It seems to me that more than anything else, Paul was an enthusiast. He was a people-enthusiast. He was a God-enthusiast. And those two great driving passions drove each other.
The Message picks this up really well. Here’s a bit from Ephesians 1:
“That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask— ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory— to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!”
Do you see the level of his enthusiasm? He looks at this group of believers in a young church -people just like you and me- and he simply smiles with pleasure (“I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks.”).
But the reason for his pleasure is seeing what God has done for them (“solid trust [in God]… outpouring of love [to others]”) . And so the twin springs of his enthusiasm merge in his prayer for them: “I do more than thank, I ask…”
It’s worth noting that when my prayers are all wrapped up in my own needs, my whole lifestyle becomes self-centered and a bit flaccid. It’s a great help to watch how God is working in others.
So he prays in pleasure that their focus is sharpened and that their faith-journey moves forward in passion and purpose.
It reminds me, somehow, of a passage in Roald Dahl’s book My Uncle Oswald:
“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. He taught me that if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.”
I want to be an enthusiast in life. When I see Jesus taking the towel and stooping to wash feet (in John 13) I see someone whose love for people was not overwhelmed by their misunderstanding (Peter) or even their betrayal (Judas). We become dry, cynical or worldly-wise. But Jesus, “He loved them to the end.” (John 13:1)
I think that Paul was describing the enthusiastic love that Jesus had for people when he wrote “ Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13)
Today, Lord. Today, let me live like that. A people-enthusiast! Give me eyes wide open to what you are doing in the lives of the people around me. I want to smile with your pleasure to watch grace at work.