Have you ever noticed the unrelenting enthusiasm of our furry companions? My dog Holly was a convicting reminder not to take my troubles to heart when she was alive. The thing I appreciated most about her was her consistent enthusiasm no matter how monotonous her life could be. Even when she was sick, she still displayed the sweet joy of companionship. For example, every time we come home, she was there to greet us at the door with a wagging tail and happy eyes. Once in a while, if we had been gone longer than usual, she would sit back on her hind legs and lift both her front paws in a praise and worship posture until someone bent down to give her a hug. It was her way of inviting us to draw close, to reestablish connection after an absence. If I could have heard her speak I am certain her words would have gone something like this: “I am so honored that you are here and that I get to spend time with you.” No matter how many times we left and come back, we always got that same enthusiastic welcome. Similarly, she never tired of meal time. Despite the fact that all she ate day in and day out was the same old, dry kibble, she greeted each meal as if it were a gourmet treat. When 6am rolled around (even on weekends) there she sat at the side of my bed with eyes full of anticipation and tail quietly wagging. The procedure was repeated at dinner time with jumping and leaping as I tossed the small bits of food out into the yard for her to “hunt” down. After years with no change in her diet and sameness in her schedule I could always laugh at how excited she was to eat.
To be honest with you, I want that same enthusiasm in my relationship with Jesus. I want to be excited about being in His presence. No matter how long I have attended the same church or gone on the same mission trip or served in the same ministry, I want to have a foundation of enthusiasm for Christ. Maybe Titus was a bit like my beagle. Paul says of him “I thank God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative.” (2 Cor 8:16-17) In ancient days, these kinds of mission trips were definitely not easy and yet Titus goes with enthusiasm, not dread or worry or stress, but a foundation of enthusiasm for Christ.
Another way to think of enthusiasm is eagerness. Just like my dog eagerly awaited her meals each day, do we eagerly await God? Are you eager to see His kingdom flourish or are you just trying to get through the day? Romans 8:19 tells us that the creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. If all of creation is eager to see God’s will accomplished, then so should we. Are you eager to use the gifts He has given you or are you stuck in a familiar routine? 1 Cor 14:12 states: So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church. In the service you do for God have you put your spirit on auto-pilot or does your heart jump up and down at the opportunity to work with the King of Kings? Romans 12:11 encourages us: Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
My adorable dog reminded me every day that even though the ravages of time wear down my body and aches and pains trouble my bones, my heart can be filled with passion and my spirit built on a foundation of enthusiasm in Christ. With that kind of foundation we will serve Him with every breath, laugh with Him at our shortcomings, and eagerly await the completion of His will in our lives. We will not say a prayer with our lips while our hearts and minds wander. No, though familiarity may be as boring as old, dry dog kibble, a foundation of enthusiasm will let us approach the familiar with zeal and passion, praying from the heart – “’Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your Name, Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.'” Mk 6:11
No matter how long you have been on this journey with Jesus, His Spirit enables you to experience “newness” in the midst of the routine and mundane. He eagerly awaits the return of wandering hearts. There is no condemnation in Christ because His love enthusiastically wraps us up in grace. God is not boring and neither should we be! He is enthusiastic about the “new.” Colossians 3:9-10 puts it nicely – “Since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”
Ask God to help you enthusiastically embrace your new self and your foundation in Christ because He is as eager to make us new as we are to get out of the same, old boring routine. Start the new year with fresh enthusiasm. For no one can lay any foundation other than that which already laid which is Jesus Christ! 1 Cor 3:11