A few weeks ago during worship at Werbs we sung a song I hadn't heard in a while and it goes something like this:

'Stir a passion in my heart Lord, let it overflow, let it overflow.'

It got me thinking, what does that actually mean for us? How does that play out in our everyday lives? I get that it means loving Jesus with our whole hearts and following him and to Pray and Serve and Give (thanks Andy!). But how does that look for us?

We talk about passions a lot these days. We're passionate about food and football, theatre and music, knitting and gaming etc etc. Those are all brilliant things but when I think about passions it's something that causes a stirring and it shakes me to my very core. It creates a deep reaction and a longing to do something bigger than I could ever dream of.

But here is the hard part... the word passion originates from the Latin word 'passio' which is closely related to the Greek root 'path' meaning 'to suffer'. 

Back in 2008 a 16 year old boy named Jimmy Mizen was murdered in a bakery in Lee in an unprovoked attacked. Barry and his wife Margaret Mizen hit national headlines when immediately after the murder of their son they spoke of compassion rather than revenge. Since that day they have worked tirelessly with young people across the country sharing Jimmy's story and delivering programmes in schools across south-east London. Their suffering is great and yet, it stirred a passion in them that they could not keep to themselves, they want to make the world a better place.

Some close friends of ours have struggled for years with infertility. We have stood along side them and seen the pain both physically and emotionally that they have been through, and still, in their bravery and their vulnerability, through their suffering they let God in and He stirred a passion in them to be a voice for others. They write a blog, speak at both secular and Christian infertility events and programmes and run retreats.

Life can be messy. Life can be hard.

But if you ever think you're life is a mess or your weakness or your struggle means you're not good enough for God then may I gently suggest you take another look at your bible because it's been said that...Noah got drunk, Abraham was too old, Isaac was a daydreamer, Jacob lied, Leah was ugly, Joseph was abused, Moses was a murderer and couldn't talk. Gideon was afraid, Samson had long hair(!) and was afraid, Rahab was a prostitute, Jeremiah and Timothy were too young, David was a murderer and adulterer. Elijah was suicidal, Isaiah preached naked, Jonah ran from God, Naomi was a widow, Job went bankrupt, John the Baptist ate bugs, Peter denied Christ. The disciples fell asleep while praying, Martha worried about everything, Mary Magdalene was demon possessed. The Samaritan woman was divorced more than once, Zaccheus was too small, Paul was a murderer, Timothy had an ulcer and Lazarus was dead!

It's all too easy to look around us and think that everyone else has got it together but the reality is more likely that we're all just bumbling along trying our best. 

In the same way, these heroes of the bible that I've mentioned above, I don't always think immediately of their weaknesses or sin or whatever. When I think of Noah it's of how he obeyed God when everyone mocked him, not that he got drunk. When I think of David it's of how in his humility he was made king when Saul had failed and not that he was a murderer. When I think of Isaiah it's not about naked preaching (and I sincerely hope this will not become a thing at Werbs!!), it’s about the incredible way he heard from God and the prophecies of Jesus life on earth long before he was ever here. When I think of Mary Magdalene it's of how she followed and loved Jesus extravagantly and not about her being demon possessed.

We forget that we all have struggles and weaknesses. Things we're going through or have gone through. Genesis 50v20 says this 'You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.'

Last Sunday Phil began our new sermon series on identity looking at the question 'Who are you?' He talked about image and identity and how "when we see who He really is, then we'll see who we really are." Jesus shines light into the darkness. He can, if we are willing, bring good from bad. He is a God who redeems, a God who takes the suffering and the destructive moments, the darkness and the death, the damaging idols we have built our identities on and He creates something beautiful. He takes it all and stirs a passion within us to make a difference in our lives that we can take out into the world.

I know this because Jesus went before us in this. He saw our suffering and loves us too much to let us stay that way. He himself chose to suffer, went through the ultimate destructive moment on the cross, he plummeted to the darkest of places and conquered death itself and for us it was the most beautiful thing someone could ever have done for us. He created a way back to the Father that we can see who He really is. Jesus' last week, his illegal trial, torture and crucifixion, the point of most suffering is known as 'Passion Week'. 

My prayer is that as we look at identity over the coming weeks we will come to know more of who God is and that some of the things we may have thought defined us, whether it’s the negative words we speak over ourselves, the hidden sin in our lives, the lies the enemy speaks to us or something else, that we begin to surrender those things, that we allow God to lead us on a path of redemption and that He begins to stir a passion within us. Let it overflow Lord. Let it overflow.

STW Derby