Recovering a Full-Fledged Fervency for the Supremacy of Christ
The Pursuit of Passion Series: Reflection 1 of 7
EDITOR’S NOTE: As we begin 2017 with fresh resolutions about life changes, why not put at the top of the list a commitment to increase our fervency for Christ and for all we have in him? PURPOSE-driven Christians need to be, first of all, PERSON-driven (Christ) believers who have become PASSION-driven followers of Christ in light of who he is right now. With this blog post, David Bryant begins a series of reflections on how to grow in our fervency for Christ’s supremacy. What a great way to welcome the new year!
At age 73, Lorin Maazel, music director and conductor of several world-renown orchestras, reflected with keen insight on his years of conducting:
Great leaders elicit passion, not perfection. That’s my main job—to energize people. If they grind it out and couldn’t care less, then they wind up hating the conductor. Music without emotion is nothing. I’m never looking for a perfect performance. I’m looking for an impassioned performance [emphasis added].
If creating passion is a sign of an effective conductor, then surely it must mark a chief priority of the world’s greatest leader, our Lord Jesus Christ. I want to suggest that he too is looking for passion, not just perfection.
Or maybe to borrow Maazel’s phrase, we could say Jesus wants “impassioned performances” from followers who are so Person-driven that they can’t stop themselves from becoming passion-driven, which necessarily overflows into discipleship that’s more and more purpose-driven for him.
Where does such fervency come from, what does it look like, and how can we experience more of its transforming power in our lives?
Often Passion Rises Out of Anticipation
One of the primary ways Christ re-energizes Christian living is by virtue of the hope he brings to all who belong to him. By showing himself to be for us “the hope of all glorious things to come” (Colossians 1:27, PHILLIPS), and to be right now the affirmer and fulfiller of all the promises of God to us (2 Corinthians 1:20), he elicits from us ever deepening desires for more of him because we’re convinced there is so much more to be found in him.
Here’s how Paul describes his own anticipatory fervency toward Christ:
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him . . . I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection . . . I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3, NIV, emphasis added).
What Paul confirms is that anticipation fuels passion. A hopeful vision of our triumphant Lord should ignite in us a determination to pursue more of his ascended life for ourselves as well as to strive more for displays of his ascended life among those who live around us.
A Liturgy of Longing
Although I have moved five times in the past thirty-five years, from one coast to the other, each time I’ve prominently displayed a diploma-sized plaque on a wall of my office. It frames one of my favorite prayers, spoken by Augustine, the fourth-century African theologian and bishop. It exposes his heart of passion—a passion fueled by a vision of Jesus as Lord. You could call it my own lifelong “liturgy of longing” in my walk with Christ. Maybe it represents the way you’ve prayed at times:
You called, you cried,
You shattered my deafness.
You sparkled, you burned,
You scattered my darkness.
You shed forth your fragrance,
And I drew in my breath.
And now I pant for you alone.
Using more contemporary phrases, Christian psychologist Larry Crabb challenges believers to respond with similar passion when he writes the following (which I’ve reformatted in blank verse style):
To every cry from your passion-filled hearts,
God replies, “Christ.”
Let your passion to explain
become a passion to know Christ.
Let your passion to be right
become a passion to honor Christ.
Let your passion to heal
become a passion to give hope in Christ.
Let your passion to connect
become a passion to trust a sovereign Christ,
who will do for you exactly what needs to be done.
Since Christ is the heir of every promise God has given us—since, we might say, he is both the summation and consummation of all Christian hope—how could any commitment to him require anything less than a consuming passion toward him? We might state it like this:
A comprehensive vision of the supremacy of Christ
will always transform our hope in Christ
into a consuming passion for Christ.
Become a Moth for a Day
Very unlike the deadly fate of a moth drawn to the warmth and beauty of a candle flame, the closer we get to our Radiant Redeemer the greater our joys, the more energized our labors, the more enticing our prospects in him—the more alive we will feel!
Paul urges us in Romans 12: “Never be lacking in zeal, keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope.” That echoes Proverbs 23: “Always be zealous for the fear of the Lord. There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.”
So why not act like a moth by daring for one day to draw closer to the flame (Jesus). Try this approach:
Carry a 3 x 5 card with you during the day, and jot down words or phrases as they come to mind that describe reasons you personally should be more passionate about our Savior. For example, you might think about:
- who he is as a person that you find meaningful
- where he is headed as he leads us into God’s purposes
- what he is doing to fulfill God’s promises in you, or in others, or in the world
- reasons why he deserves to be exalted, both now and later
Then at the close of the day before you sleep, take five minutes to turn each reason into a brief prayer of thanks to the Father for who his Son is and for what he means to you. You’ll sleep much better for sure!
About the Author
Over the past 40 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ-proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI) and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and to Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ-awakening movements. Order his widely-read book at www.ChristIsAllBook.com.