It all started on Tuesday with a question during the men’s Bible study: What is “fervor” in Romans 12:11? Actually, it all started last Sunday when I was announcing the men’s Bible study and said, “The topic will be ‘men and spiritual fervor’ – I’m not exactly sure what that means.” Interestingly enough, I discovered that ‘fervor’ comes from a Greek verb (ze’ō) which means “a burning passion”. So, in the context of Romans 12:11, we are commanded to remain aflame by the Spirit as we serve the Lord. We are called to burn with spiritual passion for the cause of Christ.
“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” Romans 12:11
When I think about burning passion, I think of the upcoming Valentine’s Day more than this week’s Sabbath Day. Am I the only one who feels slightly uncomfortable connecting passion and the Lord in any way? Am I the only one who sees passion as emotional, frenetic and earthy and the Lord as cerebral, peaceable and heavenly? For most people, mention of the word passion elicits feelings of romance and mention of the Lord in the same breath seems sacrilegious. As I sat in the Bible study with other men from the church, I sensed trepidation in attempting to reconcile the two disparate terms.
Yet, the truth of Scripture demands that I find some correlation between our fervor and our faith. It has to be something more than a cliché (‘are you on fire for the Lord?’) or a catchphrase (‘faith on fire’). In finding a connection between fervor and faith is perhaps to consider what we do know: there are things in each of our lives – relationships, actions and ideas – that, by their very mention, send our hearts racing. Perhaps the truth derived from Romans 12:11 is that those things can be used by God for God. Every aspect of our personality and personhood has been perfectly fashioned by God, including our passions. If God has given us a particular passion, He also intends for us to express it.
So express it. Perhaps you are passionate about logic and problem-solving; your heart may be set ablaze by deeply exploring the scripture and disclosing the deep truths the Bible contains. Perhaps you are passionate about helping people in need; your heart may be set ablaze by generously expending your time and/or treasure to lift up those who are downtrodden. Perhaps you are passionate about the arts; your heart may be set ablaze in worshipping loudly, dancing meditatively, painting gloriously or writing inspirationally. Perhaps you are passionate about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ; your heart may be set ablaze every time you sit in an airplane seat next to a fellow traveler. Wherever your fervor lies, express it in ways that exalt the Lord.
What are you passionate about? What gets your heart racing? How does God want you to show it and how can the kingdom of God be blessed through it? Perhaps, if we all do that, we can make church the most passionate place on earth!
My wife and I were able to see all the Oscar©-nominated films before the telecast. It was fun to sit back on Sunday night and see if the “academy” agreed with our assessment of greatness (we picked a majority of the winners, but disagreed with the voters for the night’s biggest awards). All the movies were different in style and in substance. Some had great storylines, some had great acting and some had great images. Despite their differences, they all had something in common. If I could sum up all eight of these movies in a single word my choice would be ‘passion’.
We witnessed the passion of a soldier defending his men. We witnessed the passion of an actor honing his craft. We witnessed the passion of a young man surviving adolescence. We witnessed the exploits of a man passionate for the finer things in life. We witnessed the passion of a mathematician absorbed in creating a ‘thinking machine’. We witnessed the passion of a cosmologist pursuing a single equation that explains everything. We witnessed the passion of a leader bringing dignity to every human being. We witnessed the passion of a conservatory student longing to be as good as Buddy Rich.
After spending sixteen hours in darkened theaters with these masterful stories, I am questioning myself: what am I passionate about? What would I be willing to sacrifice my life for in order to secure? What would I be willing to sacrifice my reputation for in order to gain? What would I be willing to sacrifice my wellbeing for in order to achieve? What can I learn from the real life depictions of Chris Kyle, Alan Turing, Stephen Hawking or Martin Luther King, Jr.? What can I see in myself through the fictional accounts of a washed up actor, a kid, a lobby boy or an aspiring jazz musician? Am I passionate about anything?
While I cannot imagine playing the drums until my hands bleed or risking death by practicing civil disobedience, I can see that there are hills in my life that I am willing to die for. Just off the top of my head, I am passionate about protecting my family, about providing hope to the hopeless and about proclaiming my faith. I want to live in such a way that I would be known for my love for my family, my neighbors and my God. It probably will never be caught on film, but we all ought to live lives full of passion for something.
Those of us within the Christian faith have the supreme model of passion. As the writer of Hebrews tells us, we ought to be…
“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
There is one who so passionately loves us and seeks to save us from sin, death and Satan that he willingly laid down his life and his reputation to secure the joy of our reunion with the Father in heaven.
I think there might have even been a movie about the passion of the Christ.