What does it look like to be thriving, as opposed to just surviving? Is it having an income above the poverty level? To the homeless woman it would seem to be. Is it having two parents in the home instead of one? To the little boy who never knew his daddy it would seem to be. Is it having children that are staying out of trouble? To the single mom who can only spend time with her daughter down at Juvie it would seem to be.
But believing an improvement in your circumstances will get you out of survival mode is like chasing after a receipt that you drop from your pocket or purse on a windy day. It will tentatively cling to the ground until you can almost feel it with your fingertips. And then suddenly it's ten feet away—taunting you to try again.
In Casting Crown's newest album “Thrive,” the chorus from the title song encourages us to move beyond chasing after just a higher level of survival—to move beyond the ordinary, and learn how to intentionally thrive in the presence of Jesus:
Just to know You and to make You known
We lift Your name on high
We know we were made for so much more than ordinary life
It's time for us to more than just survive
We were made to thrive.
We are trapped in a constant survival mode—no matter what our level of survival—because we do not understand the life Jesus has made possible for us.
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10 NKJV)
Yes, Jesus came that we might survive (I have come that they may have life). But He came that we might do more than just survive (that they may have it [life] more abundantly).
To thrive is not a matter of trying harder to catch whatever the wind is blowing away from us. No matter what we catch, it will never be enough to move us beyond what we consider to be just survival.
- When the homeless man gets his own apartment he will still think of himself as surviving—but he will think it's only for as long as it takes to get his own house.
- When the big farmer manages to buy the neighbor's quarter section, he will still think of himself as surviving—but he will think it's only for as long as it takes to get hold of his other neighbor's land as well.
- When the ambitious executive gets her promotion to regional manager, she will still think of herself as surviving—but she will think it's only for as long as it takes to land that national position.
We cannot move from surviving to thriving merely by improving our circumstances.
The new house won't get the job done. The new spouse, the new car, the new promotion, the new diet—no external change can move us from surviving to thriving.
It may look like your neighbor is thriving and you aren't, but don't count on it. Maybe you wish your marriage was as good as that of the couple you saw at the party, but what are you going to think when you hear a short time later that they've separated. Maybe you wish your business was as good as that of the contractor in your church, but what are you going to think when you see his bankruptcy notice in the paper. Maybe you wish your sons were as responsible as that young man who runs the lube center, but what are you going to think when you find out that he got somebody else's wife pregnant.
Thriving has nothing to do with external circumstances. Thriving has everything to do with knowing Jesus and making Him known.
Prior to his encounter with Jesus, Paul had every appearance of thriving. He was a man of privilege and great power. As a young man he had studied law under Gamaliel, which would today be the equivalent of studying law under the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (see Acts 22:3). He was obviously extremely intelligent (as witnessed by his writings and his ability to speak before the heads of state and the intellects of the day). His life was blameless according to the law (see Philippians 3:6). He was a big shot in the religious community (see Acts 22:3, Philippians 3:6).
But Paul was not thriving. In his own words, he was not thriving back when it looked like he was—not in comparison to the life he now had in Christ:
I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! (Philippians 3:7‐11 NLT)
Paul began to thrive only when he knew Jesus and made Jesus known.
“But didn't Jesus have to knock Paul off his horse and blind him just to get his attention (Acts 9:1–6)? Wasn't Paul beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, thrown into the ocean, robbed, imprisoned, and persecuted in other ways because of his relationship with Jesus (2 Corinthians 11:23–29)? What about all that could possibly be considered as thriving?”
Oh, but there is a power in knowing Jesus and making Him known that moves us out of survival mode. There is a power in knowing Jesus and making Him known that brings us to life from the inside out. There is a power in an intimate relationship with Jesus that makes even the difficult circumstances seem like nothing—nothing at all.
When we survive we work alone, desperately trying to change the circumstances surrounding us. But when we thrive we live in the presence of Jesus—focused on changing lives rather than circumstances.
Have a good day,