What’s the difference between being convinced and being contagious; between the people who believe something should happen and the others who make something happen? It’s a simple virtue: enthusiasm. It’s a word that is rooted in the ancient Greek term entheos. It meant “in God.” When ancient Greeks saw that rare combination of love, joy and determination all bottled in one person, they figured it must be supernatural!
That’s what early Christians meant, I believe, when they looked for for godly leaders who were “full of the Spirit.” All saints were baptized in the Spirit, but what were the markings of a life from which the Spirit of God was always spilling over? Read the New Testament and you see all the evidence for boundless enthusiasm. The earliest ambassadors of the Gospel were so irrepressible that they turned their world upside down!
These days American believers are so intimidated and uncertain that we are far more likely to turn the Gospel on its head than risk a collision with the culture. We are familiar with enthusiasm: it’s how we respond to coffee shops, football teams, and our favorite movies and music. Sad to say, those other things that truly excite us are all relational, but the Gospel is still intellectual to many of us: it’s a cause, not a person.
Think back to that gripping story from Matthew 14 when Christ walked across the storm- tossed Sea of Galilee to rescue his apostles who had gotten nowhere after rowing all night. Jesus called out and identified himself to reassure them, to which Simon Peter replied, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you.” Just months earlier, the apostles had seen Jesus calm a stormy sea that was about to sink their boat. Why didn’t Peter say, “Lord, if it’s you, calm the storm?”
The answer is enthusiasm. Peter had already seen Christ control the wind: he wanted to see Him overpower gravity as well! We commonly overlook the impact of Simon Peter’s enthusiastic faith because after walking around the boat to Jesus (yes, the Greek literally says he “walked around” on the sea,) because he eventually sinks and must be rescued. Quick to find an easy lesson, we commonly disparage Peter because he was so weak and foolish that he stopped looking at Jesus. But the real point is that he was so excited about being with Jesus that he hiked across a treacherous sea to reach him. When was the last time you walked any distance at all on water? Don’t mock the seaman: imitate him!
No wonder Jesus constantly celebrates childlike faith and insists that children must be allowed to come to him. Of course he tells adults that to live in the Kingdom, we must be born again and become like children. Children have the wonderful capacity to see the wonder of life and embrace it with gusto and delight. Little kids are so given to see the magic of life that they just assume everyone else sees it as well. Unfortunately, too many of us are ashamed to let the little boys and girls of our hearts come out and dance. A lot of us can’t even relax without drinking intoxicating beverages, must less take delight.
Enthusiasm happens when we allow ourselves to be astonished by the love and the character of Christ; by the power and majesty of God. And people become curious about us when they witness the audacity with which we leap out of the boat, our comfort zones, to walk across the choppy seas of life to join Christ in whatever he’s doing.
Don’t quench the Spirit: unleash it. Convictions only impact others when the heart translates them into acts of love and wonder? As John Ortberg, writes, “If you want to walk on the water you have to get out of the boat.”
To experience the message that inspired this blog, click here.
The first four steps to living forward without looking backwards are 1) Generosity; 2) Readiness; 3) Accountability; and 4) Enthusiasm. We’ll be back with the last element next week.
Lift up the Cross!