The Sacred Pathway of the Enthusiast (Part 8)
Editor’s Note: This post is written by Sword4Sail and is Part 8 in the Sacred Pathways of Walking With God.
Sacred Pathways Part 8 – Loving God with Mystery and Celebration
God’s presence is coming to town! It has been a great blessing to others, and now it is coming to your community! Would you dance and leap with all your might, rejoicing, shouting, playing music, and giving gifts to those participating?! Would you be like King David and say, “I will celebrate before the Lord!” (2 Samuel 6:21). Or are you facing a giant of a situation, all odds are against you, yet you attack it head-on, knowing God will work in mighty ways? Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Pathways, describes Christians like David with the Enthusiast temperament as people who like to, “Let go and experience God on the precipice of excitement and awe (164).” They are marked by celebration and mystery.
God is a supernatural God. There will always be mystery to our faith – how a prayer for a specific need is answered down to the last detail. Enthusiasts are fed by these experiences. They want to see that God is moving, awakening, quickening. But Thomas firmly states there are some warnings that must first be heeded. May spiritual manifestations are forbidden for a Christian, like sorcery, acting as a spiritist, and contacting the dead (Deut. 18). We are also to strike a balance between honoring God by exercising the wonderful brains he has given us and by putting his Word first. We may not need to “hear from God” before we get a burger, but we mustn’t do what “feels right” if it disobeys God’s already-stated commands.
Dreams, expectancy, and prayer are three of the ways God moves through mystery. God clearly spoke through dreams to Jacob, Joseph, Solomon, Daniel, and the Magi. Joel prophesies, “your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions (2:28).” In the New Testament, Saul, Ananias, Cornelius, and Peter receive visions. Many historical men and women of faith record hearing from God through dreams. I have heard of many in the middle east having dreams where God connects with them – a great way for God to reach those trapped in closed society.
To ensure dreams are of God and correctly understood, there are some safeguards that can be pursued. The first thing we have to do is listen; accept the possibility that God can and may speak through dreams. Second, dreams should be journaled to help us reflect on and judge what we have heard and to relate it to others. An extremely important point is the revealed meaning of the dream – it should be unmistakeable. Those outside the faith may have trouble understanding, but Scripturally, people of God understand when they wake up. If the interpretation is unclear, the insight needs confirmation elsewhere. Fourthly, a firm foundation of biblical truth rooted in community is necessary for accountability and oversight. Perspective is also important. If we awake every morning wondering “what did God say to me last night?” we allow our daily thoughts and feelings that unwind during our sleep to lead us – the majority of dreams is just brain-work. The first place to hear from God is Scripture.
Dreams can lead us to expectancy: expecting God to move in a service, expecting him to bring someone into our lives we can minister to, expecting him to work in the world’s real problems. Thomas suggests we should start the day with this sense of expectancy, and take risks to start conversations with strangers, thus creating room in our lives for God to move. We must be open to God providing financially if we have a need, and if we have abundance, we should look to minister to others.
Prayer is one of the greatest mysteries. As Thomas writes, “Prayer moves us to call on a Being we cannot see and ask him to alter that which we can see (174).” An even greater mystery is “unanswered” prayer – when our way doesn’t turn out. Mystery is mystery. We won’t know on earth why God does what he does, but we can still celebrate his awesomeness, no matter the outcome.
Celebration is full of joy and involves enthusiastic worship, creating, and getting together. There is lots of celebration in Scripture; mandatory feasts in the Old Testament, the Israelites’ celebration of the ark’s return (1Chron. 13), exhortations to sing in Ephesians, and shouts of “Hallelujah!” in Revelation. Jesus also told those who complained about the people’s rejoicing when he entered Jerusalem, “I tell you… if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40). But there must still be reverence and order in worship (1Cor. 14:40). God’s people were celebrating the return of the ark of the covenant from the Philistines, but when it tipped and Uzzah touched it, he died. Through the fear of God will we truly understand him, and we will be given that much more reason to celebrate.
Creating is an act of worship we can all engage. God is a creator God from Genesis to Revelation, and we celebrate life by reflecting his creator image through making something new. We can create anything from a traditional form of art like a poem or painting to planting a garden or building a business. Thomas writes, “Without lapsing into perfectionism, do your best to make something shine for the glory of God (180).”
Engaging God with others is also attractive to the Enthusiast. There was a pastor who tried to go on a prayer and study retreat. He found the solitude excruciatingly painful and came home defeated. Another pastor wisely encouraged this relational man to think about bringing friends to pray with him next time, to which he responded, “is that legal (181)?” The sacred pathways approach helps us understand that God is more concerned with us worshiping him, praying, and studying his word than exactly how we do so. If you pray and worship better in a group, make time to do so.
There are also some temptations that come with being an Enthusiast. The biggest is seeking experience for experience’s sake – like a spiritual drug dose. Dependency turns to experience, not God, and experience becomes an idol. An enthusiast should also be rooted in a strong church. Being independent is not only dangerous, but unscriptural. Paul sought the counsel of the elders and support of the local church in his exploration of faith (Acts 15). Another temptation is equating “good feelings” with “good worship.” Thomas points out that pure worship is “an act of our will in which we offer allegiance, praise, and thanksgiving to God (182).” Our feelings can motivate us but can not control our will to worship.
As an old song goes, “Celebrate, Jesus Celebrate!” Are we truly excited about the awesome king we serve? Are we expectant of his power and might to move and work in our world? Don’t be afraid! Rejoice! Take that step and worship God with gusto. Let us know how you engage him! Try the quiz to find out if you are an enthusiast. Don’t forget to come back next week to discover the Spiritual Pathway of the Contemplative.
Are You an Enthusiast?
Score this series of statements on a scale of 1-5. 1 is not true at all and 5 is very true. Any score of 15 or higher indicates a tendency toward this temperament. Keep track of your scores to complete a spiritual profile later.
1. I feel closest to God when my heart is sent soaring and I feel like I want to burst, worship God all day long, and shout out his name. Celebrating God and his love is my favorite form of worship.
2. God is an exciting God, and we should be excited about worshiping him. I don’t understand how some Christians can say they love God, and then act like they’re going to a funeral whenever they walk into church.
3. The words celebration and joy are very appealing to me.
4. I would enjoy attending a workshop on learning to worship through dance or a worship session with contemporary music. I expect God is going to move in some unexpected ways.
5. I would enjoy reading the book The Mystery and Excitement of Walking with God.
6. I spend more money on music and worship downloads than on books.