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September 17, 2013

Living The Abundant Life

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ryan Best @ 2:07 am

As I look back on my life of 65 years, my observations of both myself and of others, demonstrates that people go through life in one of two ways, or perhaps a combination of both at times.
            One of those ways is to simply “go with the flow,” allowing events and those around us to lead us wherever they will. Perhaps, living this way is a reflection of an individual not taking the time and effort to establish principles, upon which, that individual will pattern his life, giving it purpose. Some seem content to just let life happen to them. This approach to life seems to be the road easily taken and often reflects a sort of selfishness in its pursuit because it is more concerned with self than in serving the needs of others or a higher purpose.
            Much of my early life was lived this way, being quite content to just let life happen, taking little responsibility to give it direction. This tendency at times tugs at me still, as living the purposeful life takes effort.
            The other way of living life is to be grounded in principles, principles that are thought out, understood and which give specific direction to one’s life. Such living provides a template, by which our efforts and activities conform to serve a greater purpose than ourselves. Such living is more selfless than selfish, consisting of worthy goals, which not only serve others, but also enhance our own life as well.
            There is a Biblical account, which demonstrates the juxtaposition of these two ways. The story of Jacob and Esau reflects the difference between the directed or abundant life versus the emptiness of the undirected life. This tale of two brothers is in itself a tale of the two ways.
Esau, being the firstborn, had the birthright, a position esteemed in that culture. He who held the birthright was in a prominent position of trust and responsibility, taking over the leadership of the family or clan when the current patriarch was dead.
Esau did not consider this birthright of much value, trading it to his younger brother for what the Bible states as a “mess of pottage” or a simple meal. He was more concerned with his own immediate need than the responsibility of his future position, a position, which would require him to lead a purposeful life, being responsible for those under his care. It was selfish versus selfless in nature. At one point Esau states, “What profit shall this birthright do to me?” And in a way he was right, of what value is a birthright if one is unwilling to live up to its potential and its blessings. In effect, Esau traded a “full life” for a “full stomach”, the here and now.
Jacob, who valued the birthright and was willing to honor that position by taking the heavy responsibility in serving those in his care, went on to live a directed and principled life. He became Israel and went on to lead a great family of twelve tribes, which would have a great impact on those in their day as well as having a profound impact on the world at large and for many future generations.
Living for oneself has the appearance of ultimate freedom, but in actuality, it is a hollow trap, as Esau’s stomach was soon empty. I have known people like this in my life, some acquaintances and some in my own family, people who lived for themselves and not for a greater purpose and it is very sad to witness.
I too have been guilty of such living, especially in my younger years and recognize now my folly.
So, with all of this being said, how does one go about determining to live what I describe as the abundant or purposeful life? For me, it came in a most miraculous way, but only after I unknowingly prepared for that miracle.
While serving in the U.S. Navy, stationed in Guam, I finally did what needed to be done for a long time and that was to take stock of my life. I began to actually and purposefully ask some of the deep and cosmic questions of life. For many months, as I patrolled the jungles of Guam surrounding our ship’s anchorage, on perimeter security watch, I had time to gaze at the stars and to think.
I gazed in awe at the vast expanse of the universe and for the first time in my life, I began to ask questions such as, “Was there a God, and if so, who or what was he?’ I wondered about who I was and what the meaning of life was. I also pondered the meaning of the universe and my place in it. These were not merely questions of curiosity, but real heartfelt questions, the answers to which, I was willing to conform my future life to.
At the same time I was pondering such cosmic questions, my good friend back home had joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, commonly referred to as the Mormons. Months later, this friend sent me a letter informing me of his joining this faith. I must admit that the first thoughts entering my mind were “what in the world has my friend done?” I envisioned the Mormons to be like the Amish of perhaps like the man portrayed on the Quaker Oats box. These were less than favorable images and based on inaccurate information.
Enclosed in this letter was a pamphlet about Joseph Smith and out of respect for my friend, but still with dubious inclinations, I read the pamphlet. As I began reading the words of Joseph Smith, recounting his miraculous vision, in which he was personally visited by both our Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ, I can only describe what happened as miraculous. I felt the strong influence of the Holy Ghost come over me, as I read. I knew that Joseph was telling me the truth. It was as though I somehow in some distant past knew these things already and I had the strong feeling that I had come home.
Without going into much detail and multiplying many words, I will simply say that this was the beginning of all the answers to my questions. I now know who God is and my relationship to Him. I also know who I am, and what the purpose of life is. This knowledge of things as they really are became the foundation or template by which my life in the future would be lived. In effect, it informed me of my birthright.
This knowledge helped me to depart from the natural and selfish tendencies to live for myself and to instead, turn towards living what I would call the more abundant life, the life lived for a higher purpose. This knowledge also gave me direction in how I could live up to my birthright, the birthright we all share as literal spirit children of a Heavenly Father. Unlike Esau, it is something I value. It has been the best thing that could ever happen to me.
By saying this, I am in no way implying that I have it all together, or that I am in some way someone to be emulated. I am still and will be in the future, deeply flawed in so many ways, but at least I have a pattern for living based on eternal truth. Striving to live according to true principles has enhanced my life.
I can’t imagine what my life would have been like had I not asked those questions and been willing to hear the answers. I do believe that my life would have been less than exemplary, to say the least. It is my firm testimony that to so live is to find great joy, the kind of joy that overshadows anything the world with all of its enticements can offer. What the world offers is as empty as was Esau’s stomach, whereas, the abundant life will not give us cause for many regrets.

2 responses to “Living The Abundant Life”

  1. I love reading accounts of God's influence in our lives. He loves us, and He's watching out for us! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Jim Ericson says:

    Ron, thanks for sharing your conversion story with us. It's wonderful to get to know you a bit better in this online forum.

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