Passion: Intense, overwhelming feelings
The word passion can be used in a variety of contexts. It can relate to the intense feelings between a young man and a young woman. It can relate to the drive for a particular sport or activity. Or it can refer to the deep motivating force of a person’s life.
Most people are passionate about something. It could be music, sports, business or a particular breed of dog. A person with little passion is a colorless person. Passion is a part of what it means to be human. Passion stirs something deep within us and motivates us to act in a certain way. When our passion is aroused, other things fade into the shadows. Passion can be overpowering; taking over a person’s will. Passion can be channeled in a positive direction or in a negative direction.
The Apostle Paul was a passionate person. As the Pharisee Saul, he passionately persecuted the infant church. He saw it as his duty to wipe out this threat to the established order. When he crashed into the risen Jesus, everything changed. He did not become a passive person. God redirected his passion toward advancing the cause of Christ in the world. Paul became dominated by the passion to know Christ and to make Him known. He summed up his passion in Philippians 3:7-14.
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
There are some important lessons we can learn from Paul about passion.
Passion is intentional and focused.
A passionate person without a focus is merely hyperactive. True passion is focused on something of value; at least to the individual. Others may not understand a person’s passion, but if that person truly values something, their passion is genuine. There are many things that can stir the passion within us. Not all passions are of equal value, but all passions burn hot; at least for a time.
Paul’s passion was for Christ. Paul had known religion, prestige, and power. All of these faded in the light of knowing Jesus Christ. From the time Paul met Jesus, face to face, on the road to Damascus, until his death, he was focused on getting to know Jesus better. He devoted all of his life to a single cause; making Jesus known to the world. God used Paul’s passion to transform the known world of the time.
I wish that my passion was as white hot as Paul’s. Deep down, I am devoted to Christ, but my passion ebbs and flows. There are times when it bursts forth with great energy. There are also times when it is a slow burn. Not all of us can live with the level of intensity that Paul demonstrated, but we can all be passionate about Christ.
Passion puts things into perspective.
Paul had achieved many things in his life. He had attained all the important credentials of his society. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. (Philippians 3:4b-6) Paul willingly set all of these aside in order to know Christ. All of his accomplishments were temporary. They had become a barrier to his true quest. In comparison to knowing Christ, his accomplishments amounted to nothing.
We are often impressed with credentials and accomplishments. We tend to evaluate our worth by the medals we have earned; be that degrees or positions or acquisitions. All of these things are only temporary. Their shine quickly wears off. They will all perish. But knowing Christ is of eternal value.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18
Passion requires action.
When Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians, he was in prison, nearing the end of his life. He had every right to coast to the end. Instead, he turned up the heat. He realized that the race is not over until he crossed the finish line. So he determined to give it every ounce of energy he had.
Because we had a severely cold winter this year, we used our fireplace a lot. I would bring in wood, build the fire and light it. Soon it would be blazing, sending comforting warmth into the room. But my work was not down. I had to tend to the fire, if I wanted it to continue to blaze. It meant rearranging the burning wood and adding more fuel regularly. If I failed to do that, the fire would burn down to coals and then go out.
Our passion for Christ is like that fire. When we first come to faith, our passion burns bright. We think it will never dim. But over time our passion begins to burn low. Unless we continually add fuel to our passion, it will smolder and go out. It can be rekindled, and Christ often has to do that for us, but we lose out if we let it fade. Paul never stopped fueling his passion for Christ. We would do well to follow his example.
God has placed within all of us an energy source called passion. We have the freedom to use that passion as we wish. We can choose to channel our passion toward temporal things or toward eternal things. On what are you spending your passion?