Passion is a sure sign of life (if I were teaching Sunday school this week)

  • First, this important PSA: Let me know if you are interested in this “If I were teaching Sunday School this weekend” segment. I skipped it last week and I’m not sure that anyone noticed!

If I Were Teaching – Week #4

Let’s start with links to the first three weeks.

  1. New Weekly Feature” – introduces the concept.
  2. Then “JESUS” – explores who Jesus is and who Jesus is to us.
  3. The Good Wine of “Excellence”

“Next time,” Week-3 concluded, “we will talk about Passion and how it can add a charge of life to our faith.”

Even though I did not write the Passion lesson, last Sunday’s article on the church garden could well have been written with the subject in mind. “Joy and Promise in the WFPC Giving Garden” is a great introduction to the idea of what passion does for the life of faith.

Without passion the witness of The Church will never begin to approach the vitality and the life Jesus offers the world. Without passion, I would argue, I’m not sure that it’s even Jesus we’re talking about.

Opening Prayer:

Loving and patient God, we know that you want only the best for us, and we understand that you have invited us into the best life of all. Forgive us, then, when the way that we engage our faith in you does so little to excite our passions or communicate the wonder and the joy that is ours in Christ. Today, in this space, as we talk about what it means to have a life-charged faith, please teach us and encourage us as we grow. Help us to remember that, in large part, we are the message, and that people often make a decision to either receive Jesus or to reject him based on how Jesus is reflected in us. So shine on us, we pray, and shine though us too. Amen

Illustration:

I have, fortunately, a ton of material to draw from when it comes to passion.

First and foremost I am married to a (recently retired) Presbyterian preacher who literally shines with the light of Jesus and who throws herself into every aspect of life and ministry with “intense conviction, boundless enthusiasm, and compelling emotion” (definition of passion from “10 Life-Charged Words“).

“You almost have to believe,” one person told me in explaining why they joined the church, “in response to the joy and conviction with which Rebekah believes.”

Passion, quite simply, lights up everything around it.

Going to church and not seeing passion for Jesus in leaders is not only disappointing, it is deadly.

A second illustration is a story I love to share when I’m speaking to men’s groups. The setting is London, probably circa 1900. A man steps from his hotel onto the street and sees hundreds of people hurrying toward a church a few hundred yards away.

Among the crowd he notices the recognizable figure of George Bernard Shaw, an outspoken atheist. Curious, he approaches Shaw and asks where he is headed. “To church,” the playwright relied.

“But I did not think you accepted this message,” the man exclaimed.

“I do not,” Shaw responded. “But the man who is speaking this morning believes with such a passion that I cannot stay away.

A few questions for discussion:

Here’s my definition of passion again: “intense conviction, boundless enthusiasm, and compelling emotion.” Think about that for a moment, then answer/consider the following questions:

  1. Share three things you are passionate about.
  2. How hard – or easy – is it to talk about these things, the ones you are passionate about?
  3. Does passion change? Have you ever lost passion – or gained it – for something in your life?

Some practical steps to gain passion:

This list is modified from page 54 of “10 Life-Charged Words”

  • Make a deliberate decision to believe with conviction – “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
  • Step into belief by engaging in belief-grounded actions – pray, invite someone to church, join a small group, read the Bible, serve in mission, give generously.
  • Testify – tell a friend about your decision, keep a journal, share your story at church
  • Ask God daily to fill you and renew you and use you.

Enthusiasm tends to build on itself.

Passion in belief is a lot like passion in love. I know a lot of men who feel they have “lost” the passion in their marriage. What has happened, however, is that they stopped trying, stopped doing the many small things – acts of service and kindness and generosity – that fueled the fire both in themselves and their spouse.

Closing question:

This should keep us talking for a while!

Do you want to experience more passion/enthusiasm/emotion in your life of faith? or does the idea make you a little uneasy? Share why you may lean more in one direction than the other.

This should also provide fuel for prayer. Not only in this small group setting, but during the week. Promise, out loud, the person sitting two to your left, that you will pray for them daily this week. Then, at least twice before next weekend, call them and reaffirm that commitment to prayer.

Closing Prayer:

We are going to repeat the opening prayer. Listen carefully to how it sounds maybe a little different, having had the conversation about passion:

Loving and patient God, we know that you want only the best for us, and we understand that you have invited us into the best life of all. Forgive us, then, when the way that we engage our faith in you does so little to excite our passions or communicate the wonder and the joy that is ours in Christ. Today, in this space, as we talk about what it means to have a life-charged faith, please teach us and encourage us as we grow. Help us to remember that, in large part, we are the message, and that people often make a decision to either receive Jesus or to reject him based on how Jesus is reflected in us. So shine on us, we pray, and shine though us too. Amen

Peace and love and blessings – DEREK

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