As I write this Editorial, I am enjoying a vacation, absent from work and spending a lot of time relaxing with my family. Taking the time off from work without having the burden to handle the day-to-day tasks and spending time on the beach feels absolutely luxurious. And in many ways, it truly is. A frequent meditation on this trip involves my gratitude for the blessings that God has provided to make it possible to spend a little bit of time abounding in joy.
Knowing the grim future that lies in store for the world and knowing that the paramount motivations for Christians are spiritual, it can be hard (for me) to make the space to enjoy physical blessings. But to reject all joy that has roots in physical existence is to deny the fact that we are human. Certainly, God provides blessings in this life for us to enjoy, but how can we reconcile the need to live according to the Spirit?
It brings to mind the state of mind that Paul mentions in Philippians 4:11-12, “…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” Seeing that Paul knew how to abound, living at times a life of fullness and abundance, there must be a way to do so ourselves without compromising righteousness. In fact, we can see some of the keys directly in this statement, beginning with contentment.
By placing value in our spiritual relationship with God over and above whatever physical blessings there might be, it allows us to be content. Paul’s contentment originates from his trust in God believing that He will provide all that he needs, whether it makes him hungry or full. If our obedient actions are our focus rather than the targeted results according to worldly metrics, it doesn’t matter whether we are blessed with a lot or a little. With that state of mind, what matters in our lives is our relationship with God, making everything else incidental. Maintaining contentment in a broad spectrum of physical circumstances requires spiritual motivations that transcend the physical outcomes of our actions.
Even so, God promises blessings in physical ways, which are the natural results of obedience. “‘Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God…’” (Deuteronomy 28:1-2). The promises that follow the conditional proclamation on obedience in this chapter of the Bible describe abundance in mainly physical terms. To abound then, requires obedience first. But as we learn from Paul, when properly motivated, contentment is a result regardless of the physical benefit of obedience. Clearly, God provides blessings on obedience for the purpose of our enjoyment. To abound then involves enjoying the fruits of obedience as well!
If we want to know how to abound in the world we live, the prescription is simple. Our focus must be on our way of life, ensuring that we are living lives that are pleasing to God. To abound in life involves obedience first. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). By abounding in the work of supporting the Church’s commission for this end time of preaching the gospel in all the world as a witness and of overcoming sin in our lives, thereby expressing love towards God and our fellow man, we will also have the ability to abound in enjoying the physical blessings God provides for us in our lives now.