Live life to the full!! This might be one of the most popular concepts in Western Civilization. After all, who in their right mind would disagree with it? We all want to get the most out of life. We all yearn for something more than a mediocre existence.
Some use the phrase to justify adventurous, risky, or even rebellious behavior. Live life to the full – travel the world. Live life to the full – jump out of an airplane. Live life to the full – party in college. The list could go on. But where do we draw the line? What does the phrase really mean? What actually is life, anyways?
It seems to me that for many people, life is whatever they define it as. Life is what they make it. However, if the meaning of life is relative, then it really has no real meaning at all. Life becomes an unsubstantial ghost of a word that is filled in by the mind’s imagination. Here’s the problem: life cannot be filled if it cannot be embodied – if there is no concrete, objective definition or example. After all, you cannot fill up a glass of water without a real, tangible glass.
Thank goodness though, that life really does have meaning. Thank goodness that life really does have a body. Thank goodness that we really can live life to the full. In John 14:6, Jesus claimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the LIFE.” In saying this, Jesus asserts that he not only has life, but that he is life itself. Not only this, but in John 10:10, he offers to give it to us. He says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” With Jesus, we can have life and have it to the full …wonderful. But what does that look like? Well, by definition, this would look a whole lot like…Jesus.
See, when Jesus speaks of “life to the full,” he has in mind two aspects. The first is eternal life. Think about it – if eternal life is a real possibility, then anything short of that would be eternally short. Life to the full must be eternal. It is a never ending life of hope, joy, and love.
On the other hand, almost all biblical commentators also agree that Jesus is referring to earthly life. He wants to give us a full life right now. This is where things become more difficult. What exactly does he mean here? How can we have a full life on this side of eternity? In my humble opinion, I don’t think that Jesus is promising us adventure, happiness, or extraordinary circumstances. No, a life with those things would be far less than full. Just look at Jesus – the man who claimed to be life itself never traveled the world, he owned almost nothing, and was “a man of suffering.” Jesus did not live to see his thirty-fourth birthday. Almost all of his disciples, those whom he also promised a full life, were killed for their faith.
Listen, I’m not saying this to depress you. I’m just convinced that it’s true. However, it is also unbelievably comforting and full of hope. At its heart, this is what it means: you can have a full and abundant life in almost any circumstance. You could be stuck in one place for your entire life, be persecuted and poor – yet Jesus still promises you life to the full. See, to Jesus, it’s not about what you can take from life, but about what you can give to it. Jesus died for us. He interacted with people to give them hope. He poured out his life so others could have it. Jesus shows us the paradoxical truth that we get the most out of life when we give ours up.
Here is what happens when we give up our lives: we come face to face with our own brokenness, we enter into other people’s pain, and we stretch ourselves beyond comfortable living. But, we will also see healing in our lives, witness hope being planted in another’s soul, and learn to be thankful for what we have been given. I don’t know about you, but that’s the life that I want. Adventure and happiness are only a small part of what is offered. Jesus can give us much more. With Him, we will experience deep sadness, strife, and persecution, as well as rich happiness, hope, love, and joy – a true life to the full.
“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” – Matthew 10:39
To Jesus, it’s not about what you can take from life, but about what you can give to it.