TAKING NOTHING FOR GRANTED

The word, “enthusiasm” comes from the Greek word “entheos.” “Theos” is God. When you’re enthusiastic, you’re in the divine and have a divine energy. For the Greeks, an enthusiastic person shared a divine essence with the gods.

Today the word doesn’t carry such lofty connections. But keeping passionate in life and staying energetic brings us huge joy. Sometimes we don’t need to work on this; other times, we catch ourselves in a slump, downcast. A lot of times we get this way when we make the mistake of comparing ourselves to others. Don’t. We need to live our own life and take nothing for granted. What we have and who we are are good. God can build from where we are.

But it’s tough not to compare or rather contrast. Your child is going to college at Palm Beach State college, and another kid is off to Stanford. Yours is doing her thing and she should be proud. Who knows where her race will lead her. You’re planning a trip this Christmas to Mt. Dora and you’re all excited about it until you hear a friend’s family is going to the Swiss alps and skiing the Matterhorn. You’re happy with your husband until you see your new friend’s husband. He’s tall, dark, and handsome and yours is not much of any of those. Hers looks like he stepped out of GQ while yours looks like he stepped out of DQ, Dairy Queen. Don’t take what you have for granted. God’s blessings are real.

Some folks have a naturally high PQ, passion quotient. Their baseline energy and enthusiasm for the day begins higher than other people’s starting point. That’s great for them. We’ve heard of adolescent depression and of course adult depression. For a lot of folks, having a tough time getting going in the morning is normal. It’s who they’ve been forever. Perhaps they have a sibling who could rise and shine every day, while they took a long time to see the benefit of facing another day standing up rather than turning over and making sure the bed isn’t the best place for them.

Whether one is accustomed to low energy living and thinks it’s natural, not having enthusiasm is something that shouldn’t be glossed over. If one’s life is more problems than solutions, heavier burdens than strength available, sorrows than joys, dead ends than straightaways, that’s something that shouldn’t be blown off. Check in with someone who can help you decide if how you’re seeing things is more about a condition than a situation. Faith is

great, of course, but the brain has its way of doing things. Sometimes, the brain doesn’t work as well as it can. It’s nobody’s fault. We want to live with some fire. Let’s make sure we do everything we can to make that happen.

A couple of years ago, I was watching the news when captain Sullenberger successfully landed a jet airplane in the Hudson River. All 155 passengers survived. It’s known as “The miracle on the Hudson.” A reporter asked this one passenger, a man that had just been rescued, what he thought about it all. He was soaking wet, freezing cold, frazzled, but he had this incredible glow about him, an excitement in his voice. He told the reporter, “I was alive before but now I’m really alive.” No more taking things for granted.

When you get up in the morning excited about the day, recognizing that day is a gift and you go out with a spring in your step, pursuing your goals, passionate about life, that’s enthusiasm. That’s taking nothing for granted.

Now, not everyone has a lot to look forward to. Some have little perhaps even. We may look out and see more of the same. You could easily have the blahs. It’s easy to get lackadaisical, jaded. We’ve let the flame burn too low. Where’s the fire?! Heck, are the embers you’re living on even orange, or are they gray? The apostle Paul told Timothy, “Stir up the gift. Fan the flame.” Get out of your rut. Don’t take this day for granted and just go through the motions. Stay passionate about the life God’s given you.

This goes for everyone, everyone! I read about a medical doctor in his 80’s. He still went to the office and loved to operate. His friends and family tried to get him to retire but he just wouldn’t do it. He had invented a procedure he had performed over 10,000 times. He was asked in an interview if he ever got tired of doing it, if it ever got old. He said, “No. The reason why is because I act like every operation is my very first one.”

The truth is most of life is routine. You can’t wait for something exciting to happen before you decide to be excited.

Burnout happens a lot more often than we know. We don’t see it but it’s happening. I know someone who has a tremendous load on her shoulders right now, especially. Her boss is giving her a month off. I told her, “Whatever you do, don’t do what you normally do. If you do, when you return to work, you’ll only be half. Go ride your bike or exercise or take a trip somewhere.” She promised she would. When I told her daughter this conversation, she wasn’t so sure her mom would follow through. We laughed about it, but sometimes it becomes serious.

Burnout is big stuff. Being drained of energy, purpose stinks. Not knowing how to have fun, when to be creative, where to let go buries us. We wrongly think being this out of tune is normal. It’s not. Being bright and looking forward, seeing the beauty in things, people, animals, creation, that’s normal. That’s a divine hand on you and normal at the same time. Burned out and dreary and haggard and feeling dead-ended, that’s not what the Spirit of God intends for you.

I know you’ve got stress and problems and challenges. But we can’t think those are going to end someday, so that’s when you’ll stop feeling gray. Lift up your heart. Lift your heart to the Lord. Take a break from feeling like you’re breaking. You’re not.

One of the great things about exercise is the endorphins we acquire while doing it. But the less physiologically based cause of feeling great from exercise is a spiritual reason: Exercise is a load you bear that doesn’t break you. You bend under the stress and build back better. It’s an example you can use of how to hold a load without it holding you back. We should feel good we’ve worked out. We made it. We get happy. Well, that’s life in a nutshell. You’re going to make it. Don’t get burned out. Look up and lift up.

Pastor Dutch Sheets told a story about a 40-year-old woman that was having open-heart surgery. There was blockage in one of her arteries and she had to have what’s known as bypass surgery. Although it’s a delicate procedure it’s become a routine operation. It’s performed thousands of times successfully every year. During the operation the surgeon clamps off the main artery to the heart and hooks it up to a machine and the machine pumps the blood and keeps the lungs working. The heart stops beating during the surgery. Once the operation is over and they remove the machine the warmth from the blood usually causes the heart to start beating again. If not, they have drugs they can give to stir the heart to activity.

Well, this woman was on the operating table. The bypass was finished but when they removed the machine, her blood didn’t cause her heart to start, no heartbeat. They gave her a drug, another drug, but with no success. The surgeon reached in and began massaging her heart trying to stimulate that muscle. But still no heartbeat.

After doing everything he could medically, he leaned over the patient and whispered in her ear, “Mary, this is the doctor. I’ve done everything I can do. Now I need you to tell your heart to beat again.” He stepped back and in just a couple of seconds he heard that, “Thump-thum, thump-thum.”

We’ve been through disappointments and life hasn’t turned out the way we had hoped. We could easily just sit on the sidelines. But God is telling you, “You need to tell your heart to beat again. Tell your heart to dream again. Tell your heart to believe again.” You too may have been through a setback but don’t sit around in self-pity. Tell your heart to beat again. Tell your heart to love again. Maybe somebody did you wrong. Don’t let that poison you. Tell your heart to forgive again. A dream didn’t work out. Nothing is going to change if you just expect more of the same. You’ve got to tell your heart to dream again.

Some have allowed the pressures of life to weigh us down. You’re solemn. You’re serious all the time. You need to tell your heart to laugh again. Tell yourself to smile again. Get your joy back. Get your enthusiasm back. This day is a gift from God.

If we want to be full or whole, then we need to see where we’re limiting ourselves to halves. You can’t push more into the same mold and get more from it. Doing the same thing because you’re good at it or it makes you feel comfortable is great for a while, but it turns us into machines, robots. Ultimately, we’re souls who need to breathe and believe and live with challenges and creativity. Burn out occurs because we’re bored with ourselves. Bored with ourselves means we’re bored with the world. That should be impossible, but it happens, doesn’t it?

If you want to get more passionate about life you can’t let what once was a miracle become ordinary and boring. When God opened the door and gave you that new job, that promotion, you were so excited. You called your friends. Well, don’t let the passion wear off just because you’ve had it. Recreate it into something exciting and challenging.

When you met that person and fell in love you were on cloud nine. You knew it was God’s goodness. Don’t take that one for granted. When your children were born you cried for joy. You knew their birth was a miracle. Now they’re a teenager and you think, “God, why did you do this to me?” No, don’t think that. Reengage with them. Renew your enthusiasm.

Put yourself out there. Start something new. Dig deeper into becoming more than you are. God’s goodness isn’t done with you! The Lord isn’t finished creating you. Be enthusiastic about your next challenge, or should I say adventure?

Can the church say Amen?

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