Far More Passion

When we started this blog journey, I promised we would discover our passion. I expected to discuss spiritual gifts and the satisfaction we find serving God and blessing others using the traits He wired into us. But that is not where the path has led.

As each week’s post comes together, a new perspective on passion is taking shape in my heart and mind. Using our gifts may be a way to express our passion, but recognizing the source of our passion is the key to sustaining far more life. If we want far more life moments, our passion needs to be fed. But what is the source? Fortunately it is revealed in Scripture:

But God was very, very kind. He loved us very, very much. We were dead because of the wrong things we had done. He has made us alive with Christ. You have been saved by his love and kindness. (Ephesians 2:4-5, WE)

…I also pray that love may be the ground into which you sink your roots and on which you have your foundation. This way, with all of God’s people you will be able to understand how wide, long, high, and deep his love is. You will know Christ’s love, which goes far beyond any knowledge. I am praying this so that you may be completely filled with God. (Ephesians 3:17b-19, GW)

God’s love is our source of passion! It is the foundation on which far more life is built. As our understanding grows our passion is sparked. We discover far more life is only found in God. And it is not something we keep inside, it shines for all to see. Far more life is not really about us; it is about Him.

If you discovered the cure for cancer, wouldn’t you be passionate about sharing it with everyone suffering from that dreadful disease? If a doctor introduced you to that cure, wouldn’t you tell everyone about him or her as well? Of course you would! Sin is like spiritual cancer, and you have discovered the cure: perfect love! More importantly, you have a relationship with God who is Perfect Love!

Curing cancer — of the physical or spiritual variety — does not just prevent you from dying. It also offers you life. And once you have been rescued from death, you want to experience and share far more life with everyone who crosses your path! You are passionate about the cure and the One who cures. Living out this verse becomes your desire:

Everything you say and everything you do should be done for Jesus your Lord. And in all you do, give thanks to God the Father through Jesus. (Colossians 3:17, ERV)

To our sinful nature, this verse can sound like a heavy burden to carry, one more expectation placed on us. But when we read it with a heart that is full of God’s love, it resonates with us and motivates us to respond. Living for Jesus in all we say and do is far more life! It expresses exactly what we want to do as a new creation in Him. It satisfies us and fulfills us because it is what we were designed to do. It is not a burden or an expectation. It is our response to receiving His love.

We can tackle any task with passion when we remember Who we are doing it for and why He deserves our best. When we understand and remember His love for us, we are motivated to love Him back. We are wise to adopt the instruction given to slaves just a few verses later:

Whatever you do, do it from the heart…you serve the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24, CSV)

When I grow weary in the middle of task, this verse encourages me to keep going. I ask myself, “If I was doing this for Jesus, would I be satisfied to stop now?” Usually the answer is no. I want to give Jesus my best. So I can cheerfully keep going — whether I am serving, teaching, exhorting, giving, leading, or showing mercy — when I picture Jesus on the receiving end. I may not be passionate about the particular task, but I can be passionate about loving Jesus and being a vessel of His love to the people around me.

Let’s be honest: there are some things that we naturally enjoy more than others. It is okay to prefer babysitting a friend’s children over holding her hand through a medical procedure. It is okay to prefer giving money to hire a job done more than leading a work crew doing the task. It is okay to prefer writing one person an encouraging note over leading a large group Bible study. There is a variety of needs around us, so God has given us a variety of gifts and skills to meet them. Thankfully if we look around we can usually see a place to serve God and others that we will enjoy. But the fact remains: whether we are doing something we enjoy or something we don’t, we can always do it to the best of our ability with a passion for God. We can always choose far more life.

Sisters,
What reminds you of the vastness of God’s love for you?
Does that make you passionate for God today?
If your passion is weak right now, will you invest in better understanding God’s love for you?
Adopt the mindset that you are working for Jesus this week. What changes do you notice in your feelings, thoughts, and actions?
Enjoy far more life growing your passion this week!
-Shari

Lavish Love

Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us — He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children. (I John 3:1a, VOICE)

Want to know the formula for far more life?

Accepting God’s lavish love
+ Being transformed by it
= Far more life

Love is the key to far more life, but not just any love: only God’s lavish love. When I hear the word lavish, I imagine a warm bagel topped with a thick layer of cream cheese — so thick that taking a bite leaves teeth marks. This is an extravagant amount of cream cheese, more than anyone needs. But it makes eating the bagel an unforgettable experience. No skimpily-covered bagel can compare with the lusciousness of that lavish bagel.

God lavished His love on us. Calling us His children demonstrated an extravagance that reshaped our definition of love. But He didn’t stop there; He continues to lavish us in love. He doesn’t give us the minimum we need to get by. He wraps us in so much love that all other love looks skimpy by comparison.

The more we understand and embrace God’s lavish love, the fuller and richer our lives become. Lavish love has the power to change us from the inside out. It can transform our beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors. But most of us do not reap the maximum benefit of His lavish love. Rather than throwing open our hearts and saying, “Go anywhere!” we put up “Do Not Enter” signs at the places we need Him most: our most vulnerable and painful places.

We limit God’s lavish love because we misunderstand it. We may think God’s love is defined by what He does for us. Or we might assume it comes with strings, that He expects certain responses from us. Too often we believe we have to earn it and fear He will find us unworthy. These misperceptions are not surprising since His love is so different from the imperfect human love familiar to us. Sometimes we pull back from God’s lavish love in fear. But fear is actually the opposite of what He offers:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (I John 4:18, NIV)

God’s children have no need to fear Him because He will never punish us. We can be confident that God will always love us perfectly and lavishly! He will not withdraw His love when we disagree with Him. He will never manipulate us or take advantage of our vulnerabilities. He does not lay guilt trips on us. He does not berate us for failing to make Him look good. He knows our weaknesses and is not surprised by them. He knows all of our sins (in advance, even!) and has willingly paid the price for them. When we accept His love, we also gain His unconditional acceptance and unshakable security — now that is truly lavish love! I remember the peace I felt when I finally grasped this truth: I was set free to love God without reservation. I was released from fear that my imperfect love for Him was not enough. I found far more life and felt free to enjoy it. If you have accepted Christ as your Savior and Lord, you have this freedom, too!

God’s love is vastly different than human love. Not only is His love unconditional, it also comes from a different source:

God is love. (I John 4:16, NIV)

We love because he first loved us. (I John 4:19, NIV)

God’s love is not a response to us. It is not what He does or feels for us. Love is who God is; lavish love is part of His character and identity. He doesn’t have to generate love; it simply flows from Him and infuses His interactions with His children. God does not show us love because we deserve it; He simply offers Himself to us. His love blesses us in the deepest way possible because He knows us — and our needs — intimately. Grasping this truth changes how we look at God. It brings far more life.

I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. Yes, may you come to know his love — although it can never be fully known — and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. (Ephesians 3:17b-19, GNT)

As we grow in understanding the limitlessness of God’s lavish love, we are transformed. We stop seeing Him as a harsh judge and start realizing He is a wise and loving Father. We recognize the emptiness of many pleasures this world offers and instead focus on making an eternal impact. We grow in trusting Him and His motives even when life doesn’t match our expectations. It becomes easier to trust the parts of His Word that seem to contradict our human experience. We are permanently and profoundly changed by God’s lavish love. We grow in confidence and security. This allows us to eagerly embrace the mindset and practices of far more life.

Sisters,
How have you experienced God’s lavish love?
Where have you put up “Do Not Enter” signs? What do you need in order to let God into those areas of your heart and life?
Are you afraid of fully embracing God’s love for you? If so, confess that to Him. (If not, thank Him for that freedom!)
Thank God for the ways His lavish love has transformed you.
Enjoy far more life this week!
-Shari