Last week I heard someone on the radio quoting Og Mandino. It really took me back to my days in retailing. You may recall this best-selling author of “The Greatest Salesman in the World”, popular in the 70s. Some of his teaching was loosely based on Christian principles; but it was primarily a distillation of ancient wisdom teachings, pop psychology and motivational stuff. His philosophy seems a little dated now, but many a sales team was tasked with reading his books in hopes that they would achieve success. I know that we read them in the jewelry store where I worked. This is a very popular quote from Mandino:
“Every memorable act in the history of the world is a triumph of enthusiasm. Nothing great was ever achieved without it because it gives any challenge or any occupation, no matter how frightening or difficult, a new meaning. Without enthusiasm you are doomed to a life of mediocrity but with it you can accomplish miracles.”
I have long since discarded the notion that scripture exists for us to achieve personal prosperity or success as the world defines success. But I still really like this quote on enthusiasm and I see in it a relationship to evangelism. I looked at the definition for enthusiasm and was amazed to learn that it comes from the Greek, enthousiazen, which means “to be inspired.” And that Greek word has at its root entheos, or “having the God within.” So we are enthusiastic when inspired by God! And with enthusiasm, we can accomplish miracles because we have God within us!
When we are confident and enthusiastic about what God has done for us in our lives, we can inspire others. You or I might not be the greatest salesman in the world, but we are selling the greatest product in the world. But that greatness is not apparent until demonstrated in my life and in yours. Then our neighbors will look at us and say, where did you get that product and how can I get it?
The greatest salesman in the world, of course, was Jesus. His enthusiasm for the kingdom of God was boundless. Who else could have sold the notion of a suffering servant as messiah? Who else could have turned the scandal of the cross into salvation and healing for the world? Who else could have responded with such love to betrayal by friends? Who else could have taught so much, loved so many, healed so many in 3 short years of public ministry? Jesus was a spokesperson for the kingdom of God like none other, because he lived the message that he preached.
With enthusiasm we turn to our ministries for this new year. We pray that we will accomplish miracles and participate in transformation of lives through the gospel. And we pray for the transformation of our own lives, shaped and informed by the life and words of Jesus. In February our gospel readings are taken from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. These words are better than any self-help book because they offer the big picture vision of God’s promise for God’s people. The Sermon on the Mount demonstrates an alternative to what the world is pursuing, and offers us a way to live the way Jesus lived. If we live it enthusiastically, people will notice!
(This was published as my pastor’s letter in the February newsletter.)