This evening I am speaking specifically to and about godly Christians. I am talking about Christians who live spiritual lives, who have a godly focus in life, who are committed, who serve, and who willingly make sacrifices of faith in Jesus Christ. I am speaking about people who have a godly passion and are committed to that passion. It is my daily goal to be such a person.

Godly people with a spiritual passion can and do make mistakes. We do not hesitate to admit that. While we are committed to being genuine, we do not claim to be perfect.

I want to focus on a common mistake made by godly people with a passion. I freely confess that I know that I have made this mistake many, many times. It is not a mistake born of evil, but a mistake born of devotion and commitment.

This mistake finds its moment of conception when this progression of thoughts begins. "I have made a serious study of the Bible, and my study continues. I have confidence in my understanding of God's will. I have confidence in my understanding of God's priorities. I am certain that my godly passion rises from God's priorities. God's priorities are my priorities. God's values are my values. My concern finds its balance in God's concern."

The mistake: I conclude, "My godly passion is God's most important work."

May I make a personal confession to you? I think it is impossible for David Chadwell to think like God thinks. I certainly can understand God's revelation and let it direct my life. However, I now realize that there is a vast difference between understanding God's revelation and thinking God's thoughts. No matter how studious and committed I am, I doubt that it is possible for me to understand God's priorities, God's values, or God's balance. God's thoughts are not my thoughts and God's ways are not my ways--and never will be. There is no way that my human mind will ever climb to the lowest level of God's mind.

  1. In the context of this discussion, God does something very basic that godly humans cannot do.
    1. In this context, what is it that?
      1. God continually maintains multiple concerns and multiple initiatives without experiencing conflict.
      2. Those multiple concerns and initiatives always encompass two things simultaneously.
        1. They encompass every concern God has for our world.
        2. They encompass every objective God has in His spiritual kingdom.
      3. From our human perspective, those concerns and initiatives differ radically because they simultaneously occur in different parts of our world.
      4. For example:
        1. Is God actively concerned about what is happening in communist China? Absolutely.
        2. Is God actively concerned about what is happening in Eastern Europe? Absolutely.
        3. Is God actively concerned about what is happening in the United States? Absolutely.
        4. Is God actively involved in all three arenas? Absolutely.
        5. Are God's initiatives identical in all three arenas? If for just one hour God enabled us to see all the ways that He takes active initiatives in these arenas, It would astound us to see:
          1. How active God is.
          2. The diverse forms of God's initiative in these very different situations.
          3. How radically different God's initiatives are in these arenas.
      5. There is no place on this earth where God is not active, not taking initiative.
      6. Godly people make a serious mistake when we conclude God's activity is limited to our initiatives and work.
    2. Humans cannot maintain multiple concerns and initiatives when we are addressing radically different needs and situations.
      1. An axiom: "He who involves himself in everything accomplishes nothing."
      2. Why?
        1. Our energies are too divided.
        2. Our resources are too scattered.
        3. Our initiative is too fragmented.
        4. Commitment to too many pursuits results in ineffectiveness--we "spread ourselves too thin."
        5. So we advise the "over committed," decide what you want to do, focus on it, and accomplish something.
      3. For humans, diverse commitments in multiple initiatives creates conflicts of interests.
      4. In these matters, God is distinctively different.
        1. He is not bound by time, He cannot exhaust His resources, He cannot fragment His abilities, and He cannot exceed His energy.
        2. God sustains diverse commitments in multiple initiatives and never experiences a conflict of interest.
    3. Godly humans have always struggled to comprehend this truth about God.
      1. Let me give you three Bible examples.
      2. God told Israelite Jonah to preach the message of repentance to Assyria.
        1. Jonah could not comprehend that God was concerned about Assyria.
        2. To Jonah, concern for Assyria and concern for Israel was a definite divine conflict of interests.
        3. Assyria was a rising power in the region.
        4. They were a threat to Israel, and would eventually conquer and destroy the kingdom of Northern Israel.
        5. To Jonah, even if God could be at work in Assyria and Israel at the same time, it was totally undesirable.
      3. The prophet Habakkuk struggled to understand how God could use the very wicked Babylon to punish the much less wicked Judah.
        1. Surely Judah was guilty of evil and idolatry.
        2. But the wickedness of Babylon made Israel look righteous.
        3. From Judah's perspective, that was a gross conflict of interest and a dreadful inconsistency.
      4. In the New Testament, how could God be working as hard to bring salvation to people who were not Jews as He was to people who were Jews?
        1. Paul dealt with the troubling question in Romans 11.
        2. The Jews were the descendants of Abraham, the people of God, the people with whom God had worked for generations.
        3. How could God actually reject them to create opportunity for peoples who had never been the people of God?
        4. Devout Jews could not comprehend how that God could even be equally interested in saving non-Jews.
        5. They certainly could not comprehend how that God was taking very different initiatives among both peoples at the same time.

  2. Consider the many godly passion within this congregation.
    1. One of God's special blessings to West-Ark is found in the fact that we have many godly Christians who have different godly passions.
      1. Some have a passion for foreign missions.
        1. What a blessing!
        2. Guyana, Ethiopia, Laos, Romana, and peoples of other places live with a burning fire in these brothers and sisters' hearts.
        3. And this congregation is richly blessed by their active godly passion.
      2. Some have a passion for local outreach.
        1. What a blessing!
        2. The needs of the homeless in our community burn within their hearts.
        3. The needs of the inner city burn within their hearts.
        4. The needs of the elderly burn within their hearts.
        5. The needs of children like those in the Madeira children's home burn within their heart.
        6. And this congregation is richly blessed by their godly passion.
      3. Some have a passion for working with young people.
        1. What a blessing!
        2. They see the needs and the struggle of many teens.
        3. They know the confusion and the search for purpose.
        4. They know 45% of the teenagers that are raised in churches of Christ leave the church sometime after graduating from high school.
        5. They see the pain and the struggle right here right now.
        6. And a godly passion for our young people burns in their hearts.
        7. And this congregation will be increasingly blessed by their passion.
      4. Some have a passion for helping struggling marriages and strengthening existing marriages.
        1. What a blessing!
        2. They have heard, they have seen, and they know the reality of the situation.
        3. Marriage is experiencing serious problems even among Christians.
        4. There is so much pain, so much struggle, so much hurt, and so much failure.
        5. And it is passed from generation to generation.
        6. And these people have a godly passion to minister to the families.
        7. And this congregation will be increasingly blessed by their passion.
      5. That certainly is not all the godly passions in this congregation.
        1. There are also godly passions that burn within those who want to help people seeking recover; to help those who are in crisis; to help promote spiritual growth and maturity.
        2. And every godly passion that exists is a blessing to the congregation.
    2. Why do different godly people have different godly passions?
      1. A godly passion is created when a person of deep faith in Christ combines love for God with these things:
        1. A love for the people in need.
        2. A personal understanding of the need.
        3. A personal awareness of the pain and tragedy.
        4. A personal conviction that through Christ these people can be helped.
      2. All godly passions are rooted in faith in Jesus Christ and love for God.

  3. As a congregation, we must let God use all of our godly passions.
    1. We must not place our godly passions in positions of conflict and rivalry.
    2. We must never forget that our God is at work in countless ways that we never recognize.
    3. We must understand that God will use every godly passion we have in this congregation to achieve His purposes in Jesus Christ.

God is at work in thousands of ways that we never consider. Let's not minimize or oppose the godly passion of others. Let's encourage each other's godly passion. Let's generate and multiply passion for godly service and godly deeds. Let's not worry about how God will use our passions. Let's let God use them.

Let's see what God does when He sets hearts on fire.
That passion begins in believing in the God who loves you enough that He let His Son die for you.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 22 February 1998

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