Last week was a well-timed kickoff of my online virtual Zoom study for Discovering Jesus…
Getting excited about doing something does not guarantee you will succeed at it, maintaining enthusiasm when the initial excitement has worn off will. I was reflecting today on the fact that my youngest son, Caleb, is at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas. He is pursuing a degree in Engineering and playing football. I remembered back to his junior year in high school. The football season was over and he was thinking about the future. He came home one day and said to me, “Dad, I want to play college football.”
I thought that was a good ambition for him because he is a good competitor and has enough talent to make this a goal. The next day, he said it again, “Dad, I want to play college football.” This routine went on for a few weeks and I was genuinely pleased with the excitement in his voice as he talked about this goal. The problem was, he wasn’t working very hard to get there. He hadn’t made a commitment to weightlifting. He had no plans for organizing his schedule around being in shape to be a premiere athlete. He was not investigating a training regimen that would hone his skills to be able to compete at the next level. He had plenty of initial excitement. The question was whether he would have the long term passion necessary to reach his goal.
I finally said to him, “Caleb, you are not working hard enough to attain what you say you want. So, either start working harder or stop talking about it.”
I see this same scenario played out in Ezra 3. The book of Ezra started out with an exciting proclamation. King Cyrus paved the way for people to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple so the worship of God could be reinstated. I cannot think of a better goal for the people of Israel and, of course, the people were thrilled. Ezra 3 begins with the words, “When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, the people assembled together as one in Jerusalem. Then Joshua son of Jozadak and his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his associates began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it . . .” (v. 1-2) It took seven months to even begin the work of building the altar, let alone start on the temple. Later in the chapter we read, “In the second month of the second year after their arrival at the house of God in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak and the rest of the people (the priests and the Levites and all who had returned from the captivity to Jerusalem) began the work.” (v. 8 ) The work on the temple did not even begin until 26 months after their arrival.
So much of life is this way. The beginning of the venture is exciting and easy to get motivated for. The process of the venture is a different story. Weddings are filled with excitement but marriages need long-term enthusiasm. Giving birth is exciting but parenting takes long-term enthusiasm. Getting hired is exciting but building a career takes long-term enthusiasm. Trusting in Christ as your savior is exciting but living a godly life takes long-term enthusiasm.
I wasn’t sure how Caleb was going to respond to my challenge. He could have easily grown frustrated with me and felt like I was being a discouragement. Or, he could have taken the challenge to heart and added the necessary commitment to his desire. The fact that he is playing college football today is a testament to the fact that he found the perseverance to stay at his goal. He has a regular, disciplined workout schedule. He has progressive and aggressive goals to get better at his pursuit. His current success was initiated by an exciting goal but it has been maintained by solid, long-term enthusiasm.
The application seems painfully obvious to me. I am energized by the prospect of being a godly man who can help people grow in their most important relationships. I now need to stay at it with daily, enduring interest.