Abundant life. We talk about it. Sing about it. Pray for it. Books and conferences promise it. But what is it really? There are so many different ideas about how to live the abundant life, some true, some false. So here’s a look at six myths Christians often believe about it. When we sort out what Jesus actually promised, we’ll be free to live more abundantly in him.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10b).

Myth 1. I need to know special Bible secrets.

The first myth goes something like this: You’ve gotta read this book! It makes everything so clear. I never realized I was missing so much in the Bible! Sounds good, but here’s the catch: the author is claiming to have unlocked mysteries hidden away for centuries. Now you’re being invited to become one of the enlightened few.

But this begs the question: is God really so poor at communicating to his Church that only a few people in the course of history have gotten it right?

The Apostle John offered a solution for Christians who were being caught up in this lie: As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you (1 John 2:24a).

Life becomes abundant when we stay centered on the Gospel. God isn’t cryptic about the truths that matter most. The truth that saved us in the first place is the lifeblood of daily Christian living. We know for certain that God does not want his Gospel kept secret.

Myth 2. I can do it alone.

The rampant individualism of our culture has wedged its way into Christianity. Church attendance is viewed as optional. For many the faith has become just about “me and God.” There’s this subtle pull to set aside fellowship with other believers because it can be disappointing or messy.

In one sense, it is easier to go at it alone; that way we don’t have to deal with trying to love the people we don’t actually like.

But it’s impossible to become like Jesus without Christian community. To grow as a Christian is to learn to truly love God and others with God’s love, so it can’t just be a personal thing.

How can we experience the joy of using our spiritual gifts to bless others if we don’t actively participate in Christian community? After all, spiritual gifts aren’t ornaments to admire on the couch. They are given by the Spirit, for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7).

So let’s not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another (Hebrews 10:25). Let’s embrace the joy of meeting as a church with hearts that are ready to serve.

Myth 3. Life will be easy when I get it.

Don’t we all kind of wish there was some special button we could push that would release God’s power and make his love flow through us unobstructed? Wouldn’t it be great to have a surefire way to make temptations much less frequent, or make our kids obedient, or make our hearts better at obeying God?

By promising abundant life, Jesus didn’t imply it would be easy. That’s why he reminded his followers: I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:23).

Following Jesus in the Spirit’s strength does help us avoid stupid choices that would make our lives harder, but the abundance Jesus offers does not depend on circumstances. The Christian life becomes full when we experience the peace and security that comes from resting in him and trusting him to live through us.

Myth 4. I can experience it without sharing my faith.

Would you go to a banquet, dig into the appetizers and the main course, and then forego the decadent dessert? That’s what many Christians do when it comes to sharing their faith. They enjoy learning, worshiping, and growing spiritually together, but the best part of the Christian life — introducing others to Jesus — is neglected, often entirely.

There’s this underlying belief that evangelism is just for the trained elite or those few extroverts in the congregation with a winsome personality.

But before Jesus ascended to heaven, he told us what every disciple’s main priority should be participating in the mission:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).

When we discover our role in reaching others, our lives become more abundant than ever. We’re not all called to have a career as evangelists, but God does have a unique way for each of us to shine and make his Son known.

Myth 5. I just need to do more for God.

If you’ve ever tried to find joy by getting really busy for God, it probably didn’t last very long. Undoubtedly, you soon grew weary of trying to do so much good.

We are a mixed bag of motives, even when we’re “serving Jesus.” Frenetic business for God is often driven by guilt, a longing for significance, or the need to be needed. When Jesus spoke of life to the fullest, he didn’t mean we had to fill our plate beyond capacity, and it certainly didn’t mean he would indiscriminately approve the to-do list we hand him.

Acts 17:25 is a much-needed reminder: He is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.

The abundant life isn’t about finding lots to do for Jesus. It’s about being with Jesus and doing what he has planned for us, relying on the strength of the Spirit to do so. Nothing brings more joy than that.

Myth 6. I can let go and let God make it happen.

The other extreme is being passive. Some Christians expect God to somehow hand them an abundant Christian life with minimal risk-taking, soul-searching, or work on their part.

We’re not entitled to abundance. Life to the full comes through obedience accomplished in the Spirit’s strength. The greatest parts of the Christian life come through gaining victory in spiritual battles: fending off temptation, learning to put others first, letting go of our plans, remaining available to God no matter the cost.

Grace does not exclude work; it empowers it. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (Titus 2:12).

So let’s run to God, hold on to him, and commit to doing whatever he asks in his power.

Let’s take up St. Augustine’s motto, All abundance, which is not my God, is emptiness to me” (The Confessions).

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching […] Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ (Ephesians 4:14-15).

Our lives will become abundantly full of meaning, joy, love, and purpose as we learn to walk more and more constantly under the direction of the Spirit, trusting him for the power to obey.

updated September 2019

Photo Credit: Ruxandra Mateiu