Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Nothing great is ever accomplished in life without enthusiasm.” You have to have a passion to see something great happen. That’s why you need to nurture your enthusiasm if you want to change.
If you say, “Well, I kind of, sort of, maybe want to change” it isn’t going to happen. If you say, “Well, I’d like to change in my spare time” it isn’t going to happen. But if you are passionate about your goal it will become reality.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to lose your enthusiasm. So how do you maintain it? Speaking from personal experience, it takes more than positive thinking or psycho cybernetics. It takes God in your life.
The word enthusiasm comes from two Greek words. The word en which means “in” and the word theos which is Greek for “God.” To be enthusiastic means to be “in God.” When you get in God, you have enthusiasm deep in your heart.
The Apostle Paul tells us how to be enthusiastic in Romans 12:11-12, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
“Joyful in hope” – even when things go wrong, hang on to your hope in God and it will give you joy.
“Patient in affliction” – Remain patient because you know God will use whatever you’re going through for good.
“Faithful in prayer” – When tough times come, you have a choice: you can either pray continually or you can panic. You can either be on your knees giving it to God, or you can give up.
“What did Jesus mean when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23)?”
Let’s begin with what Jesus didn’t mean. Many people interpret “cross” as some burden they must carry in their lives: a strained relationship, a thankless job, a physical illness. With self-pitying pride, they say, “That’s my cross I have to carry.” Such an interpretation is not what Jesus meant when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.”
When Jesus carried His cross up Golgotha to be crucified, no one was thinking of the cross as symbolic of a burden to carry. To a person in the first-century, the cross meant one thing and one thing only: death by the most painful and humiliating means human beings could develop.
Two thousand years later, Christians view the cross as a cherished symbol of atonement, forgiveness, grace, and love. But in Jesus’ day, the cross represented nothing but torturous death. Because the Romans forced convicted criminals to carry their own crosses to the place of crucifixion, bearing a cross meant carrying their own execution device while facing ridicule along the way to death.
Therefore, “Take up your cross and follow Me” means being willing to die in order to follow Jesus. This is called “dying to self.” It’s a call to absolute surrender. After each time Jesus commanded cross bearing, He said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:24-25). Although the call is tough, the reward is matchless.
Wherever Jesus went, He drew crowds. Although these multitudes often followed Him as Messiah, their view of who the Messiah really was—and what He would do—was distorted. They thought the Christ would usher in the restored kingdom. They believed He would free them from the oppressive rule of their Roman occupiers. Even Christ’s own inner circle of disciples thought the kingdom was coming soon (Luke 19:11). When Jesus began teaching that He was going to die at the hands of the Jewish leaders and their Gentile overlords (Luke 9:22), His popularity sank. Many of the shocked followers rejected Him. Truly, they were not able to put to death their own ideas, plans, and desires, and exchange them for His.
Following Jesus is easy when life runs smoothly; our true commitment to Him is revealed during trials. Jesus assured us that trials will come to His followers (John 16:33). Discipleship demands sacrifice, and Jesus never hid that cost.
In Luke 9:57-62, three people seemed willing to follow Jesus. When Jesus questioned them further, their commitment was half-hearted at best. They failed to count the cost of following Him. None was willing to take up his cross and crucify upon it his own interests.
Therefore, Jesus appeared to dissuade them. How different from the typical Gospel presentation! How many people would respond to an altar call that went, “Come follow Jesus, and you may face the loss of friends, family, reputation, career, and possibly even your life”? The number of false converts would likely decrease! Such a call is what Jesus meant when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.”
If you wonder if you are ready to take up your cross, consider these questions:
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing some of your closest friends?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means alienation from your family?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means the loss of your reputation?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your job?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your life?
In some places of the world, these consequences are reality. But notice the questions are phrased, “Are you willing?” Following Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean all these things will happen to you, but are you willing take up your cross? If there comes a point in your life where you are faced with a choice—Jesus or the comforts of this life—which will you choose?
Commitment to Christ means taking up your cross daily, giving up your hopes, dreams, possessions, even your very life if need be for the cause of Christ. Only if you willingly take up your cross may you be called His disciple (Luke 14:27). The reward is worth the price. Jesus followed His call of death to self (“Take up your cross and follow Me”) with the gift of life in Christ: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25-26).
Recommended Resource: True Discipleship: The Art of Following Jesus by John Koessler.
Thanks Julia for sharing from gotquestions.org
If you want to have lasting change in your life, you need to refocus your mind.
Specifically, you need to change your thought patterns from focusing on what you don’t want — to focusing on what you do want. And this is why: Because what ever you focus on is what you move toward.
Today’s verse gives us the blueprint to change our thought patterns —
How does this happen? The Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:22-24, “Put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; be made new in the attitude of your minds; and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (NIV).
This means you are going to have to do some putting off and you are going to have to do some putting on. And the putting off has to happen before the putting on. It’s just like trying on clothes in a department store. Before you can try on the new stuff, you have to take off the old stuff.
You’re going to have to let go of the old attitudes, the old thought patterns, the old images that you’ve been living with so you can put on the new garments God has for you to be renewed in a changed mind.
Thanks Julia once more for sharing Rick Warren’s Daily Hope
Rick Warren shares with us his father’s mission. He was a minister for over 50 years, serving small, rural churches. Jimmy Warren was a simple preacher, but he was a man with a mission. His favorite activity was taking teams of volunteers overseas to build church buildings for small congregations. In his lifetime, Rick’s dad built over 150 churches around the world.
In 1999, he died of cancer. In the final week of his life, the disease kept him awake in a semi-conscious state nearly 24hrs a day. As he dreamed, he’d talk out loud about what he was dreaming. Sitting by his bedside, Rick Warren learned a lot about his dad just listening to his dreams. He relived one church building project after another.
One night near the end, his dad became very active and tried to get out of bed. Even though he was too weak, he persisted until Rick’s wife asked him what he was trying to do. He replied, “Got to save one more for Jesus!” repeating the phrase over & over.
During the next hour, he said the phrase probably a 100 times. “Got to save one more for Jesus!” As Rick sat by the bed with tears flowing down his cheeks, he bowed his head to thank God for his dad’s faith. At that moment, his dad reached out & placed his frail hand on Rick’ head & said, as if commissioning him, “Save one more for Jesus! Save one more for Jesus!”
Rick Warren tells us he intends for that to be the theme of the rest of his life. He invites us to consider it as a focus for our lives, too, because nothing will make a greater difference for eternity.
We are the messengers of God’s love & purposes to the world. Nothing else we do will ever matter as much as helping people establish an eternal relationship with God. “God uses us to persuade men & women to drop their differences & enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become Friends with God”.
Jesus calls us not only to come to him, but to go for him. There are people on this planet whom only you will be able to reach, because of where you live and what God has made you to be. If just one person will be in heaven because of you, your life will have made a difference for eternity. Start looking around and ask “God, who have you put in my life for me to tell about Jesus?”
Question to Consider: What fears have kept me from fulfilling the mission God made me to accomplish? Rick Warren’s story of his dad is very moving. In this chapter, I realise that fulfilling our mission on earth isn’t just tacking it on to all the other things I want to do with my life—its my first & sole responsibility.
The Bible is filled with examples of how God loves to use imperfect, ordinary people to do extraordinary things in spite of their weaknesses. You may be tempted to conclude “God could never use me”. But God is never limited by our limitations—in fact, he enjoys putting his greatest power into ordinary containers.
God will use us if we allow him to work thru our weaknesses. For that to happen, we:
Admit our weaknesses. Let’s stop pretending to having it all together, & be honest;
Be content with our weaknesses. Whenever we are feeling weak, God is reminding us to depend on Him. Our weaknesses also prevent arrogance. They keep us humble. Our weaknesses also encourage fellowship between believers.
While strength breeds an independent spirit, our limitations show how much we need each other. When we weave the weak strands of our lives together, a rope of great strength is created. Vance Havner said “Christians, like snowflakes, are frail, but when they stick together, they can stop traffic”.
Our weaknesses increase our capacity for sympathy. We are far more likely to be compassionate & considerate of the weaknesses of others. Other people will find healing in our wounds. Our greatest life messages come out of our deepest hurts. The things we are most embarrassed about, most ashamed of, & most reluctant to share are the very tools God can use most powerfully to heal others. God specializes in turning weaknesses into strengths—he wants to take our greatest weakness & transform it.
Honestly share our weaknesses. Vulnerability is risky, but emotionally liberating—opening up relieves stress, defuses our fears, & is the 1st step to freedom. Humility isn’t denying our strengths, but being honest about our weaknesses. Vulnerability is an endearing quality; we are drawn to humble people. Pretentiousness repels but authenticity attracts, & vulnerability is the pathway to intimacy. When others see God using us in spite of our weaknesses, it encourages them to think “Maybe God can use me!”
At some point in our lives we must decide whether we want to impress people or influence people. The most essential quality for leadership isn’t perfection, but credibility. People must be able to trust us, or they won’t follow us. We built credibility not by pretending to be perfect, but by being honest.
Glory in our weaknesses. Sometimes God turns a strength into a weakness in order to use us even more. Jacob was a manipulator who spent his life scheming & then running from the consequences. When God turned Jacob’s strength (the thigh muscle is the strongest in the body) into a weakness, Jacob walked with a limb & could never run again. It forced him to lean on God whether he liked it or not.
God works best when I admit my weakness. I am with you, that is all you need. My power shows up best in weak people. –2Corinthians 12:92(LB)
Question to Consider: Am I limiting God’s power in my life by trying to hide my weaknesses? What do I need to be honest about in order to help others? I stopped trying to hide my weaknesses last year when I began this blog w/Warren’s Purpose Driven Life. How? In one of the chapters questions, I came out about my abortion, which deeply hurt me, & was something I was ashamed of & very reluctant to share—it made me more humble & vulnerable, but also wanting to speak to others when they consider abortion an alternative.
“The greatest tragedy this year would be for you to stand at the edge of your destiny, but to be afraid to enter into all that God has planned for you.”
The saddest verse to me in the entire Bible says the people of God were not able to enter the Promised Land because of their unbelief.
Think about this: For 400 years God planned the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt. To convince Pharaoh to let them go, God sent the various plagues to Egypt. He opened the Red Sea and he fed the Israelites with manna and quail. He took care of all of their needs as he brought them to the edge of the Promised Land.
But at the point of decision, God’s people say, ‘We can’t do it.’ And the Bible says because of their unbelief, they were not allowed to go in and they missed all that God had planned for their lives.
I do not want that to happen to you. I do not want you to miss what God has planned for your life simply because you were afraid or unwilling to take a step of faith. Your unbelief limits God.
We must choose to obey God in faith. Every time we trust God’s wisdom and do whatever he says to do, even when we don’t understand it, we deepen our relationship with God.
Understand, though, we obey God, not out of duty or fear or compulsion, but because we love him and trust that he knows what is best for us. We want to follow Christ out of gratitude for all he has done for us, and the closer we follow Jesus, the deeper our relationship with him becomes.
Unbelievers often think Christians obey out of obligation or guilt or fear of punishment, but the opposite is true. Because we have been forgiven and set free, we obey out of love—and our obedience brings great joy! Jesus said, “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father and remain in his love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:9–11 NLT)
The greatest tragedy this year would be for you to stand at the edge of your destiny, but to be afraid to enter into all that God has planned for you. Our obedience in moving forward — to take risks and step out in faith – will release God’s power in our life.
What are you afraid of in 2011? Whatever it is, it doesn’t stand a chance when you do whatever God tells you to do. There is no reason to be afraid. The Lord is on our side.
Thank you Julia for sharing Rick Warren’s Daily Hope
“Now, listen carefully, when something crowds God out of my heart, you know what it’s called? It’s called an idol.”
God wants more than just a little piece of your heart. He wants your whole heart.
Jesus talked about how easy it is to let your heart become so overcrowded that you have no room for God. He says there are those who hear God’s word, but they become overwhelmed with worries about all the things they have to do and all the things they want to get, and eventually the stress strangles what they heard – so nothing comes of it.
This is why some people can go to church week-after-week and year-after-year and yet there is little change in their lives. The seed that is planted through the Word on the weekend isn’t able to grow because there is no room in the heart.
Now, listen carefully, when something crowds God out of my heart, you know what it’s called? It’s called an idol. An idol is anything that takes the place of God in my heart. And the Bible says there should be no idols in our hearts.
Idolatry doesn’t mean you have a little statue that you kneel before and pray. An idol can be your career. An idol can be your boyfriend. An idol can be making money. An idol can be a dream. An idol with can be your marriage. Anything that is more important to you than God is an idol.
The Bible says, “Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalms 46:10 NLT) Here’s a rough translation: sit down and calm down. You can resign as the general manager of the universe and it’s not going to fall apart. You may be so busy putting irons in the fire, that you’re about to put the fire out.
Jesus is telling us to get rid of the clutter in our hearts and make room for his pervasive presence in our lives.
Thank you Julia for sharing Rick Warren’s Daily Hope with us all.