Narcissism and Hedonism

Not the river of God

12/8/1998

EXCITEMENT ISN’T EVERYTHING

(Auckland, New Zealand)

I’ve been wondering about the word “exciting.” Have you noticed how often this word is used nowadays in Christian circles? It seems that the only way we can encourage people to come to certain events or be involved in particular activities is to describe them as ‘exciting.’ Here’re some of the statements that I have heard recently which include the ‘magic’ word—”Come to Auckland’s most exciting church!” “This prayer meeting is going to be exciting.” “So-and-so is a really exciting speaker.” “Isn’t it exciting what is happening in...?” “Being a Christian is really exciting!” You’ve probably heard many yourself.

We live in an age when it’s the rage to go from one ‘adrenaline rush’ to the next; the flushed face and clipped speech of a person who free-falls from a plane for the first time, the extreme sports participants, the adventure parks and the ‘dare to’ programmes that we see on TV all point to our fascination with thrill seeking.

A quick dictionary check of the definition of the word ‘excite’ indicates that it means to arouse feelings, to bring about action or to stimulate. Clearly the idea of something being exciting motivates people and caters for the ‘what can I get out of this’ syndrome, so prevalent in our society today. I then got to wondering if there was any evidence of this type of motivation in Scripture. I mean, is excitement a Biblical concept? I can certainly find evidence of commitment motivating people. The last six verses of Hebrews 11 shout this at us.

I think I can also find evidence that fulfillment is a Biblical motivation. Romans 12:1-2 talks about the will of God being good, acceptable and perfect. But excitement? Did Jesus come to earth motivated by excitement? Did Joshua rouse the people of Israel to march around Jericho by promising them excitement? Was it excitement that caused the Old Testament prophets to make their dire predictions? Anything but, surely!

Want a provocative question? Ask yourself, “Does my commitment depend on excitement?” Do we need to be excited before we serve God or do we need to be excited while serving God? I acknowledge that loving and serving the Lord is a great privilege and gives reason and direction to all we do. If, however our commitment depends on excitement, then I believe we have lost the plot. There are some clear dangers in seeking to motivate people in terms of excitement. It caters for the “What’s in it for me? What do I get out of it?” syndrome. Pastors and Christian leaders create a rod for their backs if they constantly seek to motivate people through offering excitement.

Once we orientate our Christianity around what we get out of it, we lose the heart of Christianity. This is a hard lesson for us all to learn as we live in a self-absorbed, self-centred society. Another problem is that one level of excitement must be followed by the next if we are to maintain interest and commitment—excitement is addictive. We are in danger of chasing the next spiritual fix. In my observation, excitement has taken priority over commitment for many Christians, I don’t need to tell you which one gladdens the heart of God.

During the Welsh revival, preachers told converts that excitement was not conversion. Today we need to remind ourselves that excitement is not commitment. Jesus never offered excitement—He offered a cross, He called people to be disciples, He told people they had to deny self.

Unfortunately commitment is not something you can store up for a wet day or put away in the cookie jar to go and get some more when you are running out. It’s not like a vitamin pill which we can take when we feel listless in our Christian faith. There are moments in Christian faith when life becomes a hard slog, I have to grit my teeth, trust God and keep going. Excitement it certainly is not!

Source: Reprinted with permission from the author.

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