Made to thrive?

I was driving home from my favorite discount grocery store and heard the Casting Crowns song, "Thrive," playing on the radio. This chorus ends with this:

"We know we were made for so much more / 
Than ordinary lives / 
It's time for us to more than just survive / 
We were made to thrive."

I like the song, but weary from another long week with the kiddos, I thought of how my days don't look like thriving, and they certainly aren't more than ordinary. 

Is this a biblical anthem to claim, I wondered. Or is this just a catchy lyric made for the young and optimistic to belt out? 

So, I've done a little Bible detective work to try and answer the question: What does it look like for a Jesus-follower to thrive?

Here are some thoughts:

Thriving can look like ordinary faithfulness.
I'm the product of a very churched upbringing followed by a Christian college education (at Gardner-Webb University), all of which I'm grateful for, but I find that sometimes in an effort to motivate young people, we unintentionally create the expectation that life has to be extraordinary to be Kingdom-shaking. This expectation then makes it a struggle to be faithful in the ordinary. Everything we do serves our King:
Colossians 3:23-24 "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ."
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 ". . . and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one."
Thriving can look unsuccessful.
We have an idea what a successful "walk with God" looks like, and when things get difficult, we think we've got it all wrong or begin to doubt God's faithfulness. Have we been reading and hearing God's words selectively?
Isaiah 40:31 "but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."
My vision of thriving often looks like soaring eagles, or at least running, and definitely not just walking and trying not to faint. But God's promise in this oft-cited verse in Isaiah 40 is that, as we wait for Him, He will renew our strength so we can keep going--sometimes soaring--yes, sometimes running--yes, and sometimes just enough strength to put one foot in front of the other without keeling over. Not glamorous. Just faithful.

Or consider the list of the faithful in Hebrews Chapter 11. Our friend Matt taught on this passage and pointed out how we like to identify with the people on the first part of this list, but not the last! 
 "And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. [And here's where things take a turn.] Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth." Hebrews 11:32-28
"Unsuccessful" as these last in the list seem by our standards, God honored them their steadfast faith that was sure of what they hoped for and certain of what they couldn't see (Hebrews 11;1).

Thriving can feel like dying.
There is no thriving without a crushing of us in some way. Look at what must come before resurrection:
"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh." 2 Corinthians 4:7-10  
Afflicted in every way . . . completely normal.
Perplexed . . . to be expected.
Persecuted . . . yes.
Struck down . . . it's what we signed up for.
Death . . . just following the Master so His life can come alive in us.

And until our complete redemption (yes it's coming!), so much of the old sinful flesh is left to die!
Romans 8:13 "For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."
Colossians 3:5 "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry."
Mark 8:3"For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it."
John 12:24 "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit."
Every day, there is death to my selfishness, my will, and my flesh and all it cries out for. Death doesn't immediately feel like thriving, but it's necessary in order to yield fruit. 

Thriving is the result of abiding in Christ.
Consider these passages with very similar tree images:
Jeremiah 17:7-8 "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. 8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit."

Psalm 1:1-4 "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away."

Fruitfulness, not necessarily great things you are doing, is the mark of a thriving life. Fruitfulness is what God is doing in you through being rooted in Him. The trees in the passages above are fruitful because of their position of rootedness. They are unmoved by changes in weather, seasons, or drought. They are thriving.

So, there's some evidence, friends. I'd love to know what you think now. What does it look like for Jesus-followers to thrive? Do your expectations for thriving match up with God's Word? I'd love to hear you thoughts in the comments!

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