“Never underestimate the power of a man on fire,” said my grandfather on numerous occasions as I was growing up. “He can accomplish more in an hour than 10 good men can manage in a week.”
What do you think my grandfather meant when he was talking about a “man on fire?” Why do you think he repeated this statement often enough that it became firmly established in my memory banks? The answers are simple. My grandfather wanted me to understand the importance of having enthusiasm. Moreover, he wanted to instill in me the motivational value of maintaining an enthusiastic attitude in life.
As usual, my grandfather was right on target with his assessment of the merit of developing enthusiasm. Along with a firm commitment to excellence and a positive, proactive attitude, enthusiasm helps form a positive, energetic foundation for spiritual formation.
Enthusiasm is the emotional corollary of positive thinking. Enthusiasm grows out of a love for what you are doing and a steadfast commitment to excellence. Nothing of lasting value in our lives is ever accomplished without an enthusiastic attitude. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” How true these words are. When we develop a true affection for what we are doing, our actions become more efficient and we devote ourselves more diligently and consistently to our work.
The word “enthusiasm” comes from the Greek language and implies “an absorbing or controlling passion of the mind by any interest or pursuit”. A brief look at the Greek origins of the word gives us deeper insight into the definition and value of enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is derived from two Greek words, “en” and “theos.” When combined to form the Greek word for enthusiasm the term is literally translated as “God in you,” or “God within.” or “full of God.” Thus, the whole concept of enthusiasm is spiritual from the beginning. When we are enthusiastic, we are in harmony with God and the Spirit within us. This harmonious relationship fills us with renewed energy, vitality, and an ability to be more effective at everything we put our hand to.
What does this mean in terms of our spiritual formation as Christians? It means that we must be committed to our growth in Christ. We must develop a passion for it and view the time we spend in pursuit of spiritual formation as time well spent. If we lack enthusiasm, we will advance slowly or fail completely. Enthusiasm gives drive to our dream. Further, enthusiasm gives emotional and psychological fuel to our growth and development on all levels. Christian Larson, tells us:
“…man gradually but surely grows into the likeness of that which he thinks of the most, and man thinks the most of what he loves the best. This is the law through which man has become what he is, and it is through the intelligent use of this law that man may change for the better and improve in any way desired.”
What is Larson trying to tell us? Quite simply, he is saying, “Learn to love what you are doing and you will increase your chances of success“. If you want to improve as a Christ-follower you have to develop a passionate desire for the spiritual life. Become enthused, then maintain your enthusiasm at all cost. Edward B. Butler tells us that success depends on continued enthusiasm: “One man has enthusiasm for 30 minutes, another for 30 days, but it is the man who has it for 30 years who makes a success of his life.”
Enthusiasm plays a central part in any successful life. Enthusiasm gives substance to our dreams and provides us with emotional motivation to stay the course toward our goals in spite of obstacles or setbacks. Popular Christian teacher Charles Swindoll reminds us:
“What an essential role enthusiasm plays in our lives! In many ways, it is the key ingredient that frees us from the cramping, dark, overheated confinement of a task. When the odds are against us, the hours are long, and the end is not yet in view, enthusiasm rescues us from the temptation to quit – or run away – or complain. It takes the grit and grind out of boredom. It calls in fresh troops when the battle gets long and the body gets weary. Athletes feed on it. Salesmen are motivated by it. Teachers count on it. Students fail without it. Leadership demands it. Projects are completed because of it.”
Another great fact about enthusiasm is that it is contagious. Have you ever been around a person who was truly enthusiastic, a person who really loved what they were doing and applied himself or herself whole-heartedly to the task they were pursuing? People like this often infect others with their sense of enthusiasm. One of my favorite quotations is by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism:
“Catch fire with enthusiasm and people will come from miles to watch you burn.”
Surround yourself with people who are serious yet fun loving and enthusiastic about their walk of faith. Their enthusiasm will infect you and, in turn, make you more energetic and positive about your own spiritual practice. In turn, your enthusiasm can have a positive impact on others.
In conclusion, I encourage you to heed the message of my grandfather that was mentioned at the beginning of this article. Do all that you can to internalize a consistent attitude of enthusiasm, especially about your spiritual development, and strive in every way to manifest your enthusiasm in your daily life. Begin this process by going into your place of prayer and discussing the matter with God. Ask God to fill your being with enthusiasm and also ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit in terms of what you can do to foster a deepening sense of enthusiasm in your life.
If you are sincere about making enthusiasm a central part of your Christian character, you may be amazed at the results as the Holy Spirit works in you to conform you to the fullness of Christ. And don’t be surprised when one day people come from miles away, just to watch you burn.