Living With a Contagious Spirit

July 14, 2019

Romans 12:2; Acts 4:8-13

“Misery loves company,” as the saying goes, but I think happiness loves company even more.  Happy people want to be around happy people.

All of us have those times when we feel like someone ought to throw a penalty flag on the world for piling on.  We feel roughed up.

We all handle those times differently.  I tend to retreat and want time alone, but if I am around people, the kind of person I need to be around is someone with joy.  I need to be around someone with laughter.  I need to be around someone that has a contagious spirit.

Years ago, “The British Medical Journal” published an article that stated that knowing someone happy makes you 15.3% more likely to be happy yourself.

The co-author of the study, Harvard sociologist Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis, wrote, “Your emotional state depends not just on actions and choices you make, but also on actions and choices of other people.” (Ibid)

I don’t know why it took a Harvard study to figure that out.  “Everybody knows, “If Mama, aint’ happy, nobody’s happy, right?”

But that Harvard study did find that happy people live longer, even those that have a chronic illness. (Ibid)

The study showed that happy people were effective in spreading their good cheer and that the happiest people were at the center of large social networks.   The study concluded that in many regards, happiness is like a contagious disease. (Ibid)

Well, there you are.  Happiness is contagious.  With that little bit of knowledge, those who are disciples of Jesus ought to be most contagious people of all.

We should have a contagious joy that transcends circumstances and creates a type of magnetism that draws others to us.

People should wonder how we can exude peace amidst the storms of life.  How can we be calm in the midst of anxious situations? How can we find comfort in the belly of the whale? How can we have assurance amid persecution and hope when all appears to be lost?  How can we have a calmness when the world around us is crumbling?

What disciples of Jesus have that’s different is the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Without God’s presence, the circumstances we are often in would create just as much despair, just as much anxiety, and loss of hope as it would for anyone else.

I am not saying that those who are disciples of Jesus are never afraid, lonely, anxious, desperate, lonely, confused, or depressed.

I am not saying that we are not immune to these issues, but the transformation we have through the Holy Spirit should make a noticeable difference in how we handle matters like these.

We live transformed lives because of the Holy Spirit.

Circumstances do not have the last word.  If they did, happiness would be a fleeting as the morning dew.

Instead, we choose to allow the power of Jesus to transform us.  Jesus helps us transcend the pain so that we rise above the demons that wish to consume us.

When the power of Jesus’ Spirit becomes evident to others in our lives, it becomes contagious.

Sometimes this transcendence may be misunderstood and mistaken for denial. Rightly explained, we can share that the joy of the Lord is our strength.

On the Day of Pentecost when the disciples and thousands of others received the Holy Spirit, the disciples were accused of being drunk.   Peter said they were not drunk.  It was just 9:00 in the morning.   Their joy was a result of the Holy Spirit.

That kind of joy is contagious.

The example we live before others, and the words of testimony we share about God’s Spirit being present makes a difference in other people’s lives. It’s a divine spark that helps others explore faith, come to faith in Christ, or strengthen the faith that’s already begun in their hearts.

According to Romans 12:2 we are not to be conformed to this world, but we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we may prove what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable, and perfect.  We are supposed to be different from the world.  Our actions are supposed to stand out.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:13 that his followers are the salt of the world. Salt has a distinctive taste.  Jesus asked, ‘If salt becomes tasteless, how can it be made salty again?’

Jesus is saying that we should have a positive impact on the world, and if we lose that impact on those around us, we’ve ceased to fulfill the purpose for which God made us.

Even amid uncertain and challenging times, we can have a positive impact on others.  Sometimes, our most challenging moments are the greatest opportunities to affect others.  Will others see our faith in God when the going gets tough?

Paul told the Christians in Galatia that our purpose is to produce fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Producing fruits of the Spirit is not a natural venture.

It’s natural to love self.  Instead, the Spirit teaches us to consider others better than ourselves.

It’s natural to measure happiness by how much pleasure, possessions, prosperity, and popularity we have.   Instead, the Spirit teaches us to measure happiness by fulling the purpose God has us for.

It’s not natural to place our faith in what we cannot see, cannot fully know, and can never fully comprehend.  Instead, the Spirit teaches us to live by faith.  When we do, it’s inspirational and contagious.

One of the people that has influenced me with his contagious life is Dr. Hugh Kirby.  I worked with him for 4 1/2 years at First Baptist Church in Hartwell, Georgia.

Hugh grew up in a mill village community in Greenwood, South Carolina in the ’40s and ’50s.   He answered the call to preach as a senior in high school.  He became involved in the Baptist Student Union in college and was voted the BSU President at two different colleges.

During the summer before his senior year at Furman, he served as a Baptist Summer Missionary and suffered for Jesus in America’s 50th state, Hawaii.

While I’m teasing about Hugh suffering for Jesus in Hawaii, while he was there, Hugh learned about someone who did when he visited the leper colony at Kalaupapa, Hawaii.

The only way to reach the peninsula by land is a three-mile trail that slowly winds its way down the tallest sea cliffs in the world.

These 1,000-foot cliffs, located on the island of Molokai, were once used to quarantine thousands of native Hawaiians suffering from Hansen’s disease, better known as leprosy.  When someone brought Hansen’s disease to the islands in the early 19th century, it spread like a plague.  (Ibid)

Agents from the Board of Health rounded up the sick and herded them onto boats like cattle. Some accounts say they dumped their sick cargo into the waves a few hundred yards off the peninsula and left them to fend for themselves. The first group arrived in 1866 with no food, no shelter, no help, and no hope.  (Ibid)

In the spring of 1864, a 23-year-old from Belgium named Joseph de Veuster arrived in Honolulu and was soon ordained.  After joining the Fathers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary, he took the name, Damien. (Ibid)

Damien spent eight years preaching on other islands before learning about the plight of the leprosy patients.  He went there to help them.  (Ibid)

Once on the island, he immediately got to work caring for the patients’ wounds and building churches, homes, and health centers.  He found that one of their greatest needs was the need for community because one of most painful parts of leprosy is the separation it causes, as those who suffer from the disease were quarantined from one’s family.  (Ibid)

Father Damien eased that pain for many of the lepers.  He helped patients find comfort in the Bible and one another.   He helped them create community.  (Ibid)

When Dr. Kirby went to Kalaupapa, it was one of those life-changing moments for him.  You might say he was caught up in the “spirit of Aloha,” which means, “to share breath.”

As he was there, he was caught up in the contagious spirit of a man who thought nothing of his health.

While missionaries who went there were scheduled to stay in the leper colony only a few months, Damien eventually became a part of the community for the rest of his life. (Ibid)

He eventually contracted the disease after spending several years among the sick. He said he didn’t want to be cured if it meant leaving the island. Damien died in Kalaupapa in 1889 after 16 years of service there.  (Ibid)

This year makes the 130th year of his death, but his spirit is still contagious.  I think that’s the reason his story is a part of Dr. Hugh Kirby’s life story.  Father Damien made an impact on Hugh Kirby, and if you were to ever meet my friend Hugh Kirby, you would say that he has a contagious spirit, too.

Hugh has a kind of magnitism that draws people to him and if you met him in the coffee shop and didn’t know his past, you might not ever know that he was a preacher but you would know that he lived with a contagious Spirt, and soon you would learn that

came from Jesus.

Do you understand what I’m talking about when I ask you if you have a contagious spirit?

None of us here are likely to give up our lives to dress the wounds of lepers in an unknown land.

Nonetheless, we all have a choice as to whether we will have an influence on the lives of others.  Even if we influence only one life, that would be significant because every life matters to God.

Do not miscalculate the influence lending a hand to our neighbor can have, or sitting and listening to someone in a non-judgmental way; or coming to the aid of a friend who is in crisis, or saying a kind word to a stranger, or sharing your resources with someone in need.

Your contagious spirit may come in your smile, in an infectious laugh, in the way you surprise people with small gifts of appreciation and hospitality.

Your contagious Spirit may come through your monetary gifts or your attitude in the workplace, classroom, or the ball field, or in telling someone why you believe in Jesus or attend your church.  The only feeling more significant than being helped is being the helper.

What kind of spirit do you carry with you from day to day? Are you more about giving or getting?  Is life more about you or others?   Are you contagious?  If I spent time with you, will your faith rub off on me at all? Will I know that Jesus matters to you?

If you are not living the life of a contagious Christian, what should you do?

First of all, you need to be a disciple of Jesus.  Jesus needs to be leading you every day in every way.

Secondly, you need some contagious Christians to hang around.  If they are contagious, you will learn from them how to rise above your issues and transcend them.  Let another Christian mentor you.

Thirdly, ask God for a new attitude.  There are a lot of believers that have stopped allowing the Lord to mold them in the image of Jesus. Consequently, they have forgotten to tell their faces that they are children of God and that the Lord loves them.

Again, I’m not suggesting we deny our problems.  When they are serious and we are struggling, we should look for others to help us work through them.

Problems will always be present.  Remember, Jesus is more than able to give us joy even through the storms of life.

What if we were all “new Christian contagious?”

What if we were “child-like contagious?”

What if we were “the first week back from Mission Camp contagious?”

I bet you are thinking, “You can’t be that way all the time.” I understand.

It’s like meeting a couple that’s on their honeymoon.  A few weeks later, you see them again, and they may may still be honeymoon fresh.   You can see it in their eyes, all love smitten for each other, hanging on to each other like they tethered together.

Then you see them four years later, and now they are tethered to a mortgage, two car payments, two children, and a dog, and that contagious honeymoon excitement for marriage is a little bit more measured.  He’s not even opening the car door for her anymore.

I’m not suggesting that we become some person that other people hate to see coming because we are always life is always so great and they say Jesus so much that you wonder if they weren’t held under a little too long when they were baptized.

I am suggesting that even when we experience pain, suffering, difficulty, tough days, even routine, mundane, nothing special happening days, that people can see that the Spirit of Jesus is guiding our lives and know that we have joy, joy, joy joy, down in our hearts.

Remember, Father Damon’s contagious spirit was lived out in a suffering community.  That’s real faith.  That’s honest faith.  There’s nothing superficial about that.

Living life with a contagious Spirit is about abiding in Jesus.  Sometimes we abide with Jesus in calm waters, and sometimes we abide with Him in the storm.  Either way, we can live with a contagious spirit.


Father God,

Fill us with your Holy Spirit. We acknowledge that we are like Peter and John.  We are just ordinary men and women.  But we yearn to be like them in another way, Lord.  We would like to have their contagious spirit.  When faced with difficult times and challenging times, we want a faith that is unwavering.  We want others to know that we been with you.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen

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