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 (Manna 96: Spiritual Nurture: Prayer)
A More Abundant Life (Part 2): Direction and Richness
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Based on sermons by Raymond Chou—San Jose, California, USA

Editor's note: In the first part of this series (Manna 95), we learned how pursuing true peace and hope in Christ leads to a more meaningful and abundant life. This concluding article examines how our direction and attitude to riches can affect our earthly lives and our destination hereafter.

We all hope to live a rich and abundant life. Many in the world pursue physical riches and work to build up their wealth and possessions, believing these will bring joy, satisfaction, and meaning to their time on earth. With these goals in mind, their direction in life is set. But where does such a path lead?

As Christians, we understand that our time on earth will determine our destination beyond this life. So it is important for us to consider the trajectory of our lives. How do we choose the right direction? Where are our hopes and dreams leading us? How can we gain true richness and abundance in this life and beyond?


We are told that hard work, sacrifice, and perseverance make the recipe for success. But this is not always the case. If we work towards the wrong goal, we will have regrets no matter how hard we work. If we set off in the wrong direction, we will end up at the wrong destination, regardless of how fast we run or how arduous the journey.

So, choosing the right direction is important. If we have a clear direction, each step will bring us closer to our goals. Our values and goals influence the decisions we make, both big and small, each day. These choices, in turn, determine the quality and outcomes of our life. Choosing the right direction could lead us to untold joys; the wrong direction, or the lack of one, will lead to deep regret.

This is why it is essential to ask God for wisdom to make the right decisions and for guidance in the right direction.

A Life-Changing Decision

Simon Peter was one of Jesus' closest disciples and witnessed Jesus' transfiguration. He became an important worker and a pillar of the apostolic church. Thousands of years later, we are still learning from his example. But he could only walk such an illustrious path because he made a series of life-changing decisions, putting his life on a course that diverged drastically from that of a typical Galilean fisherman.

Luke 5:1–8 describes one of Peter’s early encounters with Jesus. Many people had gathered by the lake to hear Jesus teach, but Peter and the other fishermen were washing their nets after a night of fishing. Nets would become damaged and tangled during regular use, so repairing and keeping them in good condition were essential for a good catch. Suddenly, Jesus climbed into Peter's boat and asked him to put out the boat a little distance from the land so that Jesus could speak to the whole crowd.

If we were Peter, how would we respond? Peter was in the middle of an important task, essential to his livelihood, when a stranger asked to use his boat. At this point, he had to make a deceptively simple decision. He could have told Jesus, "Don't you see that I am busy with something important?" Or, more politely, "Could I help you after I have finished my task?" But he did not.

Today, we face a similar decision. Jesus has come into our lives, and we have the opportunity to get to know Him and the gospel of salvation. How will we answer His invitation?

We could say that we are too busy or that following Jesus would be inconvenient. We could choose to focus on our livelihood or careers—to ignore Jesus' request and keep repairing our net. Or we could acknowledge Jesus but tell Him that it is not a good time. Some people see faith in Jesus as good and meaningful—they believe in the soul and in judgement after death—but they say, "I will come back later."

However, there is no certainty in life. Accidents can happen at any time. If we delay and continue to decline Jesus' invitation, the door of salvation may close to us. When we decide it is time to accept Jesus, He may no longer be in the boat. We will wonder how things could have turned out if we had welcomed Jesus into our lives.

But Simon Peter chose differently. He accepted Jesus onto his boat and obeyed His instruction to put it out from the shore.

When I Am Retired

There was once a truth-seeker who came to church for a long time but declined baptism. He had received the Holy Spirit and had even brought others to believe and be baptized. He explained: "When you are baptized, you must give up your whole life to God. But I am too busy right now. And as a businessman, I wouldn't be able to lie or bend the rules to gain more profit. I will get baptized after I retire; then, I will work hard for God." This truth-seeker did not consider the fact that he might not live long enough to see retirement.

First, Listen to God's Word

In Luke 5:4–7, Jesus told Simon Peter, "Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." After doing so, Peter and the other fishermen gathered two boatloads of fish. In our astonishment, we often overlook the sequence of events: only after Jesus had finished teaching the multitudes did he tell Peter to let down his net.

Some people come to church to seek miracles or help from God. They want physical or material blessings—health and wealth—and believe in Jesus as a method to solve their problems. They commit to Christianity for as long as they are blessed, or leave to seek out other religions for the same purpose. But this is not pursuing religion; this is pursuing a trade.

Of course, everyone comes to Jesus for different reasons. Some have health problems, family issues, or the feeling of emptiness. Our loving heavenly Father wants to help and heal us, and He is willing to bless us. However, we must learn to grow in our faith and progress from simply seeking physical help to walking in the right spiritual direction. We believe in Jesus not just so we can have a smooth life but so that our soul can gain eternal salvation. We must listen to the teachings of Jesus and strive to know Him and His word before going out to fish. Jesus reminds us:

"Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." (Mt 6:31–33)

After listening to Jesus speak, we will receive blessings and help from God. God knows what we need, and when we seek Him and His righteousness first, He will provide for us.

We often focus on the consequences of the fisherman's actions—the fact that he cast his net and caught an abundance of fish, demonstrating the benefits of believing and trusting in Jesus. But we forget Peter's initial response to Jesus' instruction, "Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing" (Lk 5:5b). As an experienced fisherman, Peter informed Jesus that the likelihood of catching any fish was slim. However, Peter went against his own judgment and said, "[N]evertheless at Your word I will let down the net" (Lk 5:5c).

What was going through Peter's mind when he cast his net? Likely, he did not believe Jesus would help him catch much fish, based on his experience. And Jesus did not promise him a great catch or any other blessings. So, Peter did not cast his net because he was expecting a positive outcome. He simply decided to do as Jesus asked. His mindset was: Because You spoke, I will obey. He found value in following Jesus' direction. It did not matter if he caught two or two boatloads of fish—he had found something more valuable than any of these.

Readjusting Our Values and Direction

When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men." (Lk 5:8–10)

While most fishermen would be overjoyed at such a miraculous blessing of abundant fish, Peter's reaction was curious. When everyone else rejoiced over the amazing catch, Peter saw the Savior amidst the miracle. When everyone else was busy counting the fish, he bowed before Jesus and proclaimed himself a sinner. He did not bask in the wealth and benefits the fish brought but realized that a relationship with Jesus was the most valuable thing he could gain. The miracle was no longer important to Peter because its purpose was to lead him to believe in Jesus and experience spiritual abundance.

Many fishermen were by the sea of Galilee that day, but most are no longer remembered by history or by God. On the other hand, Simon Peter made a series of decisions that changed his life and values, altering his direction. He forsook all and followed Jesus. May Jesus give us wisdom, like Peter, to understand the decisions we must make and the direction we should take to live a more abundant life.


The Deceptiveness of Wealth

Society teaches us that to gain an abundant life, we must go in a particular direction and hit certain milestones. We study hard for exams so that we can enter a prestigious school, attain a good degree, and launch a lucrative career that will fund a comfortable lifestyle and prosperous future. Other paths can lead in this direction, but the underlying belief is the same: pursuing wealth brings joy, security, and value to our lives. But the Bible tells us that those who love silver will not be satisfied with silver (Eccl 5:10). Many rich people understand how to preserve and grow their wealth, but the greedy will never be satisfied no matter how much money they have.

My Work Is Done—Why Wait?

George Eastman was the founder of Kodak, which, a hundred years ago, was the equivalent of Apple. He grew up in a low-income family but became one of the wealthiest men in the world because of his innovations in film photography and his business acumen. He built Kodak into a world-leading photography brand and achieved all his ambitions. However, such success does not protect against all the ills that life could bring. After developing a debilitating and painful spinal condition, he took his own life. In the note he left behind, he wrote: My work is done—why wait? He felt he had nothing to look forward to—that life was not worth living. Even vast wealth pales into insignificance in the face of great suffering.

As a preacher, I have the opportunity to visit many places, including countries where the members are poor. I once visited a family in the Dominican Republic who lived in a slum and saw a group of children playing baseball. They had no shoes or baseball gloves; they used a rock as their ball and a stick as their bat. I was initially troubled and shocked, but the joy in their faces and the sound of their laughter struck me. I thought, They don't have anything, but their lives are full of joy; yet in such a prosperous nation as the US, where we and our children have many things, such laughter is rare. 

The Parable of the Rich Fool

The parable of the rich fool tells of a hard-working and successful man who yielded plentifully and devised a plan to pull down his barns and build larger ones to store his crops and goods for years to come (Lk 12:16–21). We can learn from his virtues. Firstly, he yielded plentifully without resorting to devious means. We can assume that he labored honestly to grow and harvest his crop, and his efforts were aptly rewarded. He was also forward-thinking, making plans to prepare for the future. He had the skill, ability, talent, and foresight to grow his wealth. Not only that, he knew that there was more to life than working hard, and he planned to enjoy the fruit of his labors.

Some people operate with a scarcity mentality—the feeling and anxiety of having insufficient time, money, and other resources, even when this is not the case. They may be affluent, but they are obsessively frugal with their money, preferring to build up their bank balance over spending on perceived indulgences, to the point of self-neglect. A member once shared with me that he could not bring himself to go on vacation despite working hard six days a week. He had thought about it for years, but in the end, he could not bear the double loss—first, losing the opportunity to make money, and second, having to pay for the vacation.

The rich man in the parable not only knew how to make money but also how to enjoy it. So why did God consider him to be a fool?

The False Promise of Materialism

And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry." (Lk 12:19)

The first reason God considered the man foolish was that he sought to use material possessions to satisfy the emptiness of his heart. Individuals in this generation often feel something is missing in their lives. Young people will usually say they are bored. As they grow older, they learn to conceal their restlessness and spiritual emptiness with other things—ambitions, passions, amusements, addictions. If they do not know the meaning of life, then they are free to pursue their heart's desire. And yet, the emptiness in their hearts is never filled.

Some people attempt to satisfy this emptiness by accumulating wealth. They indulge in luxurious purchases and novel experiences to stimulate their emotions. However, they often still feel a void because the heart's desires cannot be satisfied with such things. This is the sad story of today's consumerist world. Like the rich fool who said to himself, "Take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry," we try to fill our emptiness by consuming endless streams of goods and entertainment. But like the rich man, we often do not realize that these things will not bring us true and lasting joy.

Yearning for the Simple Life

In a previous job, I had an assistant. We were roughly the same age, but on his first day, he arrived driving a Mercedes-Benz S-Class—a car I had never seen before in the flesh. I gradually discovered that he lived with his high-flying executive mother and a butler in a mansion, and they owned six cars in total. One day, I stopped by his house, and I was awestruck. At the time, twenty years ago, this property was worth four million US dollars and had a golf driving range on the grounds. There was a part of the house that no one could enter, not even my assistant, because it had been custom-designed and built by a famous designer and had cost USD $280,000. I had only seen such lavishness on TV; it was hard to process. I told him he was blessed to live in such luxury. But my assistant hated it. To him, it was like living in a cold and lifeless museum. His mother was never home, and he was lonely. He yearned to return to his childhood when his mother did not work and his father was a teacher. They lived in a small house and were together all the time. He missed gathering around the small table with his family for hotpot and would have traded everything—the fancy house, the cars, the watches—for that simple life again.

If we feel that our life is meaningless, we need to seek a new direction. Matters of the heart can only be solved by focusing on the soul. And the emptiness of life can only be satisfied by Jesus Christ. If we know the true gospel of salvation, we will realize there is more to life. If we change the direction of our life, we will discover what is truly valuable and gain satisfaction.

Life Is in God's Hands

"But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?'" (Lk 12:20)

The second reason God called the rich man a fool was that he failed to understand that life was not within his control. None of us knows what will happen in the next moment. We make plans spanning ten or twenty years, which is not wrong, but have we considered that we may not live to reach those years? Humans think that life is in their hands—that they control their future. The reality is that there are no guarantees; life is fragile, and circumstances are often beyond our control.

So when the rich man assumes he will have time to enjoy life, God deems him a fool. If the Lord decides to take away our life today, what good would all our wealth and success be?

"So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." (Lk 12:21)

Wealth is not a problem in itself, and being rich is not a sin. There is no issue with working hard and seeking financial security to improve the quality of our lives. But the question is whether we are rich or poor before God. We may eat, drink, and be merry, but when the time comes for us to meet our Maker, if we stand before Him empty-handed, He will deem us a fool.


We all have hopes for the future but should acknowledge that anything could happen. In the time we have left—however much time God allows us—let us consider the meaning of life and reflect on what is truly valuable. This is how we gain wisdom to understand the direction we should take in life, and live accordingly (Ps 90:12).

Make the life-changing decision to accept Jesus into our lives, heed His words, and follow His direction. Resist the worldly influence of materialism, which sells us the lie that earning and consuming more will fill the void that only Jesus can fill. Do not trust in riches, but trust in God, who holds our life in His hand. Let us redirect our focus towards our heavenly goal, for where our heart lies, so does our treasure (Lk 12:33–34; Mt 6:19–21). Then, when we meet our Lord, He will truly be pleased with us.

May we live a valuable and meaningful life in God's eyes so we can have abundance in this life and gloriously enter the next.

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Author: Raymond Chou