by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” - Mother Teresa
Last week, as I write this, I received a free sample of a popular “energy drink.” According to the label, it contains L-Carnitine, Taurine, Ginseng, and B Vitamins. Oh, yes, and caffeine. Lots of caffeine. I don’t know about the other ingredients—except maybe the ginseng and B vitamins—but I do know about caffeine. The 12oz. can, which is what I tried, bears the following warning: “Consume responsibly - limit three (3) cans per day. Not recommended for children, pregnant women, or people sensitive to caffeine.” Three cans per day? Wow! Sounds like powerful stuff.
I tried the stuff and the first thing I noticed was that it tasted wretched. And after I had drunk most of it, I noticed something else: I was wired. I poured the last of it down the sink but by then it was too late. It was four or five hours before I could sit still for any length of time. I have no doubt what the major ingredient in this stuff is: Caffeine. I’d guess the can I drank probably had as much as about four to six cups of coffee.
There were times when Jesus’ disciples were “wired” too. Once, he took Peter, James, and John with him and went up on a mountain to pray (Mark 9:2-13). As he was praying, his face was changed, his clothing became dazzling white, and Moses and Elijah appeared and began speaking with him. Amazed, Peter said to Jesus, “‘Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.’” (Mark 9:5b ESV). But Jesus told Peter and the other disciples not to say anything to anyone until he had been raised from the dead (Mark 9:9). Another time, he sent out seventy two disciples (Luke 10:1). When they returned, they were “wired.” They said to Jesus, “‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’” (Luke 10:17b ESV). But he told them, “‘. . . do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’” (Luke 10:20b ESV). And when they were together in the upper room, Peter said to Jesus, “‘Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.’” (Luke 22:33b ESV). But Jesus said to him, “‘I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.’” (Luke 22:34b ESV). And only a short time later, sadly, Peter did just that (Luke 22:54-62).
Sometimes it seems as if every time the disciples were “jazzed,” Jesus threw a wet blanket on their enthusiasm. It wasn’t until the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-41), when Jesus was no longer with them, that they were able to continue without being stifled. Why? Two reasons: first, earlier Jesus had not been raised from the dead (Acts 2:24); and second, until then the disciples had not yet received the Holy Spirit (John 15:26). They weren’t ready. They were set to go but they didn’t know where they were going.
Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” (Rom. 12:11 ESV). He told his friend Titus that Christ “. . . gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Tit. 2:14 ESV). So enthusiasm isn’t necessarily bad. Paul also wrote to the Romans regarding certain people that “I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” (Rom. 10:2 ESV). In writing about this verse, John Wesley remarked, “They had zeal without knowledge; we have knowledge without zeal.” We need both. This is the key. The disciples were still learning. They had zeal “but not according to knowledge.” They had “good intentions” but they were misdirected.
Paul wrote to the Romans that “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.” (Rom. 15:15 ESV). We need both enthusiasm and knowledge. Our enthusiasm must be tempered by knowledge while our knowledge leads to enthusiasm. James wrote, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (Jas. 2:18b ESV). Our knowledge and our zeal can combine to show our faith and produce marvelous works of evangelism to win souls for Christ.
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Rom. 12:9-12 ESV.)