What are you passionate about? I mean really passionate about? Or put another way, What do you care about most? It may be a burden we carry, a call we’ve received, a dream we have, or a vision we’ve glimpsed. Whatever you call it, passion is the God-given desire to make a difference somewhere. What you are passionate about? We are all passionate about someone or something.
It might be your wife or your husband, a girlfriend or a boyfriend, maybe its your children, your grandchildren, your family, a hobby, some cause, a sport or maybe the armed forces. Today we are remembering with gratitude those who gave their lives in the service of their country. Passionate about defending our country. Passionate about protecting our democracy. Passionate enough to give their lives. You may not be called to give your life up but if you are a Christian you have been called to invest your life in His majesty’s service. What are you passionate about? Others can easily tell even if you can’t. When someone asks you about your passion, you come alive, your eyes open wide, your pupils dilate, you raise your voice, you become animated, your skin has more colour, you can’t stop talking about it, you feel energized. What are you passionate about? In John’s gospel we find Jesus encouraging us to be passionate about three things. To develop a passion for God, a passion for the Church and a passion for the lost.
1. Passion for God: Obeying joyfully in response to Christ’s love
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:9-11)
Jesus says he loves us with the same intensity of love that God the father has for Jesus. Do you get that? And Jesus also says, he has told us, so that we experience exactly the same joy he feels, secure in his Father’s love. When we understand how passionate God feels about us, cares about us, loves us, we can’t help ourselves but love him in return, freely, obediently, spontaneously and joyfully. Have you experienced his passion for you? He loves you so much he sent Jesus to die on the cross in your place so that you would not have to for all the wrong things you have done. He loves us that much. How passionate are you for God? The more thankful you are, the more passionate you will be and the more obedient you will be without needing to be reminded. A passion for God.
2. Passion for the Church: Serving willingly in response to Christ’s example
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because servants do not know their master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:12-15)
How do you feel about the Church? Are you passionate about the Church? I am. When we begin to experience God’s passion for us we seek out and want to be with others who have the same experience. Do you see the Church as an institution? As a building? As a denomination? Or as a family? Your brothers and sisters? Excited to be together? To catch up on the week and find out how they are doing? If we really understand how much God loves us Jesus would not need to command us to love each other as he has loved us.
But because we are frail and imperfect, we need an occasional jog. I don’t know about you but I can’t wait for Sundays to role round and to be with you.
The quality of our love for one another, the way we care for each other, marks us out as disciples of Christ. This week I’ve been at the Billy Graham Centre at Wheaton College in Chicago with church leaders from across the Middle East, learning about what God is doing in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq. We are a universal family and when one is joyful we share their joy and when one is suffering we all share their pain.
We heard about one of the most recent martyrs in Syria. The Revd Fady Haddad was the pastor of Qattana, near Damascus. He was taking ransom money to redeem one of his parishioners who had been kidnapped. But he was captured and tortured and killed because he refused to renounce his faith. He was very well known as a loving and giving priest. He used to make banquets on the Muslim feasts and invite his Muslim neighbours to celebrate with the Christians. And last Saturday that Rev. George Andrea and Manu Pedrosian were kidnapped in Aleppo. George is the director of the Bible Society in Syria. The kidnappers are asking for a ransom of $140,000. Please pray for God’s divine will in this situation. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” That is passion. A passion for God. A passion for the Church. Thirdly, Jesus talks about,
3. Passion for the Lost: Sharing freely in response to Christ’s commission
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other. (John 15:16-17)
Jesus is referring to our relationships with those who are as yet outside the Church. God loves them too and wants them to come to know him. And that is our joy and privilege to be his ambassadors. Like the disciples he has sent us out to take the initiative and make friends and influence people. That is why I went to South Sudan the week before last, helping to train church leaders to use Christianity Explored. It’s the newest country in the world, just a year old and still deeply traumatised after 50 years of civil war. On several occasions while we were meeting you could hear automatic gun fire close to the Cathedral compound. Safe?
No, it was not safe, but together with the pastors there, we share a passion to see strangers become friends, enemies become brothers and sisters and pagans become missionaries. I feel passionate about justice. I care passionately when I see people abused. I have to act. I can’t stand by. I get angry when I see people suffering from racism or prejudice or hostility because of their colour or their nationality or their faith. Apartheid is a sin. Anti-Semitism is evil. Islamophobia is unacceptable. I can’t ignore it because Jesus didn’t.
When you have a God-given passion you have to express it. Sharing God’s supernatural love for those outside the church is the quickest way to bring them into the church. You know the church is South Sudan is growing so fast they can’t train clergy fast enough or build churches quick enough? That is why we hope to go back in January to train all the clergy in two Diocese near Darfour. A passion for God. A passion for the Church. A passion for the lost. Now lets make this personal. I’ve shared as bit about my passion. What’s yours?
”Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.” (Psalm 37:3-6)
What is your passion? If we all cared about the same things, many of the needs in our world would go unmet.
That is why God has created each one of us unique and given us different assignments. Think about it – Alexander Fleming is remembered for… penicillin. Thomas Edison is remembered for… the light bulb. Henry Ford is remembered for the… car. Steve Jobs is remembered for… Apple computers. James Dyson is remembered for… But what will you be remembered for? What do you want to be remembered for? Perhaps you’re not sure. But as you delight in the Lord, he will help you identify your God-given passion. It may be a
4.1 Passion for People
Maybe its children, youth, or senior citizens. Maybe those who are newly married, unwell or grieving. You might have a burden for immigrants, prisoners, or for the unemployed. If you have a people-passion, you long to make a difference in people’s lives. A passion for people.
4.2 Passion for a Function
Passions about roles or functions might include administration or fixing the electricals, investing money or being creative with graphics. If that’s you, you’ll find it most fulfilling to serve in a particular role. A passion for people. A passion for roles.
Passion for a Cause
People who are cause-driven a significant issue needs to be addressed if God is to be truly glorified and the cause of Christ advanced. Some have a passion for world hunger, for human rights, the environment, or the suffering church.
If you have a cause passion, you will be enthusiastic about making others aware of the issue and encourage them to participate. With cause-oriented passion, you may feel a level of frustration that some are not as enthusiastic as you are. Again, we can’t all do everything. Ask yourself: Am I doing anything about my heart’s desire? Am I fulfilling my passion and finding fulfilment? Yours may have a passion for people, a passion for a function or for a cause.
Here are 7 questions helpful in identifying your passion.
1. What do I talk about?
Imagine that you and I are meeting for the first time. In the course of our conversation, we talk about a variety of topics. Then we turn to a new subject. As you are talking to me about it, you start speaking a little faster. You lean forward. You become increasingly animated. Your voice goes up a little. Your passion may be indicated by more active body language. You are talking about a subject that could keep you up late at night. It’s the topic that would cause you to jump out of bed in the morning. What are we talking about?
2. What do I daydream about?
Sometimes our dreaming allows us to imaginatively explore the desire of our heart. In these times, we may visualize or find ourselves being drawn as if by a current toward something that heightens our feelings and enlarges our capacity for action. The image that we see will hit an emotional chord. When you are alone, do you ever wonder, “What if …?” What is it?
3. What have I enjoyed achieving?
Make a list of your greatest achievements, but be sure that they are things you enjoyed doing. Others may not find them particularly impressive, but are important to you. What themes can you see?
4. What gives me the most fun?
When do you lose track of time? When you are moving in the direction of your passion, time can easily slip away. Our passion can make us less aware of what is going on around us because we become so focused on what we care about most. What might that be for you?
5. What has made a difference in my life?
People who are fulfilling their passion are making a purposeful difference, they find greater energy and focus as they positively impact those around them. Where are you making a difference? In what area would you like to see it happen?
6. What energizes me?
Your passion will energize you. Not only will you become more alive emotionally, but the activity or thoughts about your passion will actually give you energy. This is God’s way of moving you toward those people, roles, or causes that are his created agenda for your life. His will for you is partly revealed in your God-given passion. What energizes you?
7. Does it glorify God and build up other people?
Whatever your passion is, it needs to be submitted to a twofold test: Does it glorify God? Does it edify others? If your passion and its expression do not meet this test, you have not identified your God-given passion. Jesus was communicating the same principle when he said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit;” (John 15:5). When we abide, we can ask confidently, knowing that he will be pleased to respond to our requests because they will reflect his purposes. His heart’s desire for us becomes our heart’s desire for his cause.
I am really excited about the appointment of our new Archbishop of Canterbury. According to the Daily Mail, as a peacemaker he is not afraid to risk his life, reach out and shake the hands of his enemies. Apparently, the Right Reverend Justin Welby was arrested by the Nigerian army whilst on a peace mission. Soldiers with machine guns circled in helicopters as rebels blindfolded and bundled him into a speedboat and took the mild-mannered minister into the heart of Nigeria’s darkness. Although in extreme danger, the bespectacled father of five remained ‘completely relaxed’, on the peace mission for a church body. On another occasion, fresh from negotiating with Al Qaeda, he was arrested by the Nigerian army.
But you don’t have to be an archbishop to realise your passion. You are never too young to discover your God given passion. For Malala it was to campaign for education for girls in Pakistan. He father was killed by the Taliban but it did not stop her. Malala was only 11 when she began writing her diary for the Urdu –language website of the BBC. Newsweek tells the story.
“Malala wrote about life under Taliban rule: how she hid her schoolbooks under her shawl and how she kept reading even after the Taliban outlawed school for girls. In an entry from January 2009 she wrote: “Today our teacher told us not to wear colourful dress that might make Taliban angry.” In three short years, Malala became the chairperson of the District Child Assembly in Swat, was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize by Desmond Tutu, was the runner-up of the International Children’s Peace Prize. More recently she started to organize the Malala Education Foundation, a fund to ensure poor girls from Swat could go to school.”
And because of that she was shot by cowardly men who do not believe girls are created equal with boys. She is recovering in a London hospital from her wounds. Newsweek called her “The bravest girl in the world” She is, but you can be too when you discover and follow your God given passion. May God give you a passion for Jesus, for His Church and for the lost. Lets pray.
Lord, Thank you for placing your desires in my heart. Sometimes I have trouble focusing on the things that matter most to me. Sometimes I’m confused by the people around me, and I mistake their passion for mine. Sometimes I long to fulfill my passion, but I don’t know where you want me to serve you. Please be close to me now. Help me to stop and be quiet. Help me to listen to my own heart. Help me to listen to your still small voice, and to obey. In Jesus’ name, Amen.