One of my favorite camping T-shirts, well-worn and green (the best color ever) boldly proclaims: “Live Your Passion.” As a nature-seeking, fun-craving, book-devouring, music-adoring adventurer I love it! But I find myself wanting to “edit” the statement at times. I find myself wondering: is the assertion really… biblical?
In college I was introduced to the St. Augustine quote: “Love God and do whatever you please.” I remember being caught off guard and skeptical. But the longer I thought about his words the more I understood and embraced them. The catch is: do I truly and wholeheartedly love God? If so, then obeying Him in all things will be the greatest desire of my heart! I will delight to live in a constant state of submission and surrender before Him. What pleases Him will be what pleases me. Augustine continues his thought with similar explanation: “The soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.”
So our #1 caveat to the slogan “Live your Passion” needs to be: as you first and foremost love God! After all, the book of Jeremiah warns us that “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). Living directly from our unchecked emotions, with no thought for Truth and Love, will inevitably lead us into recklessness and pain. My passion cannot trump or contradict the clear and revealed Word of God which is His guide for abundant living! If my “passion” is leading me to selfishness or sinfulness then it’s a passion that needs to be put in check by God’s Spirit!
However…I do myself no favors to deny the fact that I am created by God with deep longings and passions that are not wrong. I am made for adventure and I crave it! Christian writer Oswald Chambers says, “Human nature, if it is healthy, demands excitement; and if it does not obtain its thrilling excitement in the right way, it will seek it in the wrong. God never makes bloodless stoics; He makes no passionless saints.” My passions are not an accident; they are hardwired by God Himself!
My thoughts on this topic, as with all topics. are guided as I contemplate Scripture. Over and over Solomon, in the book of Ecclesiastes, tells us to embrace life as a gift and find joy in all that God has made (Eccl. 2:24; 3:12-15; 5:18-20; 8:15; 9:7-10). He basically says, “Seize the day!” The psalmist writes, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). I don’t think this means God is our vending machine in the sky, giving in to our whims and wishes. I believe what it means is that, again—as we first love and delight in God—He places within us the desires He wants us to have. In other words, the deepest desires in me have been hand-selected by Him, for me. The apostle Paul says, “We are created in Christ Jesus for good works which he prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). I take this to mean I’m created in Christ for a purpose; He has a specific direction for me, specific tasks for me, a specific calling for me. But what is it?
As a lover of Jesus, I would argue that it’s important to listen to and indeed live from our passions. To try to get at what that means ask yourself: what stirs my heart? What brings me life? What creates a deep sense of soul satisfaction in me? What is so precious it moves me to tears? What inside of me feels so sacred I can hardly talk about it? What most makes me come alive? I believe your answer to these questions will be “clues” to the purpose for which God has created you. As you pursue those passions for His glory, God’s kingdom will advance, the enemy’s realm will be threatened and you will get a sense that you’re riding a tidal wave of God’s will as He multiplies your life for His purposes.
My passions include loving people well (especially over coffee while playing games), writing (from my heart to others in order to bring encouragement) and exploring the glorious world God has made, especially with the people I love. I hope I can do these things for his glory and His kingdom. For William Wilberforce, his passions were justice and racial equality. “Africa,” he said, “your sufferings have been the theme that has arrested and engaged my heart.” And God used him to change the world!
“Living my passion” does not mean God will not ask me to do hard things or to make sacrifices for His sake. But generally speaking, as I take faith-filled risks I will find Jesus to be more than enough for me and following Him, though hard, will become for me a delight because I am aware of the fact that I am bringing delight to His heart. So don’t live in denial. Live your passion! As Christian writer Bob Goff says, “God’s hope and plan for us is pretty simple to figure out. For those who resonate with formulas, here it is: add your whole life, your loves, your passions and your interests together with what God said He wants us to be about, and that’s your answer.”