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I opened the refrigerator and stared at the chilled leftover lima beans; they were bleached pale green, they were wrinkled, and they had a bland smell. I popped one in my mouth but tasted nothing; I felt the fibrous texture, but the flavor was gone. It was an empty experience. I had encountered pale, tasteless, bland lima beans.

Then it hit me. I know some human leftover lima beans! Cold, pallid, bland, and boring. Instead of being alive and enthusiastic, they're lifeless and stagnant; like a soft drink that has lost its fizz. They haven't discovered the secret of enthusiasm.

The secret of enthusiasm isn't physical; it's a spiritual principle. "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Romans 14:17). Sometimes we get trapped in the methodology -- the "eating and drinking" of ministry -- and forget the spiritual element: the power of the Spirit.

The word "enthusiasm" comes from Greek words that mean "filled with God." To be genuinely enthusiastic means to be motivated, inspired, and influenced by God. It means that:

° things that excite God excite you,
° God's values become your values,
° things that please God please you, and
°things that displease God displease you.

Our enthusiasm is a mark of God's ownership -- it shows that we belong to the risen Christ.

Several years ago our youth ministry staff developed a list of the qualities we wanted to see in our student leaders. We wanted our leaders to be F.A.T. Not "fat," but F.A.T. -- Faithful, Available, and Teachable. We defined what we meant by each of these characteristics. Sure enough, after months of developing our team, we had faithful student leaders, but there was still something missing.

Then came the "aha" moment. As I talked with some adult leaders, I asked, "What's missing from our student leaders? They're F.A.T., but it's not enough."

One youth worker replied, "There isn't the power or the excitement."

"Enthusiasm!" I exclaimed, "That's what we're missing. They're faithful, available, teachable -- and boring! These kids need to discover the excitement of living on the edge that comes with the power of the Holy Spirit. We need to have 'fatty' leaders: F.A.T.E., with the E for enthusiasm! What good is it to have solid leaders if their lives don't reflect the power and the mystery of God?"

To reach people for Christ, we need to understand and apply the principle of Spirit-driven enthusiasm. When we're under the influence of the Holy Spirit, others will notice it. When we're under the Spirit's control, we experience power, joy, and enthusiasm. Other people notice the effect (and so does God)."Anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men."(Romans 14:18). What a compliment -- to be pleasing to God and approved by people! That's a desirable goal.

In this age our adolescents ache for hope, joy, peace, and power. And these are the qualities a youth worker empowered by the Spirit can effectively model.

One of the most attractive qualities in a person is joy. It's contagious. We want to be around people who exude joy. We want to know their secret. Joy comes from delighting in what God is doing. It's taking pleasure in what God has provided. It's seeing the little things as causes for celebration. It's taking time to see and exalt as eternity breaks into our temporal world. Genuine joy comes to those who have devoted themselves to something greater than personal happiness.

Adapted from Nurturing the Soul of the Youth Worker copyright © 1999, Tim Smith, Group Publishing, Inc.

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