Awakening Passion

During an evening plenary address at Aldersgate’s National Conference on Spirit-filled Living, the Rev. Bernardine Wormley Daniels of the Detroit Annual Conference electrified the assembly with an inspired exhortation to awaken the passion of our faith. What follows is an adapted excerpt from her remarks.

What is passion? What stirs and provokes it? Is passion something we think or something we do? Is it a noun or a verb? Quite simply, passion is an intense emotion compelling enthusiasm or desire or love. In other words, intense love = passion. Passion = intense love.

In light of this, let me ask you:

How would you live a day if you knew it was your last day alive? How would you eat a meal or touch your child or kiss your spouse if you knew it was the last time you would eat, touch, kiss? How would you pray? How would you sing or worship? How would you live your last day? Your last moments? Capture that emotion, that place, that commitment to “whatever” you are doing. Capture the intensity, the power, and the hunger. That is passion!

The Scriptures point to many examples of passion.

• Genesis 2.23: The man upon seeing the woman for the first time cries out passionately, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh…”

• Genesis 29.11: Jacob, fleeing from Esau’s wrath, comes to Haran and discovers Rachel. Jacob kissed Rachel and lifted up his voice and wept! Now that is passion! Verse 20 tells us that Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed to him just a few days, because of the love he had for her!

• Psalm 42 says: “As a deer pants for the streams of water, so my soul pants for You, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the Living God…”

• Jesus, in Mark 12.30 says: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

This is passion!

Love the Lord your God with everything that you are! 

• With your Heart — the seat and center of human life.

• With your Soul — the seat of the senses, desires, and affections.

• With your Mind — your imagination, understanding, and intelligence.

• With your Strength — your ability, might, and power.

Counterintuitively, our passion is unlocked as we learn to deny ourselves. If we deny ourselves daily, taking up our cross and following Him, this is the pathway to passion.

The Apostle Paul described awakened passion this way: “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Jesus described passion this way, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

Jesus is our example. The passion of Christ — the selfless outpouring of His life in service, in betrayal, beating, scourging, forgiving, and death by crucifixion — led to resurrection. The passion (suffering) of Christ was the door through which He passed to enter Resurrection Glory.

I have come to a place in my life where there is a yearning and a passion for more of the tangible Manifest Presence of God! I’m hungry for more of God. I want to personally know and feel and live and release from the depths of my being, more of His love.

I want to hear more of His Voice. I want to feel more of His Touch. I want to rest in His Embrace. I want to be utterly consumed by Him.

I am no longer content with “church as usual!” I long for a divine disruption of our pre-planned liturgies.

Sometimes, I would like to start a big bonfire — right in the heart of every annual conference — and burn every bulletin and agenda and see it replaced with spontaneous, unplanned, heartfelt, Spirit-led praise, worship, and prayer.

I resonate with the Apostle Paul who wrote, “I want to know Him — and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death” (Philippians 3:10).

That means that I am hungry enough to pay any price for more of Him and that I am willing to humble myself and lay down all that I am and all that I have in order that I might gain more of Him. We must be willing to pray, willing to worship, willing to fast and press into new untapped realms and dimensions in the Spirit. We must be willing to pray the price for that outpouring!

I am not hungry for just a visitation. I’m not looking for a temporary “moving of the Spirit.” Instead, I am desperate for an abiding habitation of God’s glory in our midst.

The Bible tells us of others who had the same longing. 

• Before they fell from Grace, Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden in the cool of the day and knew His intimate Presence.

• Abraham dined in the Presence of Divinity and was known as a “friend of God.”

• Jacob wrestled with God until God blessed him — and Jacob named the place Penuel, saying “I have seen God face-to-face and lived….”

• “Show me Your face,” asked Moses. God told him, “No man can see my face and live.” And yet the Bible also tells us that Moses was one with whom God spoke face to face as with a friend.

How can such an encounter with the Living God be both possible and an impossibility at the same time? Is there a contradiction in the text? Is my hunger foolish? Should I abandon my quest?

When the text says “face-to-face,” we are talking about being in God’s direct presence in a passionate way! So what I’m really hungry for is an awakened passion — an intimacy with Him that is so real — that our very countenance reflects His Glory! Wouldn’t it be great if we walked and talked and thought and acted and served and believed like we’ve been face-to-face with God?

An awakened passion defies lethargy and apathy and complacency. An awakened passion wrestles free from the grip of spiritual sleep, contentment and the circumstances of life that numb our hearts and prohibit the expression of our visions and dreams.

As Kingdom People who are not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus of Christ, we should boldly declare the Good News to anybody and everybody because we have been in His presence and that encounter has made us come alive! Our knowledge and understanding shouldn’t be limited to knowing all “about” Him! Instead, we are being called to actually “know” Him.

In churches, in districts and annual conferences, those believers who are hungry for more of the holiness and righteousness and power and presence and uncompromised Word of Almighty God will find themselves having to battle with very strong and overwhelming spirits of religion and contentment.

Although there are many spiritual battles we engage in throughout our Christian life, one of the greatest ones we will face is our battle for intimacy with God. Why? Because a fruitful life in the Kingdom flows out of passionate prayer and unbridled adoration for the King! I’m talking about a fruitful life that overflows with compassion and signs and wonders and miracles, all proof of intimacy with the King.

For the Christian going on to maturity, we will see the very character, power, and nature of Jesus formed in us through an intimate walk with God. It is no wonder that this is the area of our lives (worship, prayer, study, kingdom, service) that is so often assaulted with distractions, battered by insecurities, beaten down by disillusionment and disappointments.

How many times have you attempted to seek His face with all your heart and instead you are pulled away by distractions from every direction? The phone rings, there is a knock at the door, your stomach growls, your body wants to fall asleep. On Sunday morning, you want to seek His face, but desire is beaten down by apathy, impatience, religion, and tradition. How often have you left your devotional time or prayer time or worship service disappointed with hope deferred?

This describes the battle for intimacy. The enemy will attempt to pull you from the posture that is the most critical to your life in God — the posture of abiding in the Presence of the Lord — the place of face-to-face intimacy.

Friends, we were created for passion! We were created for direct, personal, face-to-face intimacy with Jesus, but we settle for so much less. We were created to “hear His voice,” to know His touch, to yield to the leading of His Spirit. But, more often than not, we confuse passion for Christ with its counterfeit: familiarity. Passion is what we long for, but familiarity is all we achieve. Why? Because true passion is extremely dangerous. True awakened passion is a knowing and being known, deeply and profoundly. It requires letting go, vulnerability, transparency, and hunger.

This is the point of contention! This is the battleground.

We want to know Him on a deeper level, but passion requires risk. Instead of “risking vulnerability,” it feels much safer to stay with what is predictable and familiar as opposed to that which is “beyond our comfort zone,” beyond the realm of our experience.

The Awakened Passionate Believer can expect to experience the tests of faith.

But our Savior, The Lover of our Soul — He is worth it all.