Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
February 1, 2015
Are you passionate about anything?
His question left me speechless. My friend Elton Trueblood asked me, “Are you pregnant?” I sat in stunned silence unable to answer him. Then he explained, “I mean, are you filled with a compelling idea about which you must write?”
That question I could answer. Yes, I said, I feel driven to write about the faith that enabled the Apostle Peter to get out of the boat and walk on water.
“Then,” he said, “you are pregnant with an idea, but remember that birthing is a painful process that requires a lot of hard work.”
He was right. Three years later, after much rigorous labor, I gave birth to my first book, If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of Your Boat. Word Publishers took a chance on me and published my book. It was not a best-seller but we did manage to sell a few thousand copies.
Trueblood helped me understand the necessity for passionate motivation in Christian service. Effective ministry requires passion. Otherwise we shall wilt and give up in the heat of battle. When we begin to serve Christ we are thrust immediately into spiritual warfare. Only those prepared and willing to “fight the good fight” can survive. That is why we must be equipped with “the armor of God.”
Paul learned this lesson the hard way. That is why, nearing the end of his journey, he could say “I have fought the good fight.” Knowing that serving Christ is a battle with spiritual powers of darkness, Paul wanted his son in the faith, Timothy, to be well armed for warfare with Satan. In his letters to Timothy he tells the young man he will need faith and a good conscience to win.
By faith Paul meant confidence in the power of Christ to redeem sinners and transform them into useful servants of the gospel. That had been Paul’s experience. He knew himself to have been “the chief of sinners” but he did not dwell on his sinfulness. His focus was on the mercy he received from his Lord Jesus Christ! In a way, Paul was saying, “If Christ could save and use a sinner like me, he can save and use anybody!” Many of us know what Paul meant for we have felt that same way about ourselves.
A good conscience for Paul was one that was under the control of Christ. God guides us in many ways, one of which is through our conscience. Normally a good (consecrated) conscience will serve us well in discerning the will of God.
One key to Paul’s passion about serving Christ was his gratitude for Christ’s mercy. More than once he uses the phrase, “I received mercy.” For this underserved favor from his Lord Paul said he was grateful. He knew he did not deserve God’s mercy but he knew also he could not fulfill the purpose of his life without it. Mercy changed him and made him able to receive strength from Christ.
Paul knew the source of his strength. He tells Timothy that Christ strengthened him, and that Christ appointed him to his service. Paul saw himself as a servant or slave of Christ “by the will of God.” He saw that appointment, that privilege, as evidence of the mercy of Christ in his life.
You can learn a lot about yourself by pondering the question, “Are you passionate about anything? Reflect on that for a moment. Are you pregnant with a compelling desire to do something significant with your life? If so, are you willing to pay the price to make it happen?
Is there any greater purpose for living than to be a servant of Jesus Christ? For Paul that was the ultimate passion. If we choose to follow Paul’s example we will have to embrace a passion like Paul had, a passion that grows out of gratitude for God’s mercy. If we allow that passion to consume us we will realize we are helpless to serve well unless Christ strengthens us. When we allow the strength of Christ to flow into us we will soon reach the same conclusion Paul reached -- “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
God’s mercy led Paul to have a passion to serve Christ. Through Paul’s teaching, Timothy had that same passion. By the mercy of God we can have that passion also and find the strength to serve Jesus Christ. + + +