Hope the holiday season is treating everyone well. Personally, this is one of my favorite times of the year. Christmas music, beautiful lighting, ornaments, and presents all give us cozy feelings of unity and togetherness. It is around this time of the year that many organizations focus on philanthropy; serving the community and giving to those in need. It’s also a time where many churches and individuals are active in promoting their causes and events. This is a good thing. The holiday season gives us motivation to serve the Lord in many ways.
For many, having passion in serving the Lord is easier when we see our actions produce visible fruit or when we are encouraged by others. I remember my own spiritual journey started when my youth group leaders asked me to start a youth praise team. In my small, 60 people church, our youth group only consisted of 10 individuals with no interest in worshipping the Lord through an organized music time. Like many others, I saw a hole and sought to fill it. In many ways this was a vision and calling the Lord placed on my young teenage self.
At first, I sounded horrible and worked hard to hone my skills. However, my heart was motivated with an eagerness to serve. It was not about producing A+ quality praise music, but was centered around giving back to the Lord for all he had done for me with thanksgiving. As I steadily improved, the rest of the youth started to enjoy our Sunday worship services. Through my playing, they began to find a place to experience God.
But as the years went by, I grew to view the Sundays where people complimented my music as success, and the weeks with no feedback as failure. I performed, but was only motivated by the results I could see. The heart I had from before had hardened. Although I was doing good work for the church, my primary motivations were laced with my own self interest.
My story is not unique to the praise team. It happens in all of our lives as the very work we do crosses into the grey boundary between blessing and idolatry. I do not write to condemn good works, but to cause reflection of our hearts. The gospels focus on the interactions between the Pharisees and the disciples to show us how easy it is for us to embody both characters. In a season when we are encouraged to serve, I pray that we all perform consistent checks on our hearts. Here are a few things to keep in mind as we move forward.
What is Passion?
As a young, twenty-two year old recently graduating college, I was always told to look to the charismatic individuals singing the loudest or expressing themselves the most during worship time, or the people with schedules packed with bible study or church events. Nobody said it, but I could tell that the church leaders with the highly expressive worship styles, busy church plans, and large numbers of disciples were the ones everybody labeled as ‘passionate’.
I think this view is from our tendency to measure ourselves and others based on performance. Again, this is not always wrong. For example, it is a good idea to assess ministries based on effectiveness, and some indications of fruit include funding, leaders, discipleship, knowledge of the Bible, etc. However, passion and heart motivation require a different perspective.
I look to David as a hero of our faith. His story of David and Goliath, of Saul, and his kingship over Israel is one that is often seen as demonstrating a fervor for the Lord. When we look at David’s story, we see one of faithfulness and passion. However, most of the famous and most intimate Psalms were written not when he reigned victorious over Goliath, or became formal king of Israel, but when he was on the run from Saul. It is the gruelling, harsh heat of the desert sun that reveals our hearts rather than the victories, and spoils.
Slugging through the hard stuff.
Our best times, when we most passionately demonstrate our love for Jesus, is not always when we are emotionally charged and ready to take action. In fact, it is often the opposite; times when we feel dry or see futility for our efforts. Increasingly, I am blessed by those with the passion to stand with the Lord during the dry times; the times when nothing is produced.
It is easy to see that the community rallies together during this time to serve and work together in amazing ways. I think that is awesome. But why only the holiday season? Wouldn’t we as a church shine so much more intensely if our service and loving hearts lasted consistently during the rest of the year?
So, my brothers and sisters, I want to challenge us to check ourselves. Our hearts. Whether we serve in a full-time ministry capacity or in our workplaces, families, and organizations, we need to remain faithful and pray for a pure-hearted and selfless passion. One that looks beyond our immediate feelings and is fixated on the Lord.
(Crosswalk Youth Intern)