Why Passion alone can Backfire.
When I got saved I was 19 yrs old and I was truly transformed. I mean my sins where really gone. Within 4 weeks I became very passionate about my new found faith. I told everyone about Jesus including my drinking buddies. My passion for the Savior was amazing as I look back. It really carried me for a season and I was thankful for how God allowed me to feel so passionate for Him. But then I started stumbling and was shocked at myself.
Within a few short weeks I began to fail Him and stumble and it was then that the local church and it's weekly teaching, bible studies and worship times began to truly sustain me and it reignited my passion. It 8 weeks later I surrounded it all and allowed God to sanctify my heart. My pastor and other adults kept encouraging me , teaching me and guiding me in my new found faith and my passion continued.
Even when I was in college passion for Christ was within me, but it was not enough to carry me or sustain me. I needed times of prayer, worship and fellowship and I needed it often. It seemed like the more I prayed and hung-out with fellow believers the more passion I had and the more I could not wait to get back to them to tell them what happened since the last time I saw them.
Let's face the facts, you need everything about the local church Jesus intended it to if you want to be passionate for Christ and remain effective for Him.
Let's talk about passion in marriage as an example. When you fall in love you are passionate and nothing could seem to get in the way. But after the first few years the term " the honeymoon is over" comes into reality and you have work at keeping the passion alive more then perhaps the 1st few years. If you want passion and romance to continue you have to add a few things to keep the passion alive. In any marriage you must stay bonded by spending time together , sharing one another's hearts, sharing Christ together and protecting that love and passion with the principals of God's Word. A true successful marriage needs more then passion to endure the years, because temptations come to marriages over time as much as temptations come to our souls over time.
Passion alone wasn't enough to sustain my discipleship as a young man.
Listening to the predominant narrative of modern evangelical Christianity, you could get the impression that passion is all we need to live a life of discipleship to Jesus. If we can just become passionate and enthusiastic enough, we will have the fuel we need to fulfill the Great Commission and live the way of Jesus. It’s a “Bible camp” mentality that continues into adulthood for most of us, I think. Kids and Teens come home from camp each summer pumped up, but if they do not stay engaged and focused as you well know, that passion could be gone before the next Sunday. Revivals often leave people passionate for Him, but within a few short weeks if folks don't stay with the "spiritual disciplines" the passion of revival is like that of camp for kids., it's gone.
When Passion Falls Short
Jesus, tells a different story of passion in the Gospel of Mark when he is approaching the cross. At the last supper with his disciples, he tells them they will all fall away, but none of them believe it! Peter passionately declares, “Even if all fall away, I will not!” Jesus responds will a dire warning: “Tonight… you will disown me three times.” Peter simply cannot believe it. How could it ever happen when he feels this passionately about it? “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you!” he proclaims.
Jesus takes his disciples from dinner out to their favorite camping spot, the olive groves of Gethsemane, where he finds it necessary to pray. He takes Peter, James and John with him and tells them to simply sit with him while he prays. Instead they fall asleep. Jesus comes back and wakes up the slumbering disciples, warning them with these important words,
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
You probably know the rest of the story. They fall asleep again, right up until Jesus is betrayed. The whole situation takes them off guard and, just as Jesus predicted, they all fall away, and Peter disowns Jesus three times.
Passion wasn’t enough for the disciples to stay awake and pray with Jesus. Passion wasn't enough for them to remain firmly loyal to Jesus in the face of adversity and threat. Passion wasn't enough for them to keep their promises of fidelity to Jesus. Passion just isn't enough today either.
That’s why Jesus could predict they would all fall away. He knew that they were simply attempting to live on passion alone, and he knew that it wouldn't be enough for them when temptation came.
Training That Sustains Us
That’s why he urged them to watch and pray, so that you will not fall into temptation! The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. In other words, the passion is there, but you need more than passion. You need training and continued training. We need training often as well. Jesus created the body of Christ and His church to be a source for keeping us trained and spurred on and encouraged, so when we walk into the world weekly we can keep our passion by way of watching and praying with our fellow believers.
Why? Because my spirit is willing (I love ?....!), but my flesh is weak (I’m not very good at it!).
In the same way, passion was not enough for the disciples to remain faithful in trial. They desperately wanted to come through for Jesus, I’m sure. They genuinely thought that they could, too. They assumed their passion would carry them, but it wasn't enough. They needed training. They needed to learn to watch and pray, so that when temptation comes they will have the capability to actually do what they so desperately want to do.
We need the same thing, if we’re going to follow Jesus as disciples. That’s what “spiritual disciplines” are all about, training us so that we can be poised and ready for the trials and temptations that come our way as we join Jesus in his work.
I have to remind myself of this every once in awhile. My passion is not enough to sustain me as pastor either, I need to submit to a regimen of training so that my flesh isn’t weak on the day of temptation. This is why we begin each week in worship at Deland Nazarene Church. We worship, pray, read & hear the Scripture together. It’s why we gather on Sunday nights in the fall and throughout the year to celebrate what God is doing in our midst in small groups and training. It’s why we encourage people to sign up for a discipleship group , Sunday school group, mission trips , camps , retreats and attend Wednesday night bible studies.
As we engage in these weekly and seasonal exercises, these predictable patterns, we find that God’s grace inhabits those spaces and he begins to transform us. We become spiritually “strong” not by trying really hard, but by indirect effort and patterns of commitment. That’s how we train as disciples… doing little, seemingly insignificant things weekly that allow us to do the things we cannot do by direct effort.
How are you and your family doing at training as disciples right now? What are some of the results you've seen so far? What adjustments do you need to make?
My hope & prayer is you will review your spiritual disciplines in these last days and seek what The Lord would have you do to endure until the end.
You are loved!