I’ve always liked the interaction where a person is asked, “Tell me the first word that comes to your mind when I say __________.”
Appreciating what words convey and mean, I often think of them in the way a painter might think of paint colors. Since I’m married to a watercolor artist, we have frequently talked about this. She once said to me, “When you offer a sermon, you are painting a picture using words in the same way I use light and color for a painting.” In painting, colors convey emotions, expressions, intentions. Words do the same thing in verbal or written communication.
The Rev. A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Tozer was suggesting that our view of God shapes our view of life, others and ourselves. I think he’s onto something.
It might be an engaging conversation then if we all responded to the question, “What’s the first word that comes to your mind when I say ‘God?’” Our answers would likely vary widely.
Some might say, “I don’t ever think about God,” or “I don’t believe in God.” Others might offer words that comprise a long list, rendering different shades of color— “love,” “distant,” “angry,” “mysterious,” “powerful,” “limiting,” “beautiful,” etc. Our list would likely be as various as we are, in life experience, beliefs and personalities.
In the Bible’s Gospel of John, Jesus said “I came that they might have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
There are two especially important words here. The first is the word he used for life. There were two in his day — they were “bio” and “zoe.” Bio was the more mechanical, while zoe was the more experiential.
Zoe is hard to put into English — but it would be something like “God-life.” Next is the word “full.” The word Jesus used means something like “overflowing in abundance, richness and duration.”
Essentially he was saying, “I came that you might experience life overflowing, abundant, eternal.” Perhaps for some this may be encouraging because I have found that many struggle with feeling that God is stingy, limiting or prohibitive — taking all the fun out of life. Jesus’ words convey a very different picture.
On Sunday, Christians all over the world are celebrating Easter — when God raised Jesus Christ from the grave. It’s the surest sign that God intends life, overflowing, abundant and eternal. It tells us a lot about his personality and character — that he’s full of joyful abundance! The resurrection is God’s big yes to life, to you and to me. His deep desire is to give this zoe-life to you, that you might say yes, and experience all the joy that comes in him.