For years, I thought “abundant life” was synonymous with the American Dream. For some reason, I believed that Jesus came to give me money in the bank, success in business, comfort and security. But that’s not what Jesus promised.

I’m going to take this a step further. I think that the American Dream is more in line with the thief’s description in John 10:10. Think about how many people have stolen funds, homes and land to create their dream. Imagine the ideas, integrity and consciences that have been killed to further gluttonous increase. How many lives and families have been destroyed in the unabashed pursuit of the American Dream?

When we view “abundant life” through American ideals, it looks very different from how Jesus lived. If Jesus came to give us abundant life, that means He had abundant life to give.

If we want to know what He means by that verse, we probably need to take a good look at His life.

Let’s dive into what Jesus says and see what characteristics of abundant life we can identify. This is by no means an exhaustive list. I encourage you to read through John 10:1-18 for yourself and ask God what He wants to say to you.

Abundant Life is Sacrificial

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)

Jesus is the model of sacrificial life. Of course, we know that His life culminated in His sacrificial death, but how often do we think about the small sacrifices He made every day? The Gospels show us that Jesus made daily sacrifices for those He loved. He would wake up early in the morning to pray. He would minister to people after He had been preaching or traveling all day. Jesus did life with 12 stubborn and eclectic men, patiently teaching them about the Kingdom of God.

Jesus’s life was marked by sacrifice, but mine rarely is. I don’t like to sacrifice my will, desires, opinions, and preferences, but that’s part of the abundant life that He came to give me. The abundant life is a sacrificial life.

How do you view sacrifice? Would you characterize your life as “sacrificial?”

Abundant Life is Resolute

“He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.” (John 10:12)

While on the earth, Jesus encountered significant opposition. The religious elite constantly schemed against Him and tried to get Him to succumb to their way of doing things. The Jewish people were looking for a political leader to usurp the oppressive Roman government. But Jesus didn’t give in to what they wanted — He lived out truth, righteousness, and justice when those around Him wanted Him to stoop down to their level.

Jesus never wavered from truth and righteousness. I sure don’t do that. When I get the smallest pushback, I tend to either shut down or lash out. I will begin to write something that I know is biblical, but then I will get scared of what the religious people might think, so I stop. I get intimidated by a potential adverse reaction instead of staying resolute in my pursuit of the truth.

How do you respond to truth? Are you resolute in God’s Word and call?

Abundant Life is Empathetic

“He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” (John 10:13)

When reading the Gospels, I’m amazed at Jesus’s reactions to the people around Him. He had an incredible mission to bring salvation to a lost, hurting, and broken world — that’s a huge deal! He had to call and then teach people all about the Kingdom so they would be equipped and ready to lead the church. But He didn’t get so caught up in the mission that He lost sight of the people.

Jesus met people in their need with compassion and empathy. Sadly, my first instinct is rarely empathy. I’m not great at meeting someone in their pain and sitting with them. I want to diagnose and fix the problem. Unfortunately, I often see people as a project instead of a person.

How do you view empathy? Would your friends or family characterize you as “empathetic”?

Abundant Life is Relational

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:14-15)

Jesus was deeply relational. He pursued people and knew them intimately. His goal wasn’t to amass a large following; Jesus sought to love people. He spent time having dinner with them, traveling with them, and just doing life with them. Jesus welcomed the most unlikely people to His table and into His inner circle. He loved each of them for who they were, not because of anything they could do for Him.

Everything Jesus did stemmed from relationships. In an age of social media and amassing followers, it’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing people for what they can do for you.  May we be people who love others deeply without requiring them to perform to belong.

How do you view relationships? What does “acceptance before performance” mean to you?

Abundant Life is Unifying

“And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16)

Jesus created opportunities for unity wherever He went. Look at the disciples: He called a tax collector, fishermen, a zealot, and more. Think about how contentious that group might have been! Brothers fighting against each other, the zealot and the tax collector arguing, and fishermen scoffing at their former competitors. Jesus brought these disparate people together, and He continues to unify His church today.

Unity was the language Jesus spoke with. But unity is hard. Walls are easier to build than bridges. It’s far more comfortable to surround myself with people who think, speak, live, believe and look like me. But sameness is not unity. And unity is not sameness. There can’t be true unity if there isn’t an opportunity for disunity.

How do you view unity? What does it practically look like to pursue unity?

These characteristics go against the American Dream but are in perfect alignment with the Kingdom of God. The Bible tells us that we are citizens of Heaven — when we live like Jesus, we are bringing God’s way of doing things to the earth. But we have to lay down our desire for the American Dream in order to pick up the abundant life Jesus has called us to.


I believe it’s worth it. I believe Jesus is worth it. What about you?

Let’s receive abundant life instead of settling for the American Dream!