The 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy features the phrase "Passion lives here" on walls throughout the Olympic complex. As you watch skiers, skaters, and curlers, this phrase permeates their competitive arenas.
There is no doubt as you watch those in the Olympics that they are passionate. They love their sports so much that it dominates their lives. Everything that does not further their goal is stripped from their schedule so they can obtain that medal.
All of us need passion. Without it, we become apathetic and unproductive. We were made to dream big.
That's probably why we get so excited about the Olympics. I'm amazed that I care about whether a person previously unknown to me wins a medal or not. I'm devastated when someone who has trained long and hard has a bad run and misses his or her chance. I'm delighted when another person achieves his or her long-awaited goal. Why does it matter? I think we all are thrilled at seeing passion.
The apostle Paul understood this underlying need for passion, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave … " (1 Corinthians 9:24-27a).
The Olympians pour all their passion into a medal that will fade away. Years from now, few who win will be remembered. Others will take their place. But Paul challenged us to pour all our passion into a reward that will never fade away—living for Christ and his kingdom.
Most of us come to Christ passionately, but have trouble sustaining it, just as many hopeful sports enthusiasts hit the slopes or the ice after the Olympics with the intention of becoming proficient, but soon lose their zeal. It's easy to feel the passion momentarily; it's another thing to make it a way of life.
The key for Olympians has to be more than just the recognition they get for a medal. The medal may drive them, but it probably doesn't sustain them. Instead they need a deep, abiding love for the way of life their sport has led them into. Without that, the hope of a medal will grow dim.
So how do we sustain a passion that will carry us through life the way the apostle Paul lived? There are probably as many ways as there are people. What motivates me will probably not motivate you and vice versa. But there do seem to be some universal concepts that drive all of us.
Find Your Passion in Christ Alone
The Olympian must find satisfaction in his or her sport above all else. The Christian, Olympian or not, must find satisfaction in Christ above all else. As basic as this is, Christians seem to lose sight of it quite often.
What too often happens is that Christians try to find satisfaction in something that is of Christ but is not Christ. For example, many find satisfaction in church responsibilities, acts of human kindness, knowledge of Scripture, or close fellowship with other Christians. All these things are good, but none of them can ultimately satisfy. All are good, but all can become warped. Church responsibility can become a noose around your neck. Acts of human kindness can drown you in human need. Knowledge of Scripture can puff you up and make you proud. Close fellowship can become fatally flawed.
When these things happen, we often turn our back on Christ, lumping him in with the cause of our dissatisfaction, when he is our only source of satisfaction. Until we can separate these peripheral things from Christ himself, we will become disillusioned. We will never be able to sustain our passion for people and things. Only when we make Christ himself our passion, will we have the energy for the Christian life.
Jesus said in John 6:56, "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life." He wasn't talking about communion in this passage. He was talking about making him our passion in life. When he said this, many turned away from following him. He asked the twelve if they were going to leave too. Peter said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68). Having Jesus as our passion means that we know there is no other place to go for our satisfaction.
Realize Passion Only Comes from God
The trouble with passion is that we too often try to manufacture it. An athlete who must constantly manufacture passion is never going to make it to the Olympics. It must be an integral part of his or her life.
We seek the next great experience that will take us to a higher spiritual level. We search for the teacher that will unlock all mysteries to us. We throw ourselves into service, expecting the passion to follow along like a puppy. Sometimes those things work—for a while. But rarely do we keep the passion for long.
Only when we realize that God wants to create a passion in us, will we be able to avail ourselves of it. We can't manufacture it; we can only admit we need it. As we confess our shortcomings, we find joy in the fact that he will fill those gaps with his all-sufficiency.
Making Christ my passion is a mysterious melding of self with Christ. I do my part in consciously surrendering to him, and he does his part in transforming me with his passion—the very passion that allowed him to faithfully represent his father to the bitter end of the cross.
Find Passion in Prayer
Prayer becomes flat and insipid when it becomes an endless list of needs we parade before God. In such prayer, instead of seeing a holy, magnificent God, we see an eternity of problems piling up. Our prayers can become so burdened that we leave prayer heavier instead of lighter.
If Olympians only focused on the problems, they would never overcome their obstacles. They have to have their eyes on the greater goal.
Prayer that is vital is God-focused. My prayer life was revived when I learned to focus on God instead of my need. So instead of praying, "Lord, heal Aunt Judy of her illness," I pray, "Lord, help Aunt Judy to see your glory, power, and might. No matter what's going on in her body, let her know your goodness and greatness." Such a prayer not only transforms Aunt Judy, it transforms me. I leave such a time of prayer encouraged in my relationship with God rather than devastated by Aunt Judy's troubles.
Find Passion in God's Word
Until we love God's Word because it's our primary source of knowing God, we will not find passion. Olympians know their sport backward and forward. They've studied every angle and aspect. Until we have the same kind of hunger to know God through his Word, we will never live with Olympian passion.
It amazes me that some have been in the church their entire lives but have no first-hand knowledge of God's Word. One excuse I've heard is "I'm not a good reader." I don't buy that. I have a friend who can only read at a third-grade level, and she devours the Word of God. It's the only book she reads, but she reads it voraciously, because she's passionate about God.
Find Passion in Proclamation and Giving
You wouldn't be around Olympians long before you realized they were consumed by their sport. All their energy and resources flow into it.
How about your relationship with Christ? Do those around you realize that Christ is your passion? Can they see that all your energy and resources go into your relationship with him? Let your life be one that proclaims, "Passion lives here."
JoHannah Reardon is the managing editor with ChristianBibleStudies.com. She has written seven novels and a family devotional guide, and blogs at johannahreardon.com.