t the beginning of the New Year, I reflected on past years and then looked toward what God wanted to do in my life in 2017. The answer I received from God offended me at first.
As I unsuccessfully argued with God about my lacking passion, I listed all the things I was doing. I argued that my preaching and teaching were as passionate as ever, and I did my best to be there every time someone was sick or in need. I pointed out the sacrifices I had made that no one but He knew about. I felt I made a clear and convincing case, and was encouraged by sensing that God was listening.
After God patiently allowed me to unload, He began to speak. As always when He speaks, arguments crumbled, defenses disappeared, and I was left with the brokenness that only God could turn into His glory. In His loving and kind way, God took me back to when I started in ministry─the longing and willingness to be used. Comparatively, that young man was nowhere to be found. Instead, I found a man who had confused true passion with the very things that rob us of it.
Passion Is Not Busyness
While being passionate will certainly lead to being busy for God, the two are not synonymous. Busyness can steal our passion. The more we do without remembering who we are doing it for, and why, the more our passion for God can drain away.
When busyness steals our passion, there is a tendency to become disgruntled or even bitter. It applies both to those in the pulpit and in the pew. Regardless of how far God has brought us, may we never forget the place He has brought us from. I needed to be reintroduced to the young man who could not wait for something to do for God. Thankfully, God knew him well.
Passion Is Not About Sacrifice
When personal sacrifice becomes a bargaining chip, we have lost our passion. Like busyness, true passion will lead to sacrifice, but it will always be in response to what God has already done in our lives. When my passion is where it should be, my self-giving will be covered with humility.
Genuine sacrifice is not an effort to earn favor, but is offered as a result of what God has done. It will always point toward God, never to self. As I was reintroduced to the young man who started out in ministry, my regret and my repentance became about my not having enough to sacrifice in response to God’s love.
Passion Is Not Exuberance in Our Spiritual Gifts
The point I argued most vehemently about was the passion with which I preach and teach. “Lord, I’m still that same guy! I still look forward to the pulpit and I am still exuberant in my opportunities.” But as God pointed out, it is possible to be exuberant and not have passion.
God reminded me of the apostle Paul’s words to Timothy, “Stir up the gift which is in you” (2 Tim. 1:6 NKJV). While we generally focus on the “stirring up” part, what leaped out at me is that we can become settled, or even complacent, in our spiritual gifts. When those gifts become “what we do” instead of the gifts they are, we can forget they are gifts from God.
I don’t have to preach; I get to preach. I don’t want to be exuberant in what I do; instead, I want to be exuberant in the One who gifted me. My preaching and teaching should always be a response to what God has done in me.
Stir it up! Allow God to bring the best out of you through His gifts. Don’t do a job; fulfill a mission. Stand in awe of the fact that He chose you.
What Passion Should Be
Passion should always be a response to God. While that statement may seem simplistic, let’s delve deeper and see how it can show up in our lives. In ministry of every kind, remember who you were when you started. Are the things God stirred into you at that time still present? Hopefully, you’ve matured in them, but are they still there? If not, find them again.
While passion can be mistaken for many of the things it produces, true passion─response to God─can never be faked. While we do grow and move in God, I want the young man whom God gifted to be ever mindful to me. Passion is about why we do it and not what we do.
We must cry over lost souls again. We must lament over our not fulfilling our mandate to take every opportunity to further the Gospel for the sake of the Kingdom.
As I found out in my conversation with the Father, God can use me most when I am broken before Him.