Yesterday I told you a story about an amazing feat by Harry Houdini in which he escaped from locked handcuffs before a roaring crowd—incredible stuff! He later admitted that he stopped repeatedly to address the crowd because he needed their applause to keep up his enthusiasm!
Two things set Houdini free: (1) his knowledge of what he knew to be true and (2) the cultivation of his own enthusiasm.
What an essential role enthusiasm plays in our lives! In many ways, it is the key ingredient that frees us from the cramping, dark, overheated confinement of a task. When the odds are against us, the hours are long, and the end is not yet in view, enthusiasm rescues us from the temptation to quit—or run away—or complain. It takes the grit and grind out of boredom. It calls in fresh troops when the battle gets long and the body gets weary.
Athletes feed on it. Salesmen are motivated by it. Teachers count on it. Students fail without it. Leadership demands it. Projects are completed because of it. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s motto is as true today as the day he wrote it:
Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.
Few characteristics are more contagious, more magnetic. I’m convinced that one of the reasons God gives us so many personal promises in His Word is to stir up our enthusiasm—to build a bonfire in the steam-room of our souls.
Houdini had it right: Knowledge is essential—but knowledge without enthusiasm is like a tire without air . . . like a pool without water . . . like a bed without sheets . . . like a “thank you” without a smile. Remove enthusiasm from a church service on Sunday and you have the makings of a memorial service at a mortuary on a Monday. Remove enthusiasm from the daily whirl of family activities and you’ve made a grinding mill out of a merry-go-round. Enthusiasm acts as the oil on Saturdays in our home when it’s cleanup day and the family machine needs a boost.
Two men were in a military prison. One was sad and depressed. The other was quite happy. The sad soldier lamented that he had gone AWOL and was in for thirty days. His smiling companion replied that he had murdered a general and was in for three days. Astonished, the gloomy GI complained, “That isn’t fair! Your crime was far more serious. Why am in for thirty days—and you for only three?” Still smiling, the other answered, “They’re going to hang me on Wednesday.”
The difference? Enthusiasm.