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Youth Messenger Online Edition

January-March

From Apathy to Enthusiasm
Andressa Ferreira Barbosa

According to the Michaelis dictionary definition, the word “apathy” is a condition characterized by indifference; it can also refer to a lack of courage and energy. In other words, someone who is suffering from apathy is someone who is standing still, lacking action.

In physics, Galileo formulated a principle that was later confirmed by Isaac Newton and identified as Newton’s first law, also known as the principle of inertia.

Inertia is the natural tendency for any object to resist changes to its original state of rest or movement. In other words, a stationary object always tends to remain stationary, and a moving body tends to keep moving. It is a natural tendency for each body to maintain its initial state, which can only be changed by the application of an external force.   

Notice, then, that a stationary object tends to remain stationary unless an external force is applied that propels it into action.

Applying this principle to spiritual life, how can we be converted from apathy to enthusiasm if our natural tendency is to be apathetic? Only through the application of an external force. 

Our external strength

John Stott, a pastor known as one of the great names of the evangelical world, wrote a book called Why I Am a Christian. In this book he mentions some reasons that convinced him to become a Christian.

The first reason that John Stott talks about is found in 1 John 4:19, “We love [God], because he first loved us.” Therefore, as the author says, if we are Christians, the reason does not come from having decided for Christ, but rather because He decided for us. It is Jesus who is represented in the parables as the woman sweeping the house looking for the lost coin; the shepherd taking a risk in the dangerous desert in search of the lost sheep; the father who, even though he misses his prodigal son, allows him to experience the disappointments of his decision, but is always ready to come running to meet him and welcome him back home.

This is the external force—Christ. It is He who comes looking for us, who loves us first and gives us the hope of being freed from a world of disappointment and discouragement, leading us to a realm of hope, motivation and enthusiasm.

A personal experience

Have you ever felt the power of this external force? The truth is that we cannot obtain the motivation to act or even have the desire to become a disciple of Christ without obtaining individual contact with it. Trying to convey eternal truth without personally experiencing the power of Christ is a great inconsistency—and the testimony or experience of another human being is not capable of being a true source of power.

“All must obtain a living experience for themselves; they must have Christ enshrined in the heart, his Spirit controlling the affections, or their profession of faith is of no value, and their condition will be even worse than if they had never heard the truth.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 619.

You are what you love

You Are What You Love is the title of a book written by philosopher and professor James K. A. Smith. The author criticizes the approach to discipleship that considers the human being only as a thinking being, as declared by the philosopher Descartes in his well-known phrase, “I think, therefore I am.” 

The observation this and other authors observe is that simply filling the mind with Bible verses is not enough to change us. Too often there is a gap between what we know and what we do; new knowledge and information do not always seem to produce a new way of life. We might receive enlightening clarification on something, become firmly convinced and determine to put that light into practice—only to fail a few days later. Hunger and thirst for biblical concepts and an interest in being Christlike are not enough to produce a new way of life.

What, then, produces a new life? Reading the Bible and seeking knowledge of Christ is important, of course, but something else is needed.

The apostle Paul stated in his letter to the Christians at Philippi: “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment” (Philippians 1:9). In this prayer Paul first prays for love to increase. Love is capable of transforming life and freeing us from lukewarmness. And who is love and its source? God. In other words, it is from love itself that our motivation comes to transform life from apathy to enthusiasm.

Seeking strength

If you have ever experienced this encounter with God and made your decision to be a Christian, then you probably felt an inexplicable joy invading your entire being. This decision made you feel like being more like Christ in terms of words and behavior. It also made you feel a desire to share with others the reason why you had changed.

Perhaps for a while, this passion for new knowledge made you enthusiastic about church activities and missionary work. But why, after the initial period is over, is it too often the case that we no longer continue with the same motivation?

Our desires and motivations are at the center of our identity, which is the source of our actions. Our will reflects what is in our heart. That is why we read in the Bible: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

How have you been spending your time lately? With what has your mind been busy? A famous saying observes that thoughts generate words, words generate attitudes and attitudes generate habits. Confirming this idea in Luke 6:45, it is written that “of the abundance of the heart [our] mouth speaketh.” Therefore, we must constantly feed our mind with spiritual food and discard that which diverts us from Christ.

Another problem is the word “feel.” Unfortunately, “the heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). We should not seek our source of strength only when we feel like it, when a message at a conference touches our hearts, or when we are surrounded by energy in a youth meeting.

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:18). “Watch ye therefore, and pray always” (Luke 21:36). If we are not in constant contact with Christ, other forces will slow us down or change our direction.

Action generates motivation

Have you ever had the opportunity to learn to ride a bicycle? Or have you ever seen someone riding one? Just getting yourself on a bicycle will not cause it go by itself; you need to use your legs and pedal to make it move.

So it is in missionary work. “The Lord does not propose to perform for us either the willing or the doing. His grace is given to work in us to will and to do, but never as a substitute for our effort.”—Messages to Young People, p. 147.

Actually learning how to ride a bicycle requires some effort, but once the motion is started, cycling becomes easier and easier, as if it were a natural action.

“If set to work, the despondent will soon forget their despondency; the weak will become strong, the ignorant intelligent, and all will be prepared to present the truth as it is in Jesus.”—My Life Today, p. 38.

What can I do?

The Lord has given “apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11). These are just a few examples—this verse reveals to us that there are many talents and activities that can be utilized in missionary work.  What if we were to translate this concept into our world today? We could say the Lord designated some for music, others for digital influences, others for cooking demos, others for graphic design, others for sound design, others for photographers, and so forth. Do you realize that there are countless talents that we can use for the honor and glory of God?

In the year 2020 we saw a great growth in the use of digital media and social networks. We can easily share a verse, an inspired thought, a hymn, a healthy recipe or an illustration on social networks, thus reaching people who have not yet had contact with the Source of strength and love.

“Your talents will increase as you use them for the Master, and they will be esteemed precious by Him who has bought them with an infinite price. Do not sit down and neglect to do anything, simply because you cannot do some great thing, but do whatever your hands find to do, with thoroughness and energy.”—Messages to Young Peoples, p. 24.

Conclusion

So, when will it start? Why not now? Jesus gave the example to us when He said: “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4).

Think about it! There are many who live an entire lifetime without showing some loved one how special they really are to them—and when that loved one passes away, they often profess the deepest, touching and most gentle words of love possible, but to no avail, as the time when such words could have warmed this person’s heart has irretrievably passed. In like manner, we may profess to love Christ without ever showing it by caring for the souls made in His image.

Show your love today while the door of grace is still ajar. Preach the gospel of hope while many can still enjoy it and open the word of deliverance to a world that is perishing in the bondage of sin. Engage in the only worthwhile job whose results and satisfaction are eternal!

“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

“Will not our young men respond to the invitation of Christ, and answer, ‘Here am I; send me’? Young men, press to the front, and identify yourselves as laborers together with Christ, taking up the work where He left it, to carry it on to its completion.”—Ibid., p.25.