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What Are You Passionate About

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What Are You Passionate About?

River Road Baptist Church

January 28, 2007

What Are You Passionate About?

That’s the question we’re going to try and answer this evening.

I don’t care who you are or how smart you are,

Whether you’re young or old,

Whether you’re tall or short.

There is something within you,

Something you really care about,

A place that makes your eyes light up,

Something that gets you excited,

Something that brings a sense of fulfillment.

While I was working on this sermon, I went to the Internet to see what books were available on the topic of passion.  That brought back over 1,000,000 hits some of which you don’t want to know about.  So I tried typing “A Passion For…” and that still brought back over 22,000 hits.  Some of the titles included:

A Passion for Horses

A Passion for Parties

A Passion for Books

A Passion for Gardening

A Passion for Hunting

A Passion for Patchwork

A Passion for Coffee

A Passion for Ice Cream

A Passion for Chocolate

As I scanned the titles, I began to feel a little sad.  Even though there might have been some interesting passions scattered among them.  All of them were about temporary things.  Things people use to try and fill the boredom in their lives.  Sometimes we do that in the church.  We try and fill our calendars with activities, or we get involved in doing something more out of guilt than giftedness, and we sit and listen but don’t act. 

And then I thought about something I read from a famous Baptist evangelist.  He said,

“Everywhere there is apathy.  Nobody cares whether that which is preached is true or false.  A sermon is a sermon whatever the subject; only, the shorter the better.”

Those words were written more than a hundred years ago by a man who had a great passion for serving the Lord, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  In reading that comment, he might as well have been describing the state of most evangelical churches today.  Instead of great passion there seems to be great indifference or a lack of interest and concern.  People just want to be entertained.

I’ve been reading about Spurgeon and the problems he faced.  As I was looking at various pictures, one in particular caught my interest.  It was the picture of his tomb.  It’s a simple stone vault, blended into the cemetery between a road and a large building.  Spurgeon’s and his wife’s names are engraved in stone, but there is no information on the tomb itself about who he was.  The average sightseer might miss the stone vault (there are larger, and more impressive ones all around it), or on seeing it, not realize that it is the burial place of a man who in his time was more well known and more influential than England’s Prime Minister.  He once preached to more than 23,000 people in an age before sound systems.  He began at a declining church of less than 200. Once they outgrew their building he would preach in music halls with crowds of more than 10,000. When they completed their new church, it held 6,000 (that included the 500 standing room only spots).  During his pastorate, he baptized 14,692, many of whom also went on to become great leaders in the Baptist faith.

As I looked at that picture of Spurgeon’s grave, I couldn’t help thinking how much the church needs men like him today.  Even in his death he didn’t want to draw attention to himself, but always he drew attention to Jesus.  Spurgeon was not afraid to stand boldly for the truth, even when it meant he stood alone.  Preaching the Word of God was his sole passion.  He believed the church’s tolerance of preaching was beginning to decline, while some ministers were experimenting with alternative approaches and abbreviated messages.  He saw in that a great danger, and his concern thrust him into a battle that ultimately led to his death.

In contrast to Spurgeon’s comment about preaching, you have the article that I read doing research a few years ago in a popular preaching magazine entitled “Wasted Time.”  A well-known preacher was venting his own loathing for long sermons.  Since January 1 was coming, he resolved to do better in the coming year.  “That means wasting less time listening to long sermons and spending more time preparing short ones.”  He wrote, “People, I’ve discovered, will forgive even bad theology as long as they get out before noon.” – Jaime Buckingham “Wasted Time,” Charisma, December 1988.

Unfortunately, that perfectly sums up the predominant attitude behind much of modern ministry, a place where passion for the truth has ended.  Bad doctrine is tolerable; a long sermon certainly is not.  Long-windedness has become a greater sin than heresy.

Now, I don’t want to alarm you.  The reason I’m bringing this all up is not to support longer sermons, but to discuss passion for Jesus.

If we as a church are to continue to survive, it’s going to take people with a passion for following Jesus.  It’s going to take people with a passion for speaking His truth, and it’s going to take a people with a passion for His service.

This evening I want to take a look at a person who displays the kind of passion I’m talking about with every part of his being.

In Philippians 1, we see a glimpse into the passion that the Apostle Paul learned to live each and everyday with. 

Now I’m not talking about passion you try to escape life with but passion that can change lives. 

With that said, I think there are some things we need to discuss about passion.

1.      Real Passion Comes From God. Philippians 1:3-5

 

            3     I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,

          4     always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all,

5            in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until

now.

It doesn’t take much reading of Paul’s letters to recognize that the gospel is the singular passion of his life.

Right from the start in his prayers for the Philippian church he gives thanks with “JOY” for their fellowship in the gospel.

That passion for the gospel comes directly from God.  Its part of the goal that Jesus “laid hold” of Paul in the first place.

“Passion” is the God-given desire that compels you to make a difference.

Galatians 1:12,16     12For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.  16to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles

God took the way that Paul was bent and revealed the truth to him on the Damascus road and it forever changed him into a servant with a passion for that truth.

While the gospel is the same, the way in which the message comes out in our lives is going to be unique.

For James Dobson its – what?  [Family]

For Billy Graham its – what?  [Evangelism]

For Mother Teresa it was – what? [The Needy]

Everyone of us has a different bent that God longs to use to spread His Gospel.

Parents, I want you to listen to this verse very carefully.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even

when he is old he will not depart from it.

 

I think this is one of the overly misused verses in scripture.

The words that are translated there “the way that he should go” are translated in other places to mean the way that something is naturally bent.

What I want you to notice is that it is the way the child is bent and not the parent.

One of the things that we have to be careful about as parents is not to kill the passion that God may have put into our children.  We need to help nurture that passion.

2.     Real Passion Can Be Used By God.  (vs. 6)

 

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Did you realize that it’s OK to say “NO” to people in church.

Often times what I see in most churches are people that get “pulled in” and start serving wherever, and they can become very active, but not necessarily effective.

And sometimes it even seems like the more we DO for God the less we get out of it, the less HE gets out of it, and we end up feeling like not only our service, but our relationship with God is going nowhere.

But I’m inclined to believe that when that happens,

When we’re expending a lot of motion without movement,

It’s because we haven’t found God’s design of service for us.

We aren’t focused on our passion

Our gifts

Our style

Or the place he has called us to occupy.

He has called each on of us to serve him, but for each one of us that is going to look a little different.

When God has caused you to be impassioned or excited about where you are serving, or whom you’re serving, you’ll be more likely to have a strong motivation and a sense of fulfillment in what you’re doing.

You see it is OK to say NO to something that God has not called or gifted us for.

Now, in the past, you may have expressed your passion to someone who responded in a way that was anything but encouraging.  You might have been made to feel you couldn’t pursue that passion because:

·        You were too young, or too old

·        You didn’t have enough education, or had too much

·        You’re a woman, or you’re a man

·        You have children, or you don’t

Can I tell you this: When God truly gives you a passion.  There is no right or wrong.

 

When he puts it in you …He will be faithful to help you complete your mission.

That’s where 4:13 comes in.  You see you can do all things through Christ.

Real Passion helps you know where to serve, where to direct your gifts, and where to focus your efforts.  And it is not swayed by the world around you.

3.     Real Passion Is Not Changed By Circumstances

This is probably the hardest lesson for a Christian disciple to learn.

It’s still hard for me, but it does get easier and hopefully one day I can get to the same mind set that Paul had.

Circumstances are often Passion Steelers.

But lets take a look at Paul.  He’s in jail, in chains because of the gospel, yet look at what’s happening:

12Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel,

13so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else,

14and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.

15Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will;

16the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the  gospel;

17the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.

18What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,

One of the things that I want to make clear here is that Paul’s thinking is not “thanking God for all things including the pain and suffering.”  His joy is not coming from the suffering for Christ.

No, the pain is there and it is real, and you don’t have to like the circumstances.

But Paul’s joy stems from his perspective – his ability to see every turn and for in the road for what it is and how it fits into the total picture of the journey.

It would be easy to dismiss this passage simply as Paul’s putting the best possible face on a bad situation.

But that would be to miss too much.

Paul can write the things he does for three reasons:

         

1.     He has learned by the grace of God to see everything from the divine perspective.

This is not wishful thinking, but deep conviction that God has and will work out his own intentions, and that by His Spirit He is carrying them out in the world through the church, and therefore through Paul, and us.

In Paul’s thinking, there is nothing that does not fit, even if it means suffering and death on the way to the resurrection. 

                  

2.     Paul is a man of a single passion:  Christ and the gospel.

For him both life and death mean Christ and nothing is going to stand in the way of him doing what God has called him to do.

His is the passion of single-mindedness.

Illus.  When I was in seminary, I once attended chapel and the person giving the message was a well-respected missionary.

He was discussing the fact that too many people were afraid to do anything for the Lord.  He said they say they are standing around waiting for the Lord to open a door.  The problem with them is that they sit so long that they have moss start growing on their backsides.

Then he came out from behind the podium and turned around to the audience lifted up his coattail and said, humph no moss.

You see I’m going 120 mph for the Lord and if he doesn’t want you doing something you’ll know it as you feel the airbags deploy as you pick yourself up and change directions.

3.     Paul’s passion for Christ has led him to an understanding of

discipleship in which the disciple takes up a cross to follow his Lord.  Discipleship bears with it the cost of participating in the sufferings of Christ.

Paul’s imprisonment belongs to those trials for which “we were destined” (1 Thess. 3:3)

You see when you are right smack in the middle of God’s will, that’s when Satan will attack you the most.  He knows what will distract or derail your passion for service.  But we have to keep pressing on.

At stake for the Philippians – and for us is the admonition to put into practice what we hear and see in Paul, as well as what we have received by way of God’s teaching.

For Paul, he realized that no matter what happened to him he still would gain Christ.  If he lives, more people will hear the gospel.  If he dies then he will gain the ultimate object of his passion.

Conclusion:

The Philippians’ problem – and ours – is the strong tendency to speak the words For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain but in effect to live otherwise.

One wonders what the people of God might truly be like in our 21st century world if we were once again people of this singular passion. 

Too often for us it is For me to live is Christ + ___________.

 

You fill in the blank (work, play, accumulating wealth)

And the truth be known, all too often the plus factor has become our only passion and we end up saying: “For me to live is my work.”

Both our progress and our joy regarding the gospel are altogether contingent on whether Christ is our primary, singular passion.

What is your passion?

How are you living that out?

What’s getting in your way of serving the one who has saved you?

Prayer:

“Father, help us to have a passion and enthusiasm for life. 

To get up in the morning, looking forward to the day ahead.

To love You passionately and to love others passionately.

Restore to us the joy of our salvation.

Help us to remember all that You’ve done for us.

Thank You for forgiving all our sins.

Thank You for creating us for a purpose.

Thank You that I’m going to heaven when I die because I’ve made Jesus the Lord of my life.”

If you haven’t done so, do that right now.  Pray this to Him, “Jesus, forgive me of my sins and be the Lord of my life.  Help me to take the time to nourish my spirit every day, spending time getting to know You better.  Give me the power to make the course corrections that I need to live a more passionate life for you.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen

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