This morning (12 Jan 2023) I had the privilege of sharing a devotion with the staff team of Focus on the Family Singapore. Since it is early in the year, I took the opportunity to go through my life check list—four dimensions of life found in the book of Genesis that lay out what is needed for an abundant life.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day . . . (Gen. 3:8a)
We were created to have a personal relationship with God. Genesis 3:8 paints a picture of a Creator God who walked with Adam and Eve regularly at the best part of the day. We have a fuller picture now of this walking together, not just as Creator and creation but as parent and child, indeed as friends. For our lives to thrive, the first thing we must have in place is an intimate communion with our Abba. And like any relationship, it needs attention and time to be nurtured. As an activist I find this a challenge. I am more ready to serve the Lord than to enjoy communion with Him. Yet intimacy with God is the first requirement of an abundant life.
Q: In the year ahead, how do you plan to walk intimately with God?
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Gen. 2:18a)
The second component of a thriving life is having healthy relationships with others. Genesis 2:18 is God’s declaration of the need for human beings to live in community. Note that in Genesis 2 sin had yet to enter the picture. Adam had unrestricted access to God. But that wasn’t enough. He needed to have close relationships with other human beings too. Yet many live as though community is non-essential. One experienced church staff said, “I am friendly but I have no close friends”. If we really believe that we need friends as much as we need food and water, that it is essential to life, we must intentionally cultivate our relationships with friends and family.
Q: In the year ahead, how will you nurture your relationships with friends and family?
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Gen. 1:28)
Humankind’s primary role is to oversee creation on behalf of the Creator. For that to happen God needs different people doing different things. To be human is to be God’s agent in the world. We all need meaningful work to be truly alive. We understand that in a fallen world there is no perfect work just as there are no perfect relationships. But, where possible, we should apply ourselves to work that makes sense of our strengths and burdens, and that value adds to life. We also need to be clear that work should not be equated with a paid job. There may be certain jobs and certain stages of life where we no longer do paid work, but we still work as God’s representatives in the world.
Q: In the year ahead how can you represent God in the things you have been called to do?
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Gen. 2:2–3)
Although the word Sabbath is not mentioned in Genesis 1 and 2, the Sabbath principle is laid out here. The divine pattern is a cadence of work and rest, a pattern of six plus one. As His creation we too are to live by this six-plus-one pattern, where we work for six days and stop for one. Humankind was created on the sixth day and given the important job of caring for creation on God’s behalf, but the next day they couldn’t work. It was a day to enjoy God's blessings. This first instance of the Sabbath is a powerful statement that God wants to bless us, not as a reward for work done, but as a free act of His love. An abundant life must include a commitment to live by the divine rhythm of work and rest.
Q: In the year ahead, how will you ensure that you both work hard and get the rest you need?
When I had finished the presentation, I asked the group to turn to someone and share which of the four areas they felt would need extra work this year. One from the group said the four areas are actually interconnected. She was right, of course. But it got me thinking that perhaps observing a work-Sabbath rhythm may perhaps be the most important because it carves out time to nurture our relationship with God and people, a time both to rest from work and to remember its significance in the purposes of God, and to catch our breath in a busy world.
Finally, an abundant life is a gift from God. But He has also given us wisdom to live so that we can better actualise that abundance in our lives.