Passion Means Everything June 2 and 3, 2018
Scripture: Psalm 37: 1-11, John 3: 16-21
Well today we are concluding our sermon series called Greater Blairsville’s Got Talent. We’ve been exploring the idea of spiritual gifts, and to put a bow on our time together, you’ll be given a spiritual gifts survey as you leave today that will help you determine how God has uniquely equipped you to strengthen the body of Christ. We hope you’ll find this to be a blessing! And we hope you use these findings to be a blessing to others! Last week we looked at style and said that everything we do, if we want it to count, needs to be done in love. But in order for love to be fully expressed, it must from attitude to action. And that’s why were talking about passion today. Would you read with me?
Over the past several weeks, high schools have been honoring their graduating senior classes. After years of working hard, studying for exams, learning how to read, write and survive in this world, our newest classes of seniors are off to start another adventure. When I see posts this time of year, I often think about my own time in high school. I don’t remember much about my high school graduation, other than it was hot, sticky and miserable. We were stuck inside the gym on a miserable June evening. That’s what I’ll never forget. But whatever the speaker said that day left very little impression on me. I honestly can’t remember a single word or idea that was presented. I’m pretty sure the speech was written with the best of intentions. And I’m pretty sure our speaker had some good things to say. But a key ingredient was missing: passion. I’m not talking about a fiery tone or and excited rhythm or wild hand gestures, but a clear and compelling conviction that this was the most important word we heard that day.
Ludwig Van Beethoven, the great classical composer, said that to play a wrong note is insignificant, but to play without passion is inexcusable. To play without passion is inexcusable. And I’ll add that to follow Jesus without passion is equally inexcusable. Now, we’re all bound to play wrong notes from time to time; we are wonderfully flawed people and our flaws help make us who we are. None of us will get out of this earth without a few mess-ups, screw-ups and imperfections. So we might as well quit trying to play the perfection game. It’s just not going to happen. And certainly, we’ll fail from time to time and fall on hard times. But we shouldn’t worry over those realities. They’ll happen. They’re part of life. It’s passion, not our imperfections that should concern us. Because if we lose our passion, we along with many others, will have lost something truly important.
I remember the first time I was challenged to think about passion. I’m not sure if that’s what my professor what aiming for, but that’s what I took away from our brief conversation. It was the end of class and I was handing in my exam and he asked me a simple question- Why do you want to be a pastor? In all my years leading up to that moment, I don’t think I had every truly answered that question. I rarely questioned my call. I don’t think I had ever questioned the significance of a pastor. And I felt like this was what God wanted me to do. But I had never thought much about why I wanted to be a pastor. Yet I remember my response as clear as day: Because I want to help people. I’ve always wanted to help people. I honestly didn’t care what career I had, I just wanted to help people. That was my passion. That was my why.
When those words came out of my mouth, I felt a stirring in my spirit. And that’s probably the best way I can explain passion. Something that stirs the spirit. Passion is an intense fire that burns inside of you. It’s more than a strong emotion; it’s a clear, heartfelt desire that exists within you, wherever life takes you and regardless of the job you hold. It’s the underlying reason you do what you do. Passion is what keeps you going long after you wanted to give up. Passion is what your heart always seems to be drawn to, even when you try to shake it. And those passions? They’re from God because our God is a God of passion.
We don’t have to read too far into the Bible to discover what God is most passionate about. When God saw Adam alone in the garden and couldn’t stand to see this person alone, God gave his passion away. Quite simply, it’s you. God’s overarching passion is you. For God so loved the world, says John, and He’s sending His only Son not to condemn you, but to save you. You see, everything God does, God does with a passionate commitment to your wellbeing. Now and eternally. God has a passion to bless you, a passion to be with you forever. And God will go to great lengths to have that passion fulfilled. If that means offering a stern word of rebuke or discipline, God will do it. If that means rescuing you out of chains of bondage and sin, God will do that. If that means offering His Son, God will do that. And if that means putting some of his passion into you in order to grow the Kingdom of God, God will also do that.
You see, just as God has given each of us at least one spiritual gift, God has also given each of us a passion. One thing that stirs our hearts; a cause that lights a fire in our bellies. Jeremiah’s passion was to proclaim the word of God. He said when he tried to hold it in, it was like a fire shut up in his bones, and he couldn’t do it. He just had to preach the word! Your passion may be to right a wrong or meet a need. It might be to solve a problem or serve a cause. It might be to change a life or help a certain group of people. But ultimately, your passion is a form of partnership with God. And when your God-given passion is paired with God’s desire to redeem and restore creation, that’s an unbeatable combination!
Some of you might remember old Popeye the Sailor Man. Popeye reruns still played when I was a child, and I remember Popeye being a character full of passion…especially when it came to his girl Olive Oyl. If Popeye sensed that Olive Oyl was in distress, he would blow a gasket. The steam would come out of his ears, his face would get red, he’d pop in his can of spinach, his biceps would burst forth and he would utter the words, “That’s all I can stands, and I can’t stands no more.” And when Popeye saw something he could no longer stand, he moved toward action. He couldn’t rest until he had done something. That’s what I mean by passion.
I wonder what your Popeye passion is? What is it about this broken world that you can no longer stand? What is it that you just have to do something about? Those answers will reveal your God-given passion. Those answers will reveal where God has uniquely called you to serve in His church. I remember sitting in a room a few years ago listening to a group of folks saying, “Addiction is a problem in this area, and we must do something about it! They couldn’t stand to see people die anymore. Or the folks who run our nursing home ministry; they can’t stand to let our local nursing home residents go unnoticed in a far too busy world. That’s passion. Or two young ladies who saw the need to connect women with faith and couldn’t rest until a sisterhood was created. Those are just a few examples of people in our parish who have an internal fire shut up in their bones, and that fire needs to come out.
What about you? What are you passionate about? Or as one pastor calls it, where is your “holy discontent?” And every follower of Jesus has one. God can do some pretty amazing things through our holy discontent. Through a passionate man named Moses, God rescued Israel out of Egyptian slavery. Through a passionate shepherd boy named David, God brought down the Philistine giant named Goliath. Through a passionate preacher named Billy Graham, God spread the Gospel all around the world. Through a passionate mother named Susanna Wesley, God raised up a revivalist named John. And through the passion of leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King JR, God began to tear down the evil strongholds of racism in our county. All because they couldn’t stands it no more.
What are you passionate about, and what might God have up his sleeve for you? Friends, this is a question you need to answer. The passion God has placed in you is strong and vital, and the wrongs of the world are waiting for you to let God unleash your gifts transform those wrongs into rights. You have talent. But you might need to hear it again: Greater Blairsville’s Got Talent, earth-shaking, Kingdom-making, world changing, God-glorifying talent. You’ve got purpose. You’ve got gifts. You’ve got style. And I know you’ve got passion. And when you put it all together and offer all of who you are into the hands of Jesus, you will be a sign of hope and healing to a hurting world. Will you offer your lives to Jesus? Will you give your all to His great cause? Let that passion come out! Because to somebody, it will mean everything. Amen.