It was dark and raining harder by the minute. I was in the center lane of the freeway in a car that wasn’t mine. Usually I don’t mind freeway driving, but on this particular night the rain, the mist from a hundred tires and the glare from the streetlights were making it nearly impossible to see the lines on the road. This may not have been a big deal if the highway was a straight shot, but this road was curving around the edge of the city and had numerous sweeping turns to navigate. In short, driving conditions were dangerous and I was driving an unfamiliar vehicle.
So, I did the only thing I really could do. I turned up my drum and bass CD, clamped my hands on the wheel, squinted through the rain and drove like a warrior. For the next twenty minutes I braved lane-drifting SUVs, road hogging semi trucks and the occasional slow driver who insisted on traveling in the fast lane. And since I couldn’t see the lines I had to navigate according to the brake lights of the car in front of me. It was crazy. I don’t know what was racing faster, my heart or my mind.
When I finally pulled into the driveway and turned off the car I was feeling amazing. I was wide-awake, hyped on adrenaline and in a completely different mood. I think I may have been glowing. I felt alive.
The little rainstorm driving experience left me reveling in life. The Greek word for this kind of life is zoe. It is a noun meaning the absolute fullness of life, the active vigor and vibrancy of life. Jesus used the word when he spoke of bringing abundant life in John 10:10. He wasn’t speaking of bringing extension to your years or even of abundance in wealth or possessions. He was telling us that He was bringing an abundance of life – of zoe – to our world. Jesus came bearing this commodity called life and wasn’t about to be stingy on it.
Jesus spoke often of this kind of vibrant active life. In the gospels alone there are over forty references to zoe. And He didn’t differentiate between the eternal and the temporal. The same vibrant, vigorous life that we will experience in heaven is available (abundantly) to us now. Our physical earthly life will come and go, but vibrant active life starts now and goes straight on through eternity.
As I write this, there are over six billion living breathing people on this planet. They are all alive in the physical animated sense. But how many are alive in the vibrant active zoe sense? How many of those billions live the life that Jesus was came to give?
I read recently that there are five types of prisoners in a POW camp. The first type consists of prisoners who believe that they won’t ever make it out alive and have resigned themselves to die with dignity. The second type is of those who also doubt rescue, but work to improve their personal conditions inside the barracks and camp. On the third level are those who may hope for rescue, but in the meantime negotiate with their captors to improve conditions for everyone in their camp. Fourth are those prisoners who believe that rescue is probable, but not willing to wait, conspire to take over the camp. And the last type represents the prisoners who aren’t willing to simply to wait for a rescue, but instead organize efforts to take over their camp and once that is done to liberate other surrounding camps.
I think this is a good analogy of views on life. You have those who are under the impression that “life sucks, then you die”, so they have already given up on even attempting to live a vibrant life. They trudge through a self-made bleak existence refusing to find happiness. Then you have the next level of people who think life isn’t that great, but try to make the best of it. They put all their efforts towards getting a nice house and a fast car and good career. They fill their time on earth with attaining and maintaining personal comfort. At level three are those who figure that it might be nice to do something for other people too, so they help other people get a nice house and a fast car and a good career.
But then you have the people who think “Wow, this life pretty much rocks and I am going to try to live it to the fullest.” They attack this thing with everything in them and explore it from interior to edges. They find enjoyment in the very act of living and look for ways to experience life. And finally there are those who are totally immersed in abundant life, who go out and spread the life to others, and who show the world how to really live (most often through example).
I think I usually fall into one of the last two categories. I find great enjoyment and vibrancy in life and wake up every morning expecting some new adventure. I have made it one of my life goals to spread the message of zoe-life to as many people as possible. In an interview the other day I was asked to describe my personality in two words (whoever writes those interview questions has too much time on their hands) so I said enthusiastic and joyful. I love life. I find zoe in every corner of this existence.
But I am also aware that some people have a hard time experiencing this zoe-life I am speaking of. Some of you feel it is hard find a handful of real life, let alone an abundance of it. You know there is vibrant life to be had, but haven’t managed to grasp it yet. Well, allow me to step into type five and give you a bit of advice on how to connect with life.
Connect with the Source ~ Yes, this might be an obvious one. But it is so important. Jesus said He is the way, the truth, and the life. You cannot experience really living until you meet the source of life – the Source of Zoe. Every time you connect with God you receive the active life that He is. The more you focus on Him and lead an active spirituality, the more you will connect with the very core of true vibrant life. Every other effort will fall short unless you first lock into God as the source of life.
Seek the Truth ~ I find that most often I experience the feeling of zoe-life when I learn of some previously unknown truth. When I find out something amazing is true my heart swells and I get little joy bubbles down my spine. The world and the enemy work so hard at covering up truth and deceiving us that sometimes just a little unknown fact can make you come alive. “Whoa, you mean that is actually true? No way! God rocks.” Then you walk around full of vitality because you learned a truth that breaks the burden of lies.
Embrace the Challenge ~ Yeah, things get hard. Sometimes really hard. But you have what it takes. You have the tools and weapons and gumption to rock your situation no matter how tough it is. And when you come out on the other side you will feel invigorated and alive. And believe me, a little danger never hurt anyone. Every time there is a big storm coming I get all excited. “Maybe there will be rain and wind. Maybe the lights will go out. Maybe our lives will be in danger!” I half-jokingly tell my friends. I think part of the reason why my little freeway story above left me feeling so invigorated was because one wrong move could have proved disastrous. Sometimes I wonder if people hold so tightly to this earthly physical life that they don’t have strength left to embrace zoe-life.
Enjoy His creation ~ When I became a Christian one of the first and longest lasting changes in my mindset is that I started seeing the pleasure God took in making everything. I mean, you can’t tell me He didn’t get a kick out of making squirrels and sparrows. And I am sure He was showing off a bit with those Giant Redwoods. (Don’t even get me started on dinosaurs.) With the right perception you can see the joy that radiates from all of creation. From that mindset comes life. That’s why a great scenic view can be invigorating. And I am sure anyone with children can attest to feeling very alive the first time they held their child. There is zoe-life in everything God touches and if we have the right attitude – the right perception – we can receive life from seeing things as He sees them.
Simplify ~ A big part of experiencing this kind of life is making room for it. Packing your schedule with less than important things just to feel busy (or because you can’t say no to people) is going to burn you out eventually. I had to learn this a few years ago. I was doing something with ministry every night and working every day but Sunday. It was hectic, but I thought it was a good thing to be “active”. I was only wearing myself thin. So, spend time just chilling and enjoying life. Free up your schedule a bit. Plan a weekend away. Give yourself some room to breath. When you subtract some of the activity and busyness from your life you leave spaces for the zoe-life to fill in.
Those are just a few ways to harness life – full-fledged, vibrant, vigorous vitality – and the power that it holds. This life has power to cancel depression, discouragement, sorrow and stagnation. This life will see you through the darkest pits, the strongest attacks and ultimately even transcend death. And the best part is that He wants to give this life to us in bulk. He wants to open up floodgates and let this life wash over us, starting today if possible.
So, I encourage you to begin seeking life. Begin praying for God to open up your eyes to this life-to-the-fullest that He offers. Try some of the above advice. No matter what situation you are in, or what circumstance is plaguing your time here on earth, you can begin living eternal life in your spirit and heart even now. It may come slowly as you awake each morning with a little more vitality, or it may come more quickly in the midst of a rainstorm on the freeway, but it will come if you ask for it and seek it.
Having eternal life is not a slogan; it is a reality which can be demonstrated and exhibited in this present hour . . . God wants us to learn how to let the resurrected, glorious and all-victorious life of Christ to be expressed in every portion of our being. He calls us to renew our vigor daily and hourly by Him. This is precisely our true life. Even though our body is still animated by our natural soul life, we no longer live by it because we have trusted in the life of the Son of God Who infuses energy into our members far more abundantly than all, which the soul life could impart. ~ Watchman Nee