Cultivating a Passion for God

February 1, 2016

By Peter Amsterdam

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One of our core values is passion for God. “We love God with our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. We seek a close personal relationship with Jesus, and to grow in emulating His attributes and living His love.”1

Passion for God is a powerful statement. One of the definitions of passion is intense enthusiasm for something, a keen interest in something. So when we say that we have passion for God, we’re stating that we have an intense enthusiasm for God, a keen interest in Him. Some synonyms for passion are excitement, zeal, delight, fervency, desire, hunger, thirst, craving, conviction, drive. When we say we are passionate for God, we are speaking in terms of having desire, hunger, thirst, a craving for Him.—That we have zeal and drive, fervency and excitement, and of course, love.

When Jesus was asked, “Which is the most important commandment?” you can feel the intensity in His answer. He said: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.”2 That’s a powerfully passionate statement.

As Christians, we are to love God with all of our being—with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. That’s a call for rich, deep, and full love. A complete love, a love-Him-with-everything-you’ve-got love.

We seek a close personal relationship with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God is relational. We say that God is “relational” because He is three persons in one: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They exist in relationship. God is a relational Being, and as such, He seeks relationship with us. We are made in His image, so we are relational beings as well.

The beautiful relationship God had with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was damaged because of their choice to sin. God is holy, so after sin came into the world, He could no longer have that same personal relationship with humans. Sin damaged the relationship and separated us from Him. This is why God made salvation possible through Jesus. He wants to repair the relationship that sin severed; He wants to bring us back into relationship with Himself. He is seeking to be in relationship with us, because He loves us.

God is so passionate about being in relationship with us that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to sacrificially lay down His life through His death on the cross in order to bridge the gap between Himself and humanity. That’s how much He loves us. That’s how much He wants to be in relationship with us. He’s passionate about humanity. He’s passionate about you. He’s passionate about all of us. And we feel the same passion about being in relationship with Him. As the verse says, “We love Him, because He first loved us.”3 We could rephrase this concept to say that we are passionate for Him because He was first passionate for us. We mirror His passion.

To convey His deep love and passion for us, God used language and imagery in the Bible which speaks of us as being married to Him. He said, “Your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name”; that we are “married to Jesus who was raised from the dead, so that we should bear fruit to God”; “as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”4

These and other marital metaphors describe the passion which God has for us. It represents the passionate union of heart, mind, and spirit that He desires to have with each of us.

Saint Augustine said, “To fall in love with God is the greatest of romances, to seek Him the greatest adventure, to find Him the greatest human achievement.”

Our love for Him results in our desire to build a deep relationship with Him, and putting effort into strengthening that relationship is something that we have to do. As such, we are committed to spending time communicating with Him through prayer, reading His Word, listening to Him as He speaks to us, and paying attention to what He says. He is an integral part of our lives, and what He says to us matters.

As we develop our relationship with Him, we get to know Him better, and as we do we start to become more like Him. We begin to understand what He likes and doesn’t like, and we make an effort to do those things which please Him, and as we do, we begin to change. Being in relationship with Him changes us.

Understanding God’s passion for us brings the awareness of His desire to bring others into relationship with Him. Realizing His passion for those who don’t yet know Him motivates us to do our best to let people know that there is someone who deeply loves them and wants to be a part of their life. God’s passion becomes our mission.

It is our love of Christ, our love for God that compels us, forces us, necessitates us, drives us, and requires us to love Him fervently—with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength—and to cultivate a close relationship with Him. It compels us to strive to be like Jesus, to emulate His qualities and to share God’s love with others so they can know Him too.

One of our goals, as followers of Jesus, is to imitate Christ. We want to take on His nature and attributes. As we grow in our relationship with Him, we become better people—we exhibit godly attitudes, we have godly ethics, we have integrity, we live His words. As we grow to be more like Him, He shines through us, and when He does—when others see us imitating Him—whether they know it or not, they are seeing something of God.

How can we cultivate such a close relationship with God? By:

Passion isn’t passive. Being passionate about something means you’re going to do something about it. Passion results in action. We who are passionate about God are active for God. We carve out time for God, whether that means getting up earlier in the morning to make that time possible or sacrificing some activity that we enjoy. We make choices that strengthen our close friendship with Him. If you want that passion, ask God daily to give it to you. It’s a prayer that He delights to answer.

And remember, deep love develops over time. As we see God’s faithfulness to us in our daily lives, His touches of love and blessing, His supply of our needs, and particularly His grace and sustaining power during times of trial and affliction, our love and trust for Him grows stronger.

Many people feel that they don’t have enough passion for God. They don’t feel an emotional passion, which may cause them to think that their level of passion is lacking. Not all of us experience feelings or highs in our spiritual life; some people are inclined that way while others are not. You don’t have to have feelings of passion to know that you love God deeply or to accept His calling for your life. Feelings aren’t the proper measuring stick for passion. It’s not a question of what you feel internally. What matters is that your passion moves you to action, that it urges you to take steps on His behalf, that it energizes you to be a messenger of the Good News to those around you.

As you develop a closer relationship with God, one of friendship and intimacy, your passion will grow, and as it does, doing the things He asks you to do will naturally follow. Your passion will be manifested in your resolve or determination to follow Him, like some of God’s greatest missionaries who resolved to stake their lives and ministries on God’s promises, regardless of feelings.

I’ll close with a beautiful prayer for passion, by Amy Carmichael:

Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay,
The hope no disappointments tire,
The passion that will burn like fire;
Let me not sink to be a clod:
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.

If you have even a spark of faith, a hint of desire to draw near to God, He can blow on that little flickering ember in your heart and bring it to life, causing it to grow and finally burst into a beautiful, dazzling flame that reflects the heat and passion of God’s powerful love!

May we all grow in our passion for God!

Originally published September 2013. Excerpted and republished February 2016.
Read by Jason Lawrence.

1 From TFI’s Core Values.

2 Mark 12:28–30 ESV.

3 1 John 4:19 KJV.

4 Isaiah 54:5; Romans 7:4 paraphrased; Isaiah 62:5.

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