Life

“Those who live in love live in God and God lives in them.” ~1 John 4:16

Life is a funny thing. As Max Lucado says in his new book, “By the time you knew what to call [life], you were neck deep in it.”
And trying to define life is not an easy task.

Biologically speaking there are seven components to life. All living creatures eat, move, breathe, excrete waste, grow, react, and reproduce. They all require food, water, air, and shelter to survive. They start smaller and grow larger. They respond to changes in their environment. They all have means to produce offspring and pass on their DNA. And perhaps, most uniquely, all living creatures have an innate desire to keep living.

But life isn’t strictly biological. In reality, it’s much more complex than that. I mean every day we wake up somewhere between five and six in the morning. We punch in from 9-5 trying to be as productive as possible during those eight hours. Then we rush home and, usually, keep working. For students, they work on homework. For adults, they work on items and projects they will need the next day. Usually there is a lot of rushing around to practices, meetings, clubs, etc. There are bills to pay, groceries to buy, problems to solve.
We want our life to be a success. We want our life to be productive. We want the world to approve of what we are doing with our life. But the pressure of living often sucks the meaning right out of life.

A good friend of mine has repeatedly quoted Pope Benedict XVI saying “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness”

Isn’t that the message God gives us?

He said it directly to Abram: “Leave your old life behind—your country, your people, and your family—and go to the land that I will show you.”

He said it through Christ to the disciples: “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you."

He said it through Paul to the Romans: “Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.”

Interestingly, all three of these verses deal with the idea of life. In each verse, God challenges us to leave behind a life of comfort and follow him to a life of greatness.

This idea of God providing life to people comes up over 500 times in the bible. Whether it’s giving physical life to Adam and Eve or granting eternal life through Christ on the cross, God is all about giving life.

But as we’ve established, the “life” God gives, both physically and eternally, is a bit of an odd concept. I mean there are days that we feel like we have it all together and other days it feels like everything is spiraling downhill. There are days we feel in control and others we feel dazed and confused. And that is not the life God promises.

I think the best explanation of life comes from the book of John. In the fifteenth chapter of John, Jesus and his disciples are in a vineyard. Jesus gives an analogy saying, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). This verse makes a lot of sense. If you look at a vine, each branch can grow, thrive, and produce fruit as long as it remains connected to the vine. That is because the life within the branch comes from the vine. If the branch leaves the vine, it can’t receive life.

After reading this, it seems so obvious to me. We are branches. So often, we leave God to pursue careers, relationships, hobbies, etc. but none of these things can really give life. Only God can. And God’s life is much greater than good grades, high praise, or a new promotion.

And attaining this life is so easy. I think the answer comes when Jesus says “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” Not around you, not supporting you, but a constant conscious presence, living in you. That’s what God’s life is. It goes beyond even going to church or saying grace; if we pursue a relationship with God, he will enter in and give us true life.

So we have a choice: the comfort of a life that pleases the world, or the greatness of a life joined to God. Both can make you happy, but only one can give you love, faith, contentment, hope, truth, strength, patience, peace, and meaning.

Prayer: Dear God. We long for your presence. Enter into us so we can focus more on you and less on this world. Fill us with your life, and help us to pursue you like you pursue us. In your name we pray. Amen.

Zach Herzog

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