Passion empowers a person to go above and beyond the ordinary. A common phrase bandied about in many circles these days is; “Follow your passion.” I believe this usually means to explore your inner desires and pursue them with gusto. I would submit that this does not ultimately or truly lead to the contentment the phrase implies. Some people might be passionate about money or sports participation, and yet if something thwarts their direction they feel devastated – even purposeless. The Bible outlines a type of passion that is unrelenting and always meaningful, and rewarding – no matter our circumstances. It can be applied across lives, cultures and time – while at the same time remaining equally fulfilling for all who develop it. This type of passion is worth pursuing.
So in thinking about passion, some questions are in order. What should we be passionate about? How do we become passionate? And how do we maintain passionate spirits within us over the long haul? These are all valid points to consider. The Bible has real answers to these and other questions, given by our Maker Himself – who knows all there is to know about what makes us tick.
The Bible focus as to what to be passionate about is perhaps the easiest to answer. It is not the world’s answer (like money, prestige, entertainment, self-fulfillment) but something far different. In fact, John tells us passion that focuses on those types of things actually excludes the possibility of passion toward godly things:
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Rather, the Bible has plenty of explicit direction as to where our passions should lie. For example,
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things (life, food, clothing) will be added to you.
Or, how about this one?
This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
These are the types of pursuits that God urges us to follow.
And just how do we become passionate people? First we put our faith/belief into something into which we are willing to invest our time, money, and intelligence. We become convicted that this is what we want to do, and we do it. Consider these verses:
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
…constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval.
The process outlined in scripture, then, is:
Hearing the Gospel ➡ Faith ➡ Conviction ➡ Long-term Passion
It is imperative that the first steps be followed to arrive at the enduring version of the final step – Passion!
The Bible does not actually use the word “passion” but one that definitely carries the meaning of what we are driving at here. It is translated as (among other variations of “holding”); “to hold completely: urged and impelled from the soul” (Strongs G4912) It implies folks that are driven to do things they normally might not have done. It implies difficulty. It implies motivation that comes from a deep place inside. With godly passion, there is a calm, quiet conviction that will not be shaken by circumstances or time.
I submit that the Apostle Paul was exactly that type of a passionate man. He clearly put his all into everything he pursued in life. Even the years before his conversion show us a man of zeal – albeit misguided at that time. And what I see in the Letters to the Corinthians are many passionate pleas from a man who cares deeply about the recipients of his letters. He struggles with them – and for them – in his words. His emotions and concerns are spelled out in an open and vulnerable way that must have drawn even his enemies’ attention to his arguments. And passionate people will often find enemies among their peers.
I am reminded that the heart of what God was looking for, in the spiritual discipline of fasting (see Isaiah 58) – was a passion behind the practice. It was an empty exercise without a motivating force of passion for God and for His people. God expresses how passion looks, from His perspective, in this way in Isaiah 58:6:
Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke?
So today, when I read Paul’s long and impressive list of the hardships he endured, the idea of passion really jumped out at me. 2 Corinthians 11:22-29 The King James version says:
In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness…
No sane person would choose to go through all of the things Paul lists without being motivated by a driving passion. Paul endured so many privations and persecutions, abuses, physical and emotional suffering, tragedies and ridicule. Sometimes it is hard to grasp the extent of the reality of his daily life – fraught with danger and hardship. On top of that, he deeply agonized over the problems and needs of the people of his generation and his brethren. Paul claims he fasted often – presumably bringing strong tears and petitions to God in the process.
I thought it a good reminder that we too should be passionate for God and brethren and neighbors. We should be willing to endure suffering for the sake of Christ. We should feel things so deeply we that we are driven to use spiritual disciplines – like fasting – to cry out for help, or deliverance, or intervention, or direction.
Now in being (or wanting to be) people of passion – we will be putting ourselves in a vulnerable position too – just like the Apostle Paul. We often will have to “go out on a limb” to speak up for things that we see as critically important when others would rather we kept silent. We will have to rebuke apathy. We will have to endure false accusations. We will have to give up things that we like – like comfort and food and even physical safety – at times. We will sometimes have to right the wrongs perpetrated by others. And we may become quite unpopular in the process.
That is part of the reason the Apostle is writing this second letter to Corinth. He is feeling compelled to remind and explain to them some of his “credentials”, and reasons for exhorting them about the urgency of listening to his message. He knew he was up against powerful forces seeking to steal their hearts away, that just:
…as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
So he made himself a passionate “fool” in order to try to save them. v.1 The reason he had that passion burning inside him (that enabled him to endure so much) was to free people as he had been freed – through the redeeming message of Christ crucified. (cp. 1 Cor. 1:23)
In fact, the Lord Jesus uses this same word (Strong’s 4912) in defining his own urgent, driven walk to the cross. He was certainly also condemned for his flint-like passion – but he did not let that deter him from the course.
But I have a baptism (Greek: calamities and afflictions with which one is quite overwhelmed) to undergo, and how distressed (held, impelled, afflicted from the soul) I am until it is accomplished!
Praise God that Jesus followed his passion even to the point of death! It was all worth it in the end for him- and for us! God wants our passion too. No lukewarm-ness is acceptable. Remember Jesus’ words?
…Because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.
So let’s examine ourselves to see if we need to ignite some more sparks of godly passion in our lives. And let’s take it far enough to determine exactly what areas do need more passion. Our heartfelt love for God and the Lord Jesus? Our love for others? Our prayer life? Our love for spending time in His word – to know Him and His Son better? Our belief in the reality of the coming Kingdom? Our using our mouths, hands, feet, and intellects to preach His Good News? Our response to His love in the form of good works that glorify His Name? All of these (and more) are out-workings of godly passion.
After this discussion, I hope we can all agree that passion is not a noun – but a verb! May we each take action to assure that God’s passion is our passion too!