During a visit with Elton Trueblood, the captivating Quaker author asked me, “Are you pregnant?”
Seldom speechless, I sat in stunned silence until he explained with a smile, “I mean, are you filled with a compelling idea about which you must write?”
Relieved, I replied, “Oh yes, I feel driven to write about the faith that enabled the Apostle Peter to get out of the boat and walk on water!”
“Then,” the good doctor said, “you are pregnant with an idea; just remember that birthing is a painful process that requires a lot of hard work.”
He was right. After much rigorous labor, three years later I gave birth to my first book, “If You Want to Walk On Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of Your Boat.”
Trueblood did more than motivate me to complete my book. He helped me understand the need for passion, especially the passion to serve Christ.
When we begin serving Christ, we are thrust immediately into spiritual warfare. And to persevere in “fighting the good fight,” we will survive only if we are equipped with the armor of God.
It was Saint Paul who urged us to “put on” the armor of God. His letters reveal that he learned this lesson the way most lessons are learned – the hard way. That is why, nearing the end of his journey, Paul could say, “I have fought the good fight.”
He had found that serving Christ is not a cake walk, but a battle with spiritual powers of darkness. So we find Paul writing two letters to his son in the faith, Timothy, advising him that he will need strong faith to win the battle.
By faith Paul meant confidence in the power of Christ to redeem repentant sinners and transform them into useful servants of the Lord. That had been Paul’s experience.
By his own admission, he had been “the chief of sinners.” But he does not dwell on his sinfulness. His focus is on the mercy he had received from Christ! In a way, Paul was saying, “If Christ could save and use a sinner like me, then he can save and use anybody!” Some of us know what Paul meant for we have felt the same way about ourselves.
It is clear from Paul’s letters that Christ’s forgiveness had created his passion to serve his Lord. More than once Paul tells Timothy, “I received mercy.” For God’s underserved favor, Paul is genuinely grateful.
He knew he did not deserve mercy, but he also knew he could not fulfill his calling without it. Mercy changed Paul and gave him strength and passion to serve God. He said to Timothy, “I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service.” And the passion with which he served was remarkable.
Amid the spiritual warfare of his day, Paul’s passion never wavered. With love as his chief weapon, he fought the good fight against hatred, lies, immorality and violence – the very same evil forces that confront us in the streets and marketplaces of America today. Evil that will overcome us unless we can come against it with passion like Paul had.
What are you passionate about? What do you have a passion to do with your life before your day is done?
If it is true, as I believe it is, that there is no greater purpose for living than to be a servant of Christ, then surely it is also true that one cannot do so without passion. Such passion can grow out of gratitude for God’s mercy. And when that passion consumes us, we soon realize our utter helplessness to serve well unless Christ strengthens us.
Mercy produces passion. God rewards that passion by allowing the strength of Christ to flow into every fiber of our being. Only then can we say with Paul, in utter amazement, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
God’s mercy caused Paul to have passion to serve Christ. Paul’s example led Timothy to have that same passion. God’s mercy can generate such passion in you and me. Do you have it?
If you have it, thank God for it. Let it consume you. Let it fuel your service for Christ, no matter what your occupation. Then regret will have no seat at your retirement party. You too will be able to say, “With Christ’s help, I have fought the good fight.”
Walter Albritton is a Methodist minister and writes a weekly column for the Opelika-Auburn News. Contact him at email@example.com.
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