the grocery store and having unexpected conversations with people you know or making new friends at the checkout stand, like that’s the best part of going the grocery store.” You’re what’s called an extrovert. And 50% of the population are introverts and I’m talking their language right now. Can I get an, “Amen?” Which is a pretty loud amen, actually, for a bunch of introverts, but it’s awesome. Scan your own stuff. It’s just a little bit more comfortable.
But here’s the thing. Sometimes the decisions that I make, at least, in order to maximize my comfort, are actually pretty significant decisions. Here’s something that I struggle with. I don’t like having hard conversations. I don’t like having to challenge or confront people. Those conversations are uncomfortable. And because of that, honestly, I struggle with putting those conversations off. I can put them off for days or weeks and sometimes even months. Even though I know, somebody spoke this into my life years ago and I’ve seen its truth over and over, I was told, “Hey, almost everybody is one difficult conversation away from a breakthrough in their lives.” And I think it’s true. I’ve seen it over and over again and yet I often put off those conversations because they’re uncomfortable and I don’t want to be uncomfortable.
I think we all have these areas in our lives where we work to maximize our comfort. Here’s the problem. Here’s what I’ve discovered in my own life: is that maximizing my comfort minimizes my chances of seeing God move. Do you know that, Church? It’s true. Maximizing my comfort actually minimizes my chances of seeing God move. What I wanna do is I wanna show you from God’s Word why I say that, but more importantly, I wanna show you from God’s Word why I think it’s true.
Why don’t you go ahead and grab a Bible and start making your way. We’re gonna be in the Gospel of John chapter six today, which says this, it says, “Now sometime after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee, that is the Sea of Tiberius.” He says, “Sometime after this,” and what he means by this is in chapter five of John, we looked at it last week, Jesus was in Jerusalem. He’s in the heart of Jewish territory and he performed a miracle on the Sabbath that led to a very uncomfortable conversation with the Jewish religious leaders. But after this, after that ministry in Jerusalem, Jesus has now traveled. He’s moved from Jerusalem to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee. It’s about 75 miles away from Jerusalem.
But what you need to understand about this location is, as John describes it, it’s the far shore, far away from what? Far from…? Like, what’s your reference point? The answer is it’s the opposite side of the shore from Jewish territory. See, the west side of the lake was primarily Jewish territory. The far shore was kinda like the other side of the tracks from a Jewish perspective because on the far shore, that was kind of the very edge of Jewish territory. And at the edge of Jewish territory, you had a few Jewish people, but you also had a lot of Gentiles, a lot of people who weren’t Jewish. That was their word for non-Jewish people, Gentiles. And so in this part of the country, you had a lot of people who weren’t Jewish and Jewish people tried to avoid having any time spent around non-Jewish people, around Gentiles. And so it’s kind of an uncomfortable place because you had a lot of those Gentiles there.
And by the way, John specifically highlights that because he says it’s the Sea of Galilee, but then he says, “That is the Sea of Tiberius,” which is the Roman name. It’s the Gentile name for this area. What he’s doing is he’s highlighting the Gentile nature of this area. Now, that’s an uncomfortable place for Jewish people to be. It’s also uncomfortable because it’s a wilderness. It’s a very arid part of the country. It’s not very well hydrated. It’s got a lot of desert areas. It’s a wilderness. And so both geographically and demographically, it’s an uncomfortable place to be. But that’s where Jesus goes.
And a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs that he had performed by healing the sick. A big crowd of Jesus is not followers of Jesus. It’s not just that Jesus went to this uncomfortable place: a whole lot of other people. Now, these would be Jewish people. A whole lot of Jewish people follow Jesus to this uncomfortable place. Why? Because of the signs that he had performed and also because they wanted to see another one, right, which is interesting because they’re about to see another sign. They’re about to see an incredible miracle. In fact, they’re about to see something that’s such an incredible miracle that honestly, even if you’re brand new to church and you don’t know much about the Bible, and by the way, we’re so glad that you’re with us if that’s you. But you don’t have to spend a lot of time in church to have heard about this miracle. Chances are you’ve heard something about it. It’s one of his most famous miracles and this group of people that have followed him in this uncomfortable place, they’re about to see it, which is interesting to me because… Let me just ask a question.
How many of us would like to see Jesus do something amazing in our lives? Anybody like, “Yeah, I’m good.” Now, we wanna see Jesus do an amazing thing, right? Yeah. That’s the easy question. Here’s the hard question. How willing am I to follow Jesus into an uncomfortable place to see him do something amazing? Because here’s the truth, the reality is that the most amazing things God does, he often does in places that are pretty uncomfortable for us. And our unwillingness to get uncomfortable also means that we’re unable to see some of these incredible things that we long to see. I certainly experienced that in my own life.
One of the most amazing things that I’ve ever seen God do, it was the summer between my junior and senior year of college, and I joined an evangelistic rock band in Eastern Europe. Those were different days for me. I had hair in those days. I wore bandanas to hold the hair back to keep… Yeah. That’s enough, Sally. You can get rid of that. No one needs to see that. Okay, thank you. Yeah, it was different days, very, very different days. Sally. Sally’s running pro presenter for now. We’ll talk about that afterwards.
One of the days we would set up in these outdoor areas and we’d play music and people would come and we’d share the Gospel with them. And one day we were doing a concert and a bunch of Satanists showed up. I knew they were Satanist because they were dressed exactly like you would expect a Satanist to dress and they had upside-down crosses painted on their faces and they were incredibly disruptive. They were shouting, they were screaming, they were throwing stuff. And so I was singing and dodging at the same time. And at a certain point, I still don’t know what possessed me other than I think the Holy Spirit. I put the mic in the stand and I walked off the stage. I walked right up to the group, to the leader of the group and I said to him, “Hey, what are you so angry about?”
And to be honest, I don’t know what happened after that. I literally don’t remember the substance of the conversation. I assume he must’ve spoken some English or maybe honestly, maybe God supernaturally enabled communication to happen. I literally don’t remember. I don’t remember the conversation. What I do remember and I will never forget as at the end of that conversation, this guy said yes to Jesus. This guy prayed to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. He started a relationship with Jesus Christ and I will never forget this to my dying day. As he prayed, he began to weep and his tears ran down his face and they began to wash away these upside-down crosses that he had painted on there, the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. But I had to get really uncomfortable to see it.
I gave up my summer to go on a short-term trip. Instead of working and making money, I actually had to write letters to people, asking them to give me money to go on the trip. I had to raise support, really uncomfortable. I’m an introvert by nature and I didn’t know a single person that I spent that summer with before the summer. That’s a little uncomfortable for me. They were a lot more charismatic than I was used to. I was uncomfortable. The Iron Curtain had just come down and the conditions in Eastern Europe were uncomfortable. The food was uncomfortable. I didn’t know the language. I didn’t know the custom. It was just uncomfortable.
But the truth of the matter is if you really wanna see God do something amazing, you have to come to grips with the fact that there’s a pretty good chance he’s gonna ask you to follow him somewhere uncomfortable first. So I ask the question again. How willing are you to follow Jesus to an uncomfortable place to see him do an amazing thing? That’s what’s happening here. They followed him to an uncomfortable place. Because of that, they’re gonna get to see an amazing thing. Verse three says, “Now, Jesus went up on a mountainside and he sat down with his disciples and the Jewish Passover Festival was near.” It’s really important. And if you don’t know what the Passover is, let me catch you up because it’s so important to the story.
The Passover was a festival they did every year. They celebrated a time in their history when God had set them free. At a certain point in their history, the Jewish people had been enslaved by the Egyptians. They were enslaved in the Gentile country of Egypt. But at a certain point, God did a whole bunch of miracles and he set them free. And then he led them out of the Gentile world through the wilderness and into the Promised Land, into the Nation of Israel into their safe place, okay? So he led them out of the Gentile world, through the wilderness, and into their safe place.
And now at a Passover Festival where they’re celebrating that, Jesus does the exact opposite. He leads people out of the heart of Jewish territory, into a wilderness and into the very edge, at the very edge of the Gentile world. So he reverses the events of the original Passover. And that’s not a coincidence. It’s a very deliberate action. It’s a very on-purpose thing. Because what he’s doing, I think is he’s giving us living proof of a principle that we understand throughout Scripture and it’s this, is that God doesn’t give us safe places so that we can hang out in them and be protected. God gives us safe places to recharge. Really, God leads us to safe places to find strength to go back out on a mission. Do you hear me? That’s the reason for safe places.
God leads us to safe places so that we can be strengthened so that we can go back out on a mission. And by the way, that’s what the Church is. You understand that? That’s what the Church is. Church is a safe place to find fuel for the mission. Safe places are intended to strengthen us for the mission. God doesn’t give us the Church so that we can come and feel good and we’re with other people and we’re safe and protected from the world and just hang out waiting for Jesus to come back and get us. No, no, no.
The Church is a place that we come to or it’s a people that we come together with, really… Because here’s the thing, the church isn’t a building. Do you understand that? The Church isn’t a building we come to. It’s a mission we choose to be part of. The Church is the people of God gathering together to live out the mission of God. That’s what the Church is because you can’t follow Jesus without following on a mission and that’s what the Church is, it’s coming together so we can go back out, strengthened for the mission. And that’s what Jesus is demonstrating geographically here.
Now, when he looked up…when Jesus looked up and he saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Hey, where should we buy bread for these people to eat?” Now, he asked this only to test him for he already had in mind what he was gonna do, which is a nightmare situation for Philip, right? I mean, I think anytime Jesus asks you a question in public, you’re always gonna assume this was probably a test. Is this a parable? But here John tells us, yeah, he already knew what he was gonna do. He was just asking this to test him. I feel bad for Philip, right?
Now, what you need to understand is that John is telling us that what Jesus is doing is he’s not looking for information, right? It’s not like Jesus is just looking at his crowd and going, “I don’t know what to do, Philip. You got any ideas?” No, no. Jesus already knows what he’s gonna do before he asked Philip. Actually, Jesus knows what he’s gonna do before he saw the crowd coming. Actually Jesus knew what he was gonna do before he ended up in the place where the crowd followed him. Actually, Jesus knew what he was gonna do before he left Jerusalem. This has been the plan all along. He’s been setting the stage for something amazing, right? And so he says, “Philip. Hey. What are we gonna do?” And Philip answered him, “Well, it would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite.” I love Philip.
I guarantee you, Philip is a five on the Enneagram. He is a focused, practical, solution-oriented problem solver. He does the math, right? How awesome is that? You know, “Were gonna buy food. You’re gonna buy… Carry the two. Jesus, the math doesn’t work out. It’s not gonna work. We just didn’t…” I love that. I love that he went with the math. I can imagine Jesus going, “Good job with the math, Philip. You’re right. The math does not work out. So are we just up a creek? What are we gonna do? Peter, you got something?” “Yeah, I was thinking we could, well, maybe… Yeah, I got nothing. I got nothing.” “Matthew, you got anything?” “Nope.” “Thomas?” “I mean, I have an idea but I kind of doubt that it would work.” Sorry, I’m sorry. That’s a bad pastor joke there.
Well, another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother spoke up. He said, “Here’s a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will that go among so many?” I like Andrew too. Anybody know anybody that they just say whatever is on their mind without the slightest bit of evaluation before it’s out there? Anybody know anybody like that? I mean, I know people like that. How many of us are that person? Right? That’s Andrew, right? He’s just going for it. He’s like, “Hey, I saw a kid. He’s got five barley loaves and he’s got two fishes. And so we… Yeah, now that I’m saying it, that’s not gonna really help all that much. Could we start over?”
But it is interesting, the boy has excess. He’s got more than he needs. He doesn’t have a lot more than he needs. It’s not like he’s got a truck load of bread. But he does have more than you would expect him to have. And I don’t know why that is. I don’t know if he had excess cause he was thinking maybe he’d sell some, entirely possible. Maybe he had some excess because he’s got an over-protective Jewish grandma who was like, “You’re so skinny. Here, take another one.” I don’t know. But the point is he’s got some excess.
But what’s important is not how he got the excess. The interesting thing is what he does with. And what does he do with it? Well, he puts it in Jesus’ hands. At least I assume that’s what happened. Like, I don’t think what’s happening is that Andrew was like, “Jesus, come here. Yeah, I saw there’s a boy over there. He’s got some extra bread and we can take him.” I don’t think that’s what’s happening, right? The boy has offered it up. And I think this is so, so interesting because here’s the reality. I think every one of us has an area of excess in our lives. I really believe that every one of us has an area in our lives where we have more than we need. We have an excess. And it doesn’t matter how you got it. Here’s the thing. How we get an excess isn’t as important as what we do with it. Do you hear me? How we got the excess isn’t as important as what we do with it.
Maybe you have an excess of money. Maybe you have an excess of time. Maybe you have an excess of experience. Maybe you have an excess of knowledge. Maybe you have an excess of charisma and maybe you’re just great with people. Maybe you have an excess of space in your home or an excess of other kinds of resources. It doesn’t matter what it is and it doesn’t matter how you got it. Maybe you inherited it. Maybe you worked hard for it. Maybe you learned it over time. Maybe you won the lottery, you had some kind of a windfall. It doesn’t matter how you got it. How we got an excess isn’t as important as what we do with it. And this boy does the right thing. He puts the excess in Jesus’ hands for Jesus to do with it what he will. And Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.”
Now, there was plenty of grass in that place. It’s so interesting. I didn’t realize this until last night as I was praying. Right before I got on stage I was praying about this and I really felt like God spoke to me and said, “Hey, did you notice that little plenty of grass passage?” And I was like, “Oh, interesting.” Because it’s a wilderness, there’s not a lot of grass. But the place where Jesus led them to, there was plenty of grass. Even in the wilderness, Jesus led his people to a place of provision. So sometimes we find ourselves in what we think is a wilderness, but it doesn’t mean that we lack the provision that we need. In fact, it made me think of Psalm 23, “Because The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing and he makes me to lie down in green pastures. He provides even when we’re in the midst of the wilderness.”
“And they sat down and about 5,000 men were there. And Jesus took the loaves and he gave thanks and he distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted and did the same with the fish,” which drives me crazy because this is a major miracle and it’s another one of those super low-key announcements. It’s almost exactly the same thing as what happened if you were with us few weeks ago in John 2 and we see the water turned into wine at the wedding at Cana. And there again, it was just this really low-key announcement and they took the water and he tasted the water that had been turned into wine. That’s the only announcement of the miracle. There’s no ta-da, there’s no more biblical behold. It just happened and he kind of does the same thing. You know, Jesus gives thanks and then he passes it out to 5,000 people, maybe more than that. We don’t know if it was 5,000 men, meaning 5,000 people, or if it was 5,000 males, meaning that there may have been 10,000 to 12,000 to 15,000 people. We don’t know. It’s a huge number of people and it’s a super low-key announcement. He just gave thanks and he passed it out.
Why would he do that? Well, because again, this is a sign not just of what kind of power Jesus has. It’s a sign of what kind of person he is. He’s the Son of God. And in the person of Jesus, we see living proof of who God is and what’s important to him. And what’s interesting is that the emphasis isn’t on the doing of the miracle. The emphasis actually is on what happens after the miracle. But we often don’t pay much attention to that. Verse 12 says this, “Now, when they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather up the pieces that are left over and let nothing be wasted.” And so they gathered them and they filled 12 baskets with the pieces of the 5 barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.”
It’s interesting. John actually spends more time talking about the leftovers than he does about how the miracle itself happens, which I think is interesting. I think it’s important that we push in a little bit and go, “Why? What’s so significant about these leftovers?” Now, I grew up in church, which means that I heard the story of the feeding of the 5,000 about 5,000 times. And every time when they talked about the leftovers, it was really, “This is how powerful Jesus is. Not only was he able to feed all of these people, but he was even powerful enough to produce a little bit more than that.”
Okay. But I think we skim over this pretty quickly. And I get it. The reason we skim over it pretty quickly is because leftover is not a real positive word. Nobody likes leftovers. I mean, except maybe Thanksgiving, right? I like Thanksgiving leftovers. But the rest of the time, I’m just gonna be really honest with you. When I come home and I ask the question, you know, “What’s for dinner?” and the answer is leftovers, I gotta work really hard to control my face. And it’s not that I’m trying to keep joy from bursting out of my face. I’m not a big fan of leftovers.
You know what? And if that’s not how you feel, let me take it out of the context of food to show you what I mean. We’ve all probably had the experience of being the leftover in some other situation. Like maybe you’re in middle school, you know, and teams are being chosen. And there’s always those sort of choice people. Like, we’re gonna play basketball, so we’re gonna get that one kid who’s like in seventh grade and he’s already 6’9″, right? “I choose you,” right? And you get a few of those great people. And then, you know, whoever is choosing is looking at the rest of us and they’re going, “All right, Craig,” right? It doesn’t feel good to be the leftovers. It’s not a positive word.
But the Greek word that’s being used here is actually extremely positive. It’s not a negative word at all. In fact, the Greek word, it literally means something like above and beyond. It means in excess. It means running over. It’s not the leftovers. It’s the running-overs. I mean, literally what Jesus says is this. He says, “Hey, gathered the pieces that are in excess, let nothing be wasted. So they gathered them and they filled 12 baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves in excess by those who had eaten.” It’s a really positive word. By the way, interestingly enough, Psalms 23, “You will anoint my head with oil and my cup overflows.” It’s in excess, right? It’s above and beyond. It’s better than could be expected. It’s a very positive word.
And this is so cool. Check this out, John 10:10, maybe a familiar phrase to some of you. Maybe this is what you came here to hear today if you’re not familiar with this. Jesus is speaking here about the kind of mission that he’s on. What he came to do and this is what he says. He says, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” Other translations normally say, “Have it in abundance,” but it’s the exact same Greek root as is being used in John 6 to talk about the pieces that were in excess. Jesus didn’t say, “I’ve come to have life and have it so that you have some leftovers.” He said, “No, I came to have life that you may have it in excess. I came that you may have life and have it running over. I came that you may have life that exceeds expectations that goes above and beyond.”
What Jesus is doing here in this miracle is he’s demonstrating. He’s giving living proof of his desire to give you the life that is in excess, to give you a life that is in excess when it comes to joy, that has an excess of peace, that has an excess of purpose, that has an excess of meaning, that has an excess of hope, and maybe, just maybe, even a life that has an excess of resources. It’s what Jesus is doing here. He’s demonstrating. He’s giving living proof of what he wants to do in your life. But, and this is a really important but, the question of whether or not we will experience that kind of life largely depends on how we answer a very important question. And this was the question: what would I do with the excess? Let’s say he gives it to you. Let’s say you experience the abundant life Jesus is talking about, and you have above and beyond, in all of those possible categories, what would you do with it? What would you do with the excess?
So it’s interesting that the boy had an excess and he put it in Jesus’ hands to help and Jesus multiplied that. It’s also interesting that Jesus put a lot of emphasis on collecting all the excess, right? Which is so interesting to me and it actually drives me a little bit crazy that he doesn’t tell us what he’s gonna do with it and John doesn’t tell us what he did with it, right? That drives me crazy. I mean, I can make some guesses at what he didn’t do. I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t gather all the excess and then set it on fire, right? Pretty sure he didn’t gather the excess and then pile it in the boats and head across and in the middle of the lake, just dump it out. I don’t think that happened. But he didn’t tell us what he did with it. And here’s my best… I don’t even think this is my best. It’s my favorite guess. Here’s my favorite guess. It’s just a guess.
But what if he collected it all and he left it in the baskets and then when Jesus left and all of his Jewish followers left, the food stayed there. And then all those people, all those Gentiles, especially, who didn’t know much about the grace of God, they didn’t know much about the love of God, they didn’t know about a God who loves them in excess. What if they went, “What was going on up there?” and they went to investigate, and they found food? That’d be pretty cool, wouldn’t it? I’m guessing. We don’t know. Here’s what we know. We know that they weren’t allowed to keep it for themselves, right? Jesus. No, gather up the excess. It’s all we know. We know for a fact they weren’t allowed to keep it for themselves and here’s where things get really interesting. Let me take a little trip down the rabbit hole, but I think it’s so important.
Remember, this is the Passover and the Passover, they celebrated when God took his people, let them out of the world through the wilderness and into their safe place. Now, Jesus comes and leads his people out of the safe place and through the wilderness to the edge of the world. Now, in that first Passover, when the Israelites got into the wilderness area, they looked around and they said, “There is no food here,” and God said, “I’ll provide,” and bread fell out of the sky. Something called manna, a bread-like substance fell out of sky. So in the wilderness, God miraculously provided bread. A coincidence that now in the wilderness, Jesus miraculously provides bread? No, no. It’s on purpose. What made it more interesting, as they were in the wilderness, and this bread, every morning, they would come out and this thing called manna would be on the ground like the dew of the grass and they were allowed to collect. And God said, “Collect as much as you need.” Jesus fed them as much as they wanted.
But the interesting thing is God also gave them an instruction and said, “Don’t take more than you need. Don’t collect more than you need.” In fact, he said, “Collect only what you need.” There was only one exception to that. And that was on the night of the Sabbath as they went into that day where they weren’t supposed to work, they were allowed to collect enough for two days. But other than that, they were told, “Don’t take any excess.” Some people tried it and anybody who took more than they needed, overnight, it rotted, and it stunk up their tents. And so once again, in the wilderness, as God miraculously provides more than is needed, they’re told, “Yeah, but the more that’s needed isn’t for you. You’re not allowed to keep it.”
Listen, Jesus provides us with extra not so that we can enjoy it. Jesus provides with extra so that we can bless others with the excess. That’s the point. That’s the point of the abundant life. You understand it? If Jesus provides us with extra so that we can bless others with the excess, then the abundant life Jesus is talking about and he says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly, have it in excess.” The abundant life is provision for the mission. You’re with me, Church? That’s the purpose. It’s not so we can go, “Look how much I have. Look how great God is.” It’s so we can go, “Look how great God is. He gave me excess so that I can be a mission with him.” That’s the abundant life. It’s provision for the mission which means, this is so important. It means that there are two keys to experiencing the abundant life.
The first one is a relationship with Jesus. The one who gives the abundant life gives it to those who are in a relationship with him. It’s not about a religion. It’s not about checking off boxes of do’s and don’ts and trying to be good enough to earn anything or that kind of a thing. No, no, no. It’s about a relationship. He is the author of life, and so of course, he’s the only source of the life that we are made to have. And if you’re here today and you don’t have a relationship with Jesus, that’s why you’re listening to this message. That’s what God has orchestrated so that you hear.
You need to understand that God loves you in excess, not just a little bit, not just enough. He loves you an excess. See, we’ve all committed sin. We’ve all done wrong. That separates us from God and there is a penalty for sin. It leads to death. It’s just an inevitable consequence, but God’s love is never exhausted by our sin. It doesn’t matter how much wrong we have done. It doesn’t matter how much sin we have committed. It doesn’t matter how many people we’ve hurt or how badly we’ve messed up. You cannot exhaust God’s love for you. He loves you enough to cover that and then above and beyond. He loves you in excess. And the proof is that he sent Jesus to you.
Jesus came. He lived a perfect life, so he didn’t have any sin to pay for. Jesus went to the cross to die to pay for your sin and his death is sufficient to pay it all off. Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead. That’s a fact of history. We’re not talking faith. We’re talking facts. You can investigate it. You’re gonna find the truth of what I’m saying. The tomb is empty. The grave is empty. Jesus has risen. Here’s where the faith comes in. He offers us a relationship. He says, “If you’ll have a relationship with me, I’ll apply all of my blood, shed on the cross, to forgive your sin.” There’s plenty of it and you will be clean and you’ll begin a relationship with me. And it’s only in that relationship that you can experience the abundant life. That’s the key number one.
And if you’re here today and you don’t have that relationship, I’m gonna give you the chance before the day is done to start that relationship because that’s why you’re here. But a lot of us have the relationship and yet we’ll go, “But I don’t know that I’m experiencing the abundant life. I’m not sure that I’m experiencing this in-excess life.” Here’s the second key. It’s not the most important key. That relationship is the most important. But it’s an important key.
Listen, one of the keys to the abundant life is a habit of living on mission. It’s a habit of doing, with the excess, what the excess was intended for. It’s a provision for the mission. That’s one of the keys to experiencing this excess life. It’s becoming the kind of person who will do, with the excess, what God intended the excess to do: be on mission with him, extend his influence in the world, draw people to an understanding of who he is and what it looks like to have a relationship with him.
One of the keys to the abundant life is a habit of living on mission with that excess. And so let me ask you a difficult question, but it’s such an important question. Where’s one, in my life, one area of my life, where in my life has God provided more than I need? Where in your life has God provided more than you need? I believe, with all my heart, that in every one of our lives, there is some area where we have an excess. We have more than we need. We often don’t see it because we have a tendency to focus on where we feel like there’s a deficiency, right? We go, “Well, you know, money’s tight,” or “These relationships are draining,” or “My career is not going well,” or “My house is too small,” or “My car is not working.”
We focus on areas of deficiency, and because of that, we ignore areas of sufficiency and we certainly ignore areas that are in excess. And we have to get our eyes off of the areas of deficiency and on to the areas of sufficiency. We need to find those areas where God has actually provided more than enough. It doesn’t matter how we got it. It doesn’t matter if we inherited it or we were built that way or we’ve worked hard for it. God has allowed us to have an excess and he’s allowed us to have an excess for a reason and that is to be fuel for the mission. But we have to start with that place. Where in my life do I have an excess?
Second question is this. What am I doing with that excess? When we identify the excess, we’ve also got to ask the hard question, “What am I doing with it?” And chances are, for some of us, like you’ve never realized that you have that area of excess. Some of you know you have it and you just haven’t used it for what it’s intended for and we’re gonna have to deal with that. We have to constantly go through this.
You know, I have an amazing house and we have some extra rooms in our house. That’s an area where God’s provided an excess. But my wife and I and my whole family, we understand that we don’t have those extra rooms so that we can just go, “Hey, we have extra rooms.” No, we have extra rooms so that we can encounter a missionary or somebody who’s in need and go, “Hey, we have an extra room. Come stay with us for a while.” And we host missionaries on a regular basis. We have some coming soon and they’ll be with us for about a month. A lot of times when staff moved to Colorado and it takes them a while to get their housing, they come and they live with us. Justin Adams, our worship leader, his family lived with us for several months because that’s why we have the excess.
I also realized as a family that for the first time in our lives, we have an excess of money. And because of that, you know, churches talk about tithe, 10%. I realized that tithe is a meaningless concept to me now. It’s only meaningful to me now because I give 10% to my local church, but we give way above and beyond that because we have excess and we know the excess is not just for our enjoyment, it’s to be on mission. It’s to bless others. So you’ve gotta ask the question, “Where do I have excess and what am I doing with the excess?”
And so let’s just drill down and get real practical. Here’s the question for you. What’s one step that I will take this week to be more on mission with God’s provision? Did you identify that area of excess? That’s just one step that you’ll take this week to be more on mission with that provision and let me go ahead and warn you right now. Good news, bad news. Good news, if you’ll take that one step, you’re going to put yourself in a place where you’re gonna have the opportunity to see God do an amazing thing and that’s awesome. That’s great news.
There’s bad news. And the bad news is that one step you’re gonna take, it’s gonna put you in a place where you’re gonna be able to see God do an amazing thing. There’s a really, really, really good chance that that one step is gonna be into an uncomfortable place. But our willingness to step into uncomfortable places gives us the opportunity to see Jesus do an amazing thing. Let’s pray.
God, as a follower of Jesus and as the pastor of this congregation, I stand before you representing my friends, my brothers and sisters and we confess to you that we have not always lived with a mindset that allows us to focus on, to pay attention to those areas of excess in our lives. We often live with a mind that’s focused on our deficiencies as we perceive them. And so we’re often blind to areas of excess in our lives, whether they’re financial or material or personal or relationship or other kinds of things. And so we ask for your forgiveness for that. We ask that you’d get our eyes up off of our areas of deficiency and give us insight through your Holy Spirit about those areas in our lives where we have an excess. And then, Lord, we ask humbly that you would…you’d stir our hearts and our minds and give us wisdom and insight about how to use that excess for the purpose for which it was given, to be on mission with Jesus, to pointing people to you, to the God who has loved us in excess and who loves them in excess.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you just pray for those listening to this message here at Littleton or around the world, online, that don’t know Jesus? Pray for them to have an awakening right now. Because if that’s you, if you don’t have a relationship with Jesus, I said a moment ago that that’s the reason you’re listening to this message because he wants to have that relationship with you. Here’s how you do it. It’s a conversation. Of course, it’s a conversation because what he wants is a relationship and almost every relationship begins with a conversation. So, you’re gonna have a conversation with Jesus. If you’re ready to begin that relationship this is the conversation, you’re gonna have. Wherever you are, you’re just gonna have this conversation with God. Just in the quietness of your heart, you’re gonna say this to him. Say:
God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve committed sin and I know I’m not worthy of your love. I don’t deserve your love. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for loving me in excess. Thank you for being willing to die on the cross in my place. I believe you rose from the dead and understand that you’re offering forgiveness, not just enough for what I’ve done so far, but every wrong I’ve ever done and every wrong I ever will do. You’re offering your forgiveness in excess. From beyond that, you’re offering a relationship and I’m ready to say yes to that relationship. Jesus, come into my life. I’m putting my trust in you. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.