Friday, February 10, 2006

More than Passions

I was flipping radio stations today, and I heard someone sharing that God will really use us when we discover what our passion is and use it for him. I think this has become a common thought line in a lot of churches and Christian books.

Now I don't necessarily disagree with the overall point but I think, as with much Christian theology, we tend to always put things in either/or language; when in fact, I think God uses a fair amount of both/and.

I used to be on the other end of the "passion" spectrum. I was convinced earlier in my Christian theology that what you were good at or had interest in was the very thing God would NOT use. I thought if I enjoy it, it isn't sacrifice. If I am good at it, it is my power not his. My thinking changed in my early college years. A friend of mine (Rich Kifer) who worked with Detroit Youth for Christ helped me see life from a different angle. A man from my church was killed while witnessing down in Detroit. I was telling Rich that I felt like a loser because this guy had given his life for Christ, while I on the other hand do diddly-squat.

"What are you talking about?" he replied. "You coach bible quiz teams, you chaperone our trips, you do YFC promos, you meet with kids to study do tons of stuff!"

I shrugged, "Yeah, but I like doing that stuff."

He looked at me and laughed, "Dude, you have one twisted view of God!"

I say that to demonstrate the other side of the spectrum, but I believe the man on the radio is no less erroneous.

Take my church for example. There are lots of spots where God can use your passion. Singing, speaking, acting, tech, kids... what do you like to do? There is place where you can use it for God.

However, there are also plenty of things that need to be done around the church that will probably never qualify as someone's passion. Cleaning bathrooms? Emptying leaky garbage? Stacking chairs? Mopping?

I think if we stood around waiting for people who had a passion for these things (in and of themselves) we would probably have a pretty grungy church soon.

Perhaps "passion" can become our excuse. I don't want to do job ______ because it is not my "passion" (not because it is inconvenient, or I feel it is beneath me).

I remember working at a DC/LA conference back in 96 (a big YFC rally). The 8,000 kids would get together in the arena for an hour, and then break into groups of a hundred or so to go off to sessions in conference rooms. Well, my team's job was to get the sound going at the various conference rooms in the different hotels. Staff was spread thin due to various problems that were being worked out the first morning.

With 20 minutes till the kids came, me and two other guys were setting up the sound in two conference rooms. One of the DC coordinators poked his head in and said, "Guys, would you mind getting chairs set up when you're done? We don't have anyone on that for this building". Dave started setting up the hundred chairs that would be needed while Rich and I finished the sound. What is interesting is that the speaker for this break-out session watched the whole exchange - and he continued to watch. For the remaining 15 minutes, he sipped his coffee while we rushed to get ready before the kids came. It seems setting up chairs wasn't his passion.

Rich had a cool insight that evening. He was commenting on 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul is talking about various spiritual gifts. Paul concludes by saying "but eagerly desire the greater gifts". However, Paul never said which gifts were the greater. Rich said that the greater gift is the gift God needs at the moment. The gift God needed to make use of that morning was the gift of service. Therefore, that is the gift we should have desired.

I remember reading about Henri Nouwen. He was a Harvard and Yale divinity professor and authored many books. God called him to work at a home for the physically handicapped and mentally disabled. He said at one point, that it was there that he really was used by God and got close to his heart. He said (I paraphrase here) ' None of these people had any use for me as a professor or an author. My talents were of no use. It was then that God worked THROUGH me".

I believe we limit the potential for God to grow in us and through us when we only offer him our passions. Scripture tells us he wants our weaknesses too!

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