Yesterday, Norma Jean and I boarded a flight out of Orlando for Cincinnati, Ohio. While waiting at our gate I went to get us something to eat. As I approached the food court, I could hear raucous cheers echoing down the concourse.
“What’s going on?” I wondered.
When I arrived, I found out. A large crowd had gathered watching the Chiefs-Bengals AFC playoff game. And there were a lot of Bengal fans cheering as their team marched down the field toward a game-winning field goal in overtime. Last week I witnessed a similar scenario when the Chiefs won in overtime. And felt the fervor of their 73,377 fans cheering in Arrowhead Stadium.
Everyone is passionate about something or someone. Whether it’s sports, hunting, fishing, business, a hobby, or some other personal interest, most people have something in life that gets them excited.
This year, as we pursue our theme “Let’s Renew in ‘22,” we’re offering a word each week, that speaks to an area of our spiritual lives in which we may need renewal. Our word of the week is “passion.”
In his excellent book “Renewing Your Spiritual Passion,” Gordon MacDonald makes this observation about passion. “It is hard to measure and difficult to pin down. But you know when you have it, and you are quite aware when you don’t.”
“One feels passion; it seizes you,” MacDonald continues. “Passion stimulates human performance: superior or excellent performance, strange or bizarre performance, compassionate or sacrificial performance.”
Sadly too many today are more passionate about the outcome of a football game than they are about spiritual matters. Even among those who profess Christianity. Oh, they attend church service. Take communion. Engage in some activities. But passion is missing.
It’s possible, as Jonathan Edwards wrote in 1746 in his book “The Religious Affections,” for our religion to become “a mere lifeless formality.” To allow Satan to deceive us into thinking doctrinal correctness is more important than emotional engagement, (Jn 4:23-24), to steal our joy of faith (Phil. 1:25), and rob us of a relationship in which we delight in walking in the way of the Lord (Ps. 119:35).
Our passion ought to be reflected in our worship. However, too often in our sincere desire to do things “decently and in order,” we’ve sucked the passion right out of our assemblies. The command to worship God “in spirit and in truth” is two-fold. While truth must be respected, taught, and practiced, it is also equally vital to worship with zeal, enthusiasm, and passion.
As we sing and “make melody in our hearts” the inward passion for praising God out to be reflected in our outward demeanor. The Psalmist said, “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord! (Ps 122:1). Is worship a joyous experience, or a drudgery to be endured?
The command not to neglect the worship assembly in Hebrews 10:25 is preceded by this exhortation. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” Our fellowship should stimulate us. Spur us on. And stir us up.
Passionate worship refreshes the soul. Renews the spirit. And revives the heart. It has the power to recharge our spiritual batteries.
But our passion for spiritual matters is not to be confined to a church building once a week but to be lived daily in our various pursuits of life. When we are truly transformed in mind and heart; people should see our passion and pursuit of pleasing the Lord. It is the joy of our salvation that David wrote about in Psalm 52:12.
Sometimes, like David, we need a revival and restoration of our joy. Our passion may be drained by unconfessed sin, unscriptural attitudes, unresolved conflict or an undernourished spirit. Through fervent prayer, scriptural meditation, and enthusiastic worship, we can reconnect with God and rediscover our passion.
Hegel once observed that “Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.” While this is true in the sports arena, its equally true in our spiritual pursuits.
We must not be satisfied with the status quo. With being average. Mediocre. Or merely going through the motions. Passion pushes us to new heights. Deeper devotion. Greater service. And higher aspirations.
May we embody the plea and prayer of the Psalmist, Will You not revive us again, That Your people may rejoice in You?’ (Ps 85:6).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman