Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
March 15, 2020
Passion needed in every arena of life
When I told my father that God had called me to preach, he looked at me intently and said, “Well, if you are going to be a preacher, be a good one!” He never explained what he meant but his words filled me with passion to become “a good one.”
I soon learned that one can seldom achieve success without passion. My early passion to become an effective preacher led me to realize that success would elude me unless I was passionate about the gospel and its power to turn people from sin to new life in Christ. During my seminary education I quickly observed that the effective preachers, the “good” ones, had passion while the poor preachers had little or no passion. Preachers without passion were boring; those with passion stirred people to respond to God.
So how does one preach with passion? Every preacher has to determine his or her own answer to that question. For me, it boiled down to this: Preach always about one of the basic issues of life, having asked the Lord to put one of those issues on your heart. Then through diligent prayer and study, prepare well a sermon you will not have to “read” to your
Passion becomes energy and power when the preacher’s words come from the heart as he or she looks into the eyes of the people while preaching. Passion is conveyed to the audience through eye contact. The less eye contact, the less effective the preaching.
Can you imagine the Apostle Peter having to look constantly at a manuscript while preaching at Pentecost? Would you suppose the Apostle Paul, when preaching at Athens about the city’s unknown God, was continually thumbing through his notes on some podium? Hardly!
Think of Jesus preaching about the Beatitudes on a hillside in Galilee. Try to imagine him pausing in his preaching and saying to one of the apostles, “Hey James, hand me my sermon notes; I think there was one more beatitude I wanted to mention to the people.”
Is it too much to expect a preacher to spend the time necessary to be prepared to stand up and speak passionately for 20 minutes about the most important ideas the human mind can ever consider?
To study the life of Christ is to observe a man of passion. There is no evidence that he was ever apathetic, aloof, indifferent or stoic. His words were compelling and challenging: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near;” “Follow me;” “Go into all the world;” “Your sins are forgiven;” “Seek and you will find;” “Love your enemies;” “Bless those who curse you;” “You cannot serve both God and money;” “Stretch out your hand;” “You will be my witnesses;” “Rise up and walk.” The gospels portray Jesus as a man of passion, emotion, conviction and enthusiasm. And he is the perfect model for the way we should live – with passion in every arena of life, not just preaching.
The happiest people are those who are passionate about their work. Sam Walton, the creator of the Wal-Mart Empire, said it best: “If you love your work, you'll be out there every day trying to do it the best you possibly can, and pretty soon everybody around will catch the passion from you - like a fever.” Ask yourself: Is your attitude toward your work contagious! It is if you love what you are doing!
Passion is a trait we admire in others, whether in business, law, athletics, medicine, education or any arena. Passionate people are engaged in life; they are seriously devoted
to their values and causes. A salesman who is not passionate about what he is selling will soon lose his job. Businesses want passionate salespeople.
A Christian oncologist advised his nursing staff: “You were not hired for your ability but for your attitude. You are here not to earn a paycheck but to serve our patients and to do so with compassion.” Compassion is love wrapped up in passion.
Life without passion is like sipping lukewarm water when you could be drinking sweet iced tea. There is enough apathy in the world; what the word needs is more passion. Hurting people will never find solace in the aloofness of their neighbors. People who are truly alive find it impossible to be indifferent to the pain of others. Asked why he chose to live as a missionary doctor in impoverished Africa, Albert Schweitzer replied, “There is a great load of pain in the world and I decided that I must get under my share of that pain.” That was a passionate decision!
Moderation or self-control is a good thing as, for example, in the drinking of alcohol. But moderation is also dangerous. C. S. Lewis reminds us that “a moderated religion is as good as no religion at all.” People without passion for their faith are likely to settle for nominal Christianity instead of a passionate Christianity.
Restraint can lead to boredom. Bored preachers will deliver boring sermons. The Preacher, in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, tells us, without feeling, that there is a time to be born and a time to die. But passionate questions emerge when we probe the meaning of our life. Why were we born? What is the purpose of life? What happens when we die? Is the grave the end? How do we deal with the dread of death?
The brevity of life should stimulate passion about the way we spend our days. On any given day we know not how much more time we have to live. That should motivate us to make the best use possible of the time we have left. We are wise to passionately remember that any time is always the right time to do the right thing for the right purpose.
If we have become lethargic, while there is time we can flee from aloofness and come alive! We can resist stoicism and begin to care deeply about the hurting people around us. Though we may not imitate Jesus perfectly, we can at least try! The more we try, the more likely God will give us the passion needed to live with a contagious enthusiasm that will become a valuable legacy for those we leave behind. Choose to live with passion as long as you have breath! + + +