As my grandchildren will be aware, I am by nature a passionate person. I tend to live life with great zest. Perhaps not surprisingly passion also marks my relationship with the Lord Jesus. I love Jesus from the very depths of my being.
Every time the Lord’s Supper is celebrated, I am overwhelmed by the love of Jesus ‘for me’. Always at the forefront of my thinking are the words of the apostle Paul: “The Son of God… loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2.20). Not for nothing did Martin Luther say, “Meditate well on these little words ME and for ME”. I am still passionately in love with Jesus.
There is the common assumption that the older we grow the less passionate we are about our faith. That may be true for some, but it is not true of me. That is not to say that my faith has not grown and developed over the years. My faith today is not that of a child or of a teenager – nor indeed that of a young man. My theological studies along with my experience of life have inevitably shaped my understanding of the Christian faith. Indeed, I am increasingly conscious that there is so much that I do not understand about God and his purposes for the world he has made. As a result in some areas of the faith I am an ‘agnostic’ and happily confess to not knowing. However, what I do know is more than sufficient for me to live my life for Jesus, the Son of God who “loved me and gave himself for me”.
It is this love which has been the undergirding and motivating factor of my ministry. Passion is more than mere enthusiasm. Passion is a deeper emotion which is rooted deep in the soul. It has been my passion for Jesus which has enabled me to persevere even when the going has been tough.
As a boy I belonged to ‘Crusaders’, a Bible class which had as its motto ‘Looking to Jesus’. This phrase was taken from the Letter of Hebrews: “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfect of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, disregarding its shame and has and has taken his seat at the right hand of God” (Heb 12.2). Or as Eugene Peterson puts it in his splendid paraphrase, The Message:
“Keep your eyes on JESUS, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s THERE, in the place of honour, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he ploughed through. THAT will shoot adrenaline into your souls” (Heb 12.2-3).
My passion for Jesus is rooted in him and in his love for me. All that I have sought to do as a Christian minister has first and foremost been a response to his love for me. Ministry without this passion for Jesus is to my mind a contradiction. Ian Stackhouse, a Baptist minister in England, reflecting on the apostle Paul’s passion for Jesus and his church, provocatively stated: “A doctor may be able to do his work dispassionately, but for a minister of Christ it is a sackable offence”.
I believe that without passion no ministry can be effective – although I recognise that how passion is expressed will vary according to our different personalities. G.W.F. Hegel, the great 19th century German philosopher, said: “Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion”. Passion is a vital aspect of Christian leadership. Passion it is that gives leaders energy and attracts people to follow their leader. Passion enables leaders to influence others for Jesus.
Did you like the above? It is an extract from my latest book, Growing Older: Our Story of New Adventures and New Horizons. If you would like a copy of this 215-page book, then please email me and let me know. I am selling them directly for £5 for both print and electronic copies – postage for the print copies will be extra (for the print copies I will need in addition a postal address).