Purpose, Passion & Power
Reading through the Book of Acts again. Peter and John are in the thick of the work that God has put in their hearts – healing the sick and testifying about Jesus. A man cripple from birth now walks. An uproar follows. The Pharisees and temple elite are upset and angry; the lost and the hurting are excited.
Peter and John are arrested and brought before the High Priest. They don’t shrink back or equivocate – they just preach Jesus and testify to what they have heard and seen. Their passion is so evident. The temple elite are shocked that “ordinary, unschooled” men can speak with such knowledge, authority and boldness. In fact these apostles are an uncomfortable reminder of the One they recently crucified. The learned priests are stumped for a response. They thought it was all over, that once they crucified Jesus, His followers would scatter and give up this nonsense about the Messiah. They want to declare Peter and John impostors but the man once crippled stands before them, completely and undeniably healed. The miraculous confronts them; the power of God has just smacked them in the face. Finally, Peter and John are released. No compromises were made; they left promising to do even more in Jesus’ name!
Peter and John rejoin the rest of the disciples and they pray for greater boldness to testify about Jesus. And soon, God blesses their faithfulness with yet more amazing signs and wonders. Even Peter’s shadow falling on the sick is enough to heal them all instantly! The word goes out: believers in Jesus are working the miracles of Jesus. They have power to heal, to set free, to deliver in His name. The sick and hurting people come by the hundreds and leave healed, restored and full of faith in Jesus. Those who missed out on Jesus have another chance to encounter Him through His disciples. And the more the signs and wonders take place and the power of God flows through them, the more fired up the disciples and followers become. They know in their hearts the purpose they have been called to and there’s no stopping them now. They would go on to face much hardship and trials but nothing would deter them.
Purpose, passion & power make for an unstoppable, irresistible force for transformation and change.
And everywhere they went, people were amazed and in awe. The followers of Jesus didn’t have to use persuasive arguments or showmanship to move the crowd; the people felt His presence in their spirit, saw with their own eyes the signs and wonders that defied logic and science and their own ideas of reality. They knew that they were witnessing the power of God at work through men of faith. They may have come with a hope but they left with an assurance that Jesus lives and was reaching out to them.
Believer or unbeliever, powerful or powerless, rich or poor, hopeful or hopeless, they couldn’t ignore the passion, the purpose and the power that was so evident in these men of God. In them, and through them, Jesus was the news, the centre of conversation, the object of discussion. People had to make some decisions about Jesus; they couldn’t be indifferent anymore.
Men in authority, the temple elite, the leaders of society, people who did not understand or felt threatened or were just plain hard-hearted, fought it and fought Him. They persecuted, tortured and killed His followers but faith had taken hold, and there was no holding it back. And so the world changed.
I read and reread these things in the Book of Acts in utter amazement, even envy. I can feel the heat of their passion for Jesus and His cause. Their single-minded purpose and focus burns itself into my consciousness. They have found their reason for living; they know what their life is all about. They were fishermen, tax collectors and doctors once but now a greater purpose has seized them – they are messengers, ambassadors, servants of Christ, channels for the very power of God, bringing hope, freedom and healing in Jesus’ name to all who believe.
Purpose, passion and power – that’s what defined them.
We have lost so much of that. We speak about it from time to time. We tell ourselves that that’s what we are all about but in our hearts we have settled for something far less – for a faith that makes no demand for passion, purpose and power. We neither confront the world with the message of the Gospel nor do we cause the kind of uproar that comes when people are healed and set free by the power of God. We have slowly retreated to the comfort of our churches to tell Jesus stories, to play at passion, to act out a purpose not our own. The lost are not saved, the sick are not healed, and day by day the message of Jesus recedes from the public square, discarded like the idea that the world is flat.
And who can blame the world for its disinterest? Without that passion, that purpose, that power, Jesus is just a nice story from a distant past. To them, if He does not live in us, if we are not passionate about Him, if His purpose is not our own, if His power is not evident in us, He lives not at all.
Holy Spirit, where do we even begin to recover what we have lost? Where do I begin? How can I be content to be called Christian when that kind of passion doesn’t burn within me, when Christ’s purpose has not seized me and overwhelmed me totally, when the power of God does not flow through me in like manner? Am I an impostor, a fake Christian? Do I defraud the Lord of the glory due His name? Do I deprive the world of the power of the Cross?
Help me God to find the passion, the purpose and the power that alone must define my Christianity.