Passion is defined by the Miriam Webster dictionary as “a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.” It is also defined as “the suffering and death of Christ.” It is amazing to me that what Jesus did for us on the cross became the actual, official, even secular definition of passion!
When it comes to running the race that God has marked out for us as servants of Jesus, passion is key! Passion is the driving force that continually moves us forward against the grain of our selfish nature and all that life brings our way. It is the fuel that keeps us going, that enables us to live beyond ourselves so that we can truly live a life of loving God, loving people and living big. As followers of Jesus, our passion is a deep belief in and love for Jesus Christ. And, it is a sincere conviction that God can use us to bring the hope of Jesus to our world.
If we are honest, sometimes the feeling of passion seems to run out. We come to places in life where we find ourselves bored or distracted or just drained. So, how do we keep the passion? If passion really is key to longevity and effectiveness in our walk with God, then how to we maintain it?
If you have ever trained for a marathon, then you probably know something about “hitting the wall.” Typically around the twenty-mile mark, (I wouldn’t know, personally!) runners can experience an onset of extreme fatigue and even negativity. This is because the body is experience a depletion of glycogen, which has a profound affect on the muscles and brain. They say, however, that with training a runner can learn to endure this experience and push through. For these committed athletes, on the other side is often another running phenomenon: the runner’s high. This occurs when strenuous running causes a surge of endorphins in the brain.
For marathon runners, weariness sets in when their fuel source (glycogen) gets low. While in the moment it seems that it is all over, if they can push through then the body actually will switch to a new fuel source: fat reserves. At the time when it seems over, all that is needed is a new fuel source.
As followers of Jesus who are running the race of faith, we too can hit a wall sometimes. We can be running along and then life hits, something gives, and for whatever reason we know we are running out of fuel. And, just when it feels like we may as well give up, all we really need is a new fuel source. In other words, what got us here isn’t what will get us there. To the next thing, the next opportunity, the next level, that God has for us. Now, we need bigger faith, a greater effort and a new level of focus. As with these runners, if we will push through and not give up, then we can look forward confidently to experiencing the runner’s high for ourselves. That sweet refreshment of joy and peace and fulfillment that comes only to the faithful who endure.
Romans 12:9-11 says, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”
How do we remain zealous and keep our spiritual fervor serving the Lord? Below are four keys to “keeping the fire” of passion for Jesus and His Church:
God remains number one.
When our spiritual fervor or motivation begins to wane, it is time to lean in. Re-prioritize our personal relationship with God through a fresh emphasis on prayer, worship and studying God’s Word. Through time with him, our hearts are aligned with his and we become tender towards his presence again. We begin to love what he loves, hate what he hates, and our hearts begin to beat in sync with the rhythm of God’s love.
What God has spoken remains established.
In Luke 9:62, Jesus said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Second-guessing the work that God has accomplished in our lives is an unnecessary distraction and drain on our fuel. We must remind ourselves, “I am forgiven.” “I am called.” “What God has spoken to my heart WILL come to pass.” “I am equipped with everything I need to live a godly life and make a difference for the cause of Jesus.” We continue to stand on what God has spoken to us and has accomplished in our lives. Hold onto that moment when passion for Jesus was first awakened in you. Even if the memory of it is growing faint with time and discouragement, don’t let go of it. What God has begun in you, he will carry on to completion.
You were designed for community. The single flame of a candle can be easily snuffed out, but a wildfire is a force to be reckoned with. And, fire is contagious! When our passion is fizzling out, sometimes all it takes is to rub shoulders with someone who is fired up for Jesus to bring us back to life!
Keep your focus.
When you make a commitment to Jesus and set out to follow and obey him, life seems to come in and complicate that goal. You are on the journey heading to your destination, but then things start to go wrong in your marriage, your finances suffer, your health declines, or relationships go awry and your focus is off. I’ve heard it said, “Don’t wreck the entire vehicle over gnats.” So often people walk away from a marriage or throw in the towel on a dream or forfeit their destiny over gnats. Rather than focusing on the goal, they get caught up swatting at gnats and end up wrecking the entire vehicle. Don’t allow these pesky life-distractions to take your eyes off of the goal and your purpose.
Final encouragement from God’s Word:
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” Hebrews 10:23-24,36-38
Do not grow weary in doing good, for in due time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up. Galatians 6:9
Whatever it is that is coming against your passion, don’t give up! There is an immensely joyful and fulfilling experience in your journey of faith that is reserved for the faithful. Like the rich reward of a thriving marriage that is only experienced well into the journey of enduring commitment, like that runners high that comes only after hitting the WALL and pushing through, if we will persevere through the momentary walls that come our way in the race that God has marked out for us, we do get to experience, time and again, that runners high – which is the joy of our salvation and the exhilaration of continuing faithfulness before God.