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  • Writer's pictureSinclaire Sparkman

Adjusting Our Passion to God's Will

The following is a sermon preached for R.H. Boyd chapel on January 21, 2022.

The word God has put on my heart to share with you today is about passion. We all have it, and we all have the opportunity to connect our passion with heavenly purpose. Let me first tell you just what I mean by passion. Passion is not the same thing as a holy calling. It’s a little bit more primal than that. Our passion stems from our deepest self, the very fleshy part of us that pulls on our whims and desires things. Passion is that pull of enthusiasm, excitement, even emotional obsession. It’s an energy as chaotic as the wind. Passion can flare up into a rage. It can flare up into lust. It can flare up into greed. Passion can flare up into any number of human pitfalls, but God can also take our passion and channel it into his greater purpose. Our passion can fuel a holy calling, or it can fuel our degradation.

The thing also about passion is that it can be scary. Too often we hide from our passions and prefer to rest on our laurels, doing the safest thing, which is nothing. God sees the truth of our hearts, our inner character, even if we are blind to it, even if others judge us too harshly. Even if our passion is hidden under doubt, God will call us to be bold and respond to this burning soul energy inside of us.

Consider Moses, who rose up with murderous intent against another, who suffered from a speech problem. This was the man God chose to speak to on Mount Horeb, the man who would lead the people of Israel on an Exodus out of Egypt. Moses doubted himself when God called him at the burning bush. He had many questions for God. He asked him all kinds of things, and the Lord was patient with Moses. God had relayed his will to Moses with a wondrous sign, but Moses was scared. He knew all too well what he was up against, and he failed to see that God was bigger at that moment. But our patient God responded to Moses’ darkness of doubt by sending his brother Aaron to help him and giving him signs so the people would believe him. The Lord sent Moses help as he cowered before the task in front of him. Moses was scared, but he still spoke to Pharaoh. He still trusted God to keep his word. Moses still led the people out of Egypt. Moses still saw his calling through. Moses adjusted himself to the will of God.

See, Moses was passionate about protecting his people. The Egyptian he murdered was beating a Hebrew as Moses was passing by. At the moment he saw this unjust beating passion welled up inside Moses. Imagine Moses listening to the crack of the whip, wincing at each cry from his brother, burning inside with his calling to save his people. In this moment Moses misdirected his passion into a killing rage. At his experience of seeing the brutal forced labor of his people, a spark of passion drove Moses to do something about it. He took it a step too far, but the fire of his holy calling was not quenched by his murderous mistake.

Moses failed to recognize his passion for protecting God’s people. He hid out in Midian, got married, and had a couple of kids. He let his passion lie dormant for many years until the call of God came to him at the burning bush in Exodus 4. Despite the Lord’s urgent calling, Moses was unaware of the state of his heart, he was unaware that the Lord built him with a passion that would pour into a heavenly purpose. Moses couldn’t see past his own awkwardness. Even after God showed him signs, he didn’t believe in himself. Moses tells the Lord he’s never been eloquent. He tells the Lord he’s unfit for duty. He doesn’t see himself as God sees him. He doesn’t see inside his own heart.

There are stories throughout the Bible of people who did not see their own inner character, people who did not recognize their passion until prompted by God. When Sarah heard that she would be pregnant in her old age, she laughed. God’s plans were bigger than her doubt. When Jonah was charged to take the word of the Lord to Ninevah, he ran and hid. But God’s plans were bigger than Jonah’s doubt. Simon Peter told Jesus in Luke 5 that he was a sinful man, doubting his calling to follow Jesus. Even Esther paused in fear when she heard her people were in danger. But the characters of the Bible do one important thing. They follow in faith anyway. They do what the Lord says even if it makes them uncomfortable. They set their doubt aside and let passion propel them forward.

Gideon is another Bible character who didn’t see the passion in his own heart, in fact, his inner character eluded him entirely. He didn’t know who he was in the eyes of God when the angel came to him under the oak at Ophrah in Judges 6. As he sat hiding stores from Midian oppressors, there was a passion burning inside of him to fight back. There was a passion to make things right for the people of Israel. This man, Gideon, would go on to raise armies, beat back the forces of the oppressive Midian, and be endued with the Spirit of God to restore Israel to peace. When Gideon adjusted himself to respond to God’s will despite his insecurities, his doubts, and his fears, the entire Hebrew nation benefitted and the rightful order of the Lord was restored.

It’s pretty easy to lose sight of our passion when we’re not tasked with saving the entire nation of Israel. It’s pretty easy to lose sight of our passion when the world goes topsy turvy due to a pandemic and political unrest. It’s easy to lose sight of our passion when it gets us into trouble. We probably all have stories about our passion getting us into trouble. It happens, just like it did to Moses. Sometimes we misdirect our passion into unhealthy behaviors that leave us embarrassed and living a life that feels unfulfilled. But the thing about our relationship with God is that he is so good at redirecting our passion. God can use whatever fire is within us for the good of those around us. He can take that thing that burned us and make it a warm fire that sustains not only ourselves but those around us.

Sometimes these episodes of misdirected passion can cause us to hide from God’s true purpose. Maybe you were once fired up about starting a church choir, but no one was interested so you just stopped singing. Maybe you asked for a sign, a confirmation and you didn’t see anything, you missed it, and now the world feels like it keeps moving on around you. Maybe you heard your calling from God and took the steps to make it happen, but you got left holding the bag when other people gave up instead.

Maybe God has laid his plan out perfectly and you still need to adjust your mind and heart into an attitude of trust and humility. God, I would say, is a gentleman. He lets us hide from our passion if we’re not ready. He doesn’t force us to take up the calling on our lives. He also knows if we’re willing or not, and he offers us the help we need just as he did for Moses. He lets us hide until the time is right for us to be shaken out of our stupor.

We all have passion, it’s true. Whether you’re a follower of God or not, anyone can find something they care about. If you don’t know your passion, take a moment today to pause and meditate on major issues. Which one stirs your heart? Is it homelessness, children, systemic injustice, addiction recovery, writing, preaching, teaching, clean air, or political involvement? There are many, many things that can stir up the fire within a person’s heart. This inner fire resides within all of us. It’s our soul’s energy, this often hidden enthusiasm that pulls at our beings. But that energy is not ours. To a Christian, that energy is God’s, and it’s in way better hands if we give him control of our passion. In order for God to effectively channel our passion into purpose, we must first see ourselves as God sees us. We need to put on the lens of the Lord and look inside.

The Bible tells us what kind of lens God sees us through. God sees our inner character. He does not count our outward religious accomplishments or accolades. He does not consider our physical appearance. God looks at the state of our hearts. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” And Matthew 23 shows us Jesus laying into the Pharisees about their puny religious deeds. He calls them hypocrites and compares them to whitewashed tombs, which look great on the outside but carry the bones of the dead and filth inside. In verse 23 he reminds us of the things that really matter, the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faith. A passion channeled through justice, mercy, and faith will pass the test of God’s all-seeing eye.

Do not pretend to do good with your passion without weighing justice, mercy, and faith in your mind, because God will see right through it. Stop and consider today, if you will, what that fire is that burns in your heart. Allow God to coax you out of hiding. Allow yourself to come into contact with the fire of your passion, and trust God to use it to warm yourself and those around you. Let us pray.

God, stir up our hearts today. Help us all to see what passion burns inside of us. Help us to set aside our doubts and fears and look to you instead for direction. Help us to surrender to your will and lead us into greater purpose. Keep us safe as we go into the weekend and throughout the next week. Stay with us and guide us Lord in your ways.

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