One of the classic movies of the Christmas season is the 1946 film, It’s A Wonderful Life. It starred James Stewart as George Bailey, a man whose dreams were always derailed by some calamity not of his making. After spending most of his life helping others while putting his own desires on hold, George suffered what appeared to be the final blow. His savings and loan company was short on its accounts and he was about to be arrested for bank fraud. Believing that his life had been meaningless, George’s despair led him to the brink of suicide. Only the intervention of an unlikely angelic visitor prevented George from taking his own life. In a heart-rending final sequence, the film concludes with dozens of townspeople giving George the money to balance his books and avoid prison. In the closing scene George’s brother offered a holiday toast to his big brother, “the richest man in Bedford Falls,” as everyone sang Auld Lang Syne.
It’s A Wonderful Life was one of the last of a genre of films in the 1930s and 1940s that extolled the basic goodness of the American people. However idealized these portrayals may have been, we believed that this is the kind of people we ought to be, even if we sometimes failed to live up to these ideals. Sadly, it is not so certain that we are this kind of people today.
Most of us hope for happiness and success and all the things that moviemakers have often portrayed as being the signs of a wonderful life. The nature of human life is such, however, that we sometimes wonder if we can ever achieve it. We expect ups and downs, successes and failures, good times and bad. We hope that as we weigh them on the scales of time that the good will outweigh the bad. If so, we may look upon our life and say it was good, even if not as wonderful as common culture defines it.
Christians on the other hand have a different perspective. The Lord promised that He came so we “may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). The English word “life” translates several Greek words. Two of these words are bios and zoe. These are the words from which “biology” and “zoology” are derived. While both of these terms may be used to describe one’s physical life or one’s material possessions, the Lord used zoe in a particular sense in His teachings. Zoe is the word that is always used in scripture with reference to eternal life. Thus, it has come to have a more significant meaning and application to Christians.
Some have made their careers preaching a “health and wealth” gospel from Jn. 10:10, but this is not what the Lord intended. When the Lord said He came so we may have life abundantly, He was not referring to our physical life and material possessions. We may indeed lead healthy and successful lives and amass great fortune in life, but the Lord’s purpose in coming was for us to have a better life which is eternal in nature.
To have abundant life is to be safe in the fold that is guarded and provided for by the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. In this fold, we are under His watchful care. He knows us by name and He calls us to follow Him. We know Him and we respond to His call. Living in the fold of Christ is a wonderful life. It is so, not because of the absence of trials, troubles, sickness, or failure. It is a wonderful life because we know that what happens to us here cannot compare to the glory that will be revealed to us at the end of time (Rom. 8:18). It is a wonderful life because godliness holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Tim. 4:8). If we belong to Christ we live better here, and we will live better in eternity. This, truly, makes it a wonderful life!