Luke 24:14Just days prior to the predawn raid on Gethsemane, Jesus mounted the foal of a donkey, a recognized symbol of peace and an unmistakable identification with Messiah, and rode into Jerusalem to the cheering of thousands. Willing subjects of the King paved His path with their cloaks. Others cut palm branches, laid them along the stone pavement, and shouted, "Save us! Save us!"
He was their Messiah. He had promised abundant life. His followers fully expected He would become their king and that Israel would again be prosperous and free. But less than a week later, as the sun fell behind the horizon toward the end of an unforgettable week, the Son of God hung cold and lifeless on a Roman cross just outside the city walls.
His most faithful followers sat in dejected wonder as the sun set and the Sabbath began. In light of the prophecies, which Jesus had fulfilled, in light of the promises He made, and given the complete confidence they had placed in Him, nothing made sense. Not only had Jesus failed to improve Israel, but the nation's future seemed even bleaker than before. Discouragement and desperation reigned supreme.
Perhaps you can identify with the pain of Jesus' followers. Perhaps you have experienced the death of a dream or had the bridge to your ideal future crumble beneath your feet. Maybe you're suffering that difficult, disillusioning situation right now. If so, you have the opportunity to experience abundance like no other time in your life.
Does that surprise you? I mean, isn't spiritual enlightenment supposed to be enthralling? Isn't divine wisdom the result of an ecstatic encounter in which God's Spirit mystically touches ours? Many television and radio preachers make the spiritual life sound so exciting, like a miracle a day will drive all our problems away. Some talk of "victorious living" and the "the good life" in which all our dreams will come true if we'll only choose to live by faith and claim God's best!
That's not abundant living. That's nothing more than a spiritualized spin on "the power of positive thinking." It's the same talk you'll hear from any motivational speaker in the country with the addition of a few Bible verses tossed in (usually out of context) to give it a sanctified shine.
Thanks to blockbuster movies, thrill rides and Madison Avenue ad campaigns, we have come to expect that if life isn't "sensational," something must be wrong. We must be skinny and beautiful, pursue a career that's continually challenging and rewarding, become rich and famous and enjoy a family life that's dynamic and fulfilling. If we're not careful, we can apply those expectations to our spiritual journey and fail to see the hand of God in the ordinary events of life. Even more tragic, we might fail to recognize His gentle teaching in the midst of life's most painful trials.
Many years ago, I was invited to speak at a small Bible college. The new president was fighting valiantly to help the school overcome its most recent troubles, and they were serious. I wanted to help however I could. He greeted me with great enthusiasm as I walked into the airport terminal, and when I asked, "How are you today?" he replied loudly with a huge smile, "Fantastic!" I stuck out my hand and he shook it so hard my shoulder hurt.