Wednesday, September 11, 2013

An Enthusiastic Life (Matthew 10:26-33) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel

One Saturday morning as a man was getting dressed, his dog grabbed his pants, dashed out of the bedroom and down the stairs. The man ran after the dog, but when he was at the bottom of the stairs, he slipped on the entry rug and skidded toward the front door, crashed through the screen and wound up face-down on the front porch, surrounded by pieces of torn screen.   Looking up he saw his mailman staring down at him. After a long pause, the mailman said, "Man! I’ve never seen anybody so eager to get the mail.”

When you think of an enthusiastic person, who comes to mine?  I think of Chris Denorfia of the San Diego Padres.  He was named the Padres winner of the 2013 Heart and Hustle Award.  He inspires me.  I think of 64 year old American author, speaker and endurance swimmer Diana Nyad who became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without our help of a shark cage.  It was her 5th attempt to complete the 110 mile swim.   She loves swimming and she loves life and gives her heart and soul to everything she does.  She inspires me.

What do you get enthusiastic about?  The stress and tension, the hurt, the demands and disappointments of life take their toll, without question; they constantly threaten to erode our energy and vitality.  You surely know people who have lost their zest for life.  Who have given up?  Have you?  You undoubtedly know people who have lost their passion for life.  What about you?   How about your spiritual life?   20th century Evangelist Dwight L. Moody used to say:  “Some people have just enough religion to make themselves miserable; they cannot be happy at a wild party and they are uncomfortable at a prayer meeting.”

Do you ever think - what’s wrong with me?  I’m just going through the motions.   The truth is that life can become routine and painful and disappointing and we can become stagnant and lose our vitality.

When you think of the word enthusiasm what comes to mind: eagerness, ardor, fervor, passion, zeal, gusto, energy, vigor, fire. The word "enthusiasm" is derived from the roots of two Greek words; en — “in or within” and theos — “God.”   It means having God within or being one with God or being inspired and empowered by God.  It always goes back to the Greek, doesn’t it?   Remember Gus Portokalos, the passionate Greek father in the movie: My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  He said: “Give me a word, any word, and I show you that the root of that word is Greek. There are two kinds of people - Greeks, and everyone else who wish they was Greek.”

What is it about the quality of enthusiasm that’s important?   Enthusiastic people light up our lives.   We need them around us!   Life can certainly wear us down.  It can break us if we allow it too.  It is easy to fall into sink holes of boredom and negativity and cynicism and bitterness.  Enthusiastic people have found ways to sidestep these traps and to maintain their high spirits.  They have an ability to radiate positive energy.  They are curious and interested in life and people.  They love learning.  They focus on the good, even when things are bad, on what’s possible, not what’s impossible.  They emphasize what they can do to overcome a given situation, not on what they can’t.  They feel deeply and laugh often.  Humor is important.  The give themselves fully in what they do, no matter how small. They serve a greater purpose than themselves. 

In her book Exuberance: The Passion for Life Kay Jamison profiles Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir, whose passion for the glories of the natural world touched and influenced millions. This buoyant quality enables people to do great things.   Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: "Every great and commanding moment in the annals of the world is the triumph of some enthusiasm."  There is a playful dimension in the spiritual writings of the Great Christian Saints through their example, teachings, and miracles. Hildegard of Bingen, a twelfth century mystic, counseled her spiritual devotees to be:  "Juicy people," filled with wonder, delight, and optimism.”   

If all we do is complain, we need a change of attitude.  If we are negative much of the time and always feel sorry for ourselves, we need a change of heart.   Why?  People get tired of hearing us.  Let’s be honest.  People stop listening after a while.  Why? How do you want to be remembered?  Do you want as your epitaph:  “She was a glass half empty person; he was known as Mr. Grumpy.”  Why – because God didn’t create us in his image to be pessimistic and downer people.  God didn’t say, “I think I’ll create a race of grumblers.”  God didn’t make us to live this way.  This is just the opposite of why God made us.  God wants us to live passionate, helpful, committed, hopeful and energetic lives.   Scripture says:  “Christ became poor so that by his poverty we might become rich.”   

Complaining often stems from being unappreciative, thankless, faithless, and lacking in humility.     We need to turn to the source and author of life.   “God, help me to be grateful.  I want to be aglow with your presence?  I want to be on fire about the gift of my life.  I want to serve others and witness to others with fervor.   Lord, help me to be the best I can be.  Help me to inspire others by my spirit and behavior.” 

The Bible in Romans says:  “Never lag in zeal, but be aglow and on fire, serving the Lord enthusiastically.”    In Matthew Jesus was addressing his disciples in a time of coming persecutions.  He knew their enemy was fear.   Jesus could see it in their eyes and hear it in their voices.  He says to his disciples, don’t be afraid, don’t fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  “What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight, what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.”   Jesus is talking about being enthusiastic about your life in Christ, about your witness, about your faith regardless of the circumstances.  Jesus is talking about letting others know you are his follower regardless of the circumstances.   And that takes the power of God working in our hearts.   “Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.”   

God does not bless wet blanket people.  God does bless positive and energetic and faithful attitudes.  God wants us to do our work, whatever it is, paid or volunteer, with such excellence, that others will be inspired.   If it’s being a mom, give it everything you’ve got.  If its being a husband, give it everything you’ve got.  If it’s doing your job, give it your all.  If its serving in the church or community, give it everything you’ve got.  If it’s babysitting, give it everything you’ve got.  If its being a student, give it everything you’ve got.  If it’s being a grandparent, give it your all.  God wants us to give in everything we do our heart and soul and God will bless such an attitude. 

Is your style, your demeanor, your comportment pointing to God?  Is the way you deal with people and problems pointing to God?  Is your faith, your words, your example a witness to God?  For a positive, energetic, passionate life, a life aglow is contagious.  “What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight, what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.”  “Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.”   

Jesus calls us as his followers to be persons of positive influence.  Yes, such an attitude makes all the difference.  When you hear it, when you see it, when you smell it, when you touch it, when you sense it around you, you are blessed.    Someone said, “One enthusiastic flea can worry a whole dog.”

FedEx CEO and founder Fred Smith first developed the idea for an innovative air-freight company while he was a student at Yale University.  His professor was less than impressed; the paper Smith submitted outlining the concept earned him a "C".  Thirty years later, FedEx is the world's largest express transportation company, with nearly 300,000 employees. Smith has an ability to recruit others to his vision.  People want to be part of it.  In the early days his pilots often refueled company jets with their own money or sat on paychecks for awhile to help keep the company afloat.  Fred Smith's greatest asset is his enthusiastic determination to get the job done.  He believes in what he is doing and as a result, he inspires loyalty.   Never underestimate the power of a positive spirit, the power of enthusiasm, the power of positive spiritual energy, the power of God inspiring others through you.   

I remember a man in a former church who complained and grumbled constantly.  He regularly talked to me about all the things that were wrong at the church.  He had a gift to see the negative in everything. I would ask him to help in some area and he would say, “I’ve done my share, I’ve done my time, get someone else.”  I like the saying: “Don’t criticize unless you are willing to roll up your sleeves.”

On the other hand, I remember a woman at another church who said:  “Pastor, why do other churches have women’s retreats and we don’t?  I said well, we need leadership.”  She said: “Would you mind if I starting talking around to see if there is interest in a women’s retreat?”  “I said by all means.”  She gathered a small planning group together and that fall our church sponsored our first women’s retreat. 

That’s the difference between enthusiastic people and grumblers.  Grumblers say, “Look at that problem, isn’t it awful, and then walk away.”  Enthusiastic people say:  “We have a problem.  I want to be a part of the solution, Lord, how can I help?”  Enthusiasm finds solutions where there appear to be none, and seeks success, when success was thought impossible.

Retired baseball player Cal Ripken, the ironman, of the Baltimore Orioles played a record-breaking 2,632 consecutive ball games.  Ripken's mother tells the story about the night before Cal's first Little League baseball game.  “When I tucked him in that evening, I noticed he was wearing his baseball uniform. I told him he didn't need to do that; he'd have plenty of time to dress in the morning. So I made him get up and change into his pajamas.  Several hours later before turning in for the night, Mrs. Ripken went in to check on Cal one more time. He was sound asleep, snug and comfy--in his uniform!”  Sometimes we adults can learn something from the unrestrained enthusiasm of our children.

God has given you power, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  You have the Spirit of God dwelling within you.  Stay in tune with the Holy Spirit.  Take time to replenish your spiritual resources every day.   Our lives need to be infused with the goodness and power and joy of God every day.   Where do you get inspiration?  How and where does God inspire you?   Stay in touch daily with those places and sources of inspiration.  Always remember that your enthusiasm has a profound affect on others.   I like what Rev. Robert Schuller wrote: “Add up your joys; never count your sorrows.  Look at what you have left in your life; never look at what you have lost.  Relive your happy memories.  Treat yourself to replays of that great collection of joyful experiences that have occurred in your past.  There are many wonderful things that have happened to you in life.” 

I close with these words of wisdom: "Do not judge whether what you are doing is impressive or mediocre, spiritual or mundane.  Just give yourself to whatever you do with this full knowledge: God is within me. All actions that I perform are an offering to God."  Let us be positive, hopeful, expectant followers of our Lord.  Never lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord, rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.  Proclaim it from the housetops.  Our lives are an offering to God.    Amen!

1 comment:

  1. I was doing an Internet search for a Pentecostal church in Pacific Beach and your site popped up. (It was linked to a previous sermon, A Pentecostal Church, that you posted in May.) Anyway, I browsed through your postings and this particular sermon, An Enthusiastic Life, reminded me of the beloved J. Vernon McGee who said that he never met so many grumbling people as he did in church. One fellow, he recalled, complained that he always taught his version of the truth. "Well," said McGee, "That's the only version I know, and it was taught to me by the Holy Spirit." Glad to have discovered your site, and invite you to stop by and say hello at Messiah Gate (