I was fifteen years old. At this time in my life, I lived on a remote and sparsely populated island in the middle of Puget Sound, Washington. In the summers of my life activities were hard to come by that would entertain and adequately distract me from the boredom and monotony that often became the norm of teenage existence. Suffice it to say, my sitting around the house all weekend long, to my parents, proved to be more taxing on them than on me—so out I went! Often I was ushered out of the house with the notion that a young man needed to be outside on such fine summer days.
On one of these particular days, the young people of the island gathered together for a common summer ritual—a “jungle run.” Let me explain. A jungle run was a group of teenagers starting at one end of the island running as fast as possible to the other end of the island. It was forbidden to use any of the island’s roads for this contest so the various courses chosen in this ritual consisted of scrambling headlong for about a mile through dense forest underbrush and high grassy fields. With the group assembled and ready to go we began the long and laborious journey through the island’s jungle-like terrain.
As usual, I found myself on the trailing end of this assemblage of young adventurers. As I pressed on through the dense forest I watched the figures of all the other teenage boys disappear into the foliage of a million different kinds of forest vegetation. Within a short time, however, as I pressed on, with little hope of actual victory, I was startled to see the group of young men standing still about fifty yards ahead of me in the underbrush. I couldn’t believe my eyes! The other competitors were stalled at the largest wall of blackberry bushes that ever existed on the earth. They looked this way and that hoping to find a path or avenue around this version of the “Great Wall.” However, no amount of hoping revealed a passage through this vast and seemingly insurmountable barrier.
So, at full speed, I plunged into this thorn-infested patch and forced my way through to the end of the race! All concern for injury was lost and only one thing stayed in my mind—I was going to WIN! As I crossed the agreed upon finish line, I looked behind me to see all the other competitors following in my path. I was victorious, and it was my absolute desire for victory that propelled me to take the greatest risk. As all the other young men looked at and lamented over their cuts and scrapes from the blackberry thorns, someone in the crowd gasped and pointed at my legs. I looked down only to see them covered in blood from the hem of my khaki shorts to the tops of my tennis shoes! Moreover, my arms were drenched in sweat and blood—but I didn’t mind. The sacrifice was worth it, if only for this one time.
Victory in the Christian life is not something that simply happens as we wait casually in our bedchambers for the Lord to send fire down from heaven. But for many believers today Christianity has become a passive religion that is casual and bereft of passion. If we are going to go from vision to victory in our Christian life it must be said of us that we are a people passionate for the Lord.
Look to the example of Nehemiah. When Hanani came to him with the news of the broken down walls of Jerusalem and the disheartened attitude of the remnant of God’s people who lived there, this was the catalyst God used to instill into Nehemiah’s heart the vision of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. Consider Nehemiah’s reaction in Nehemiah 1:4: “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” This is not the reaction of an apathetic soul! This is the reaction of a man deeply and passionately grieved by the condition of God’s people and the reality of what had happened.
However, Nehemiah’s passion was not the passion of the humanitarian. No, Nehemiah was fueled with passion for the Lord God of heaven. Many will look at the plight of the human condition and be stirred in their soul with sympathy. Nehemiah knew that God’s judgment was righteous and that the people of God had rebelled against the Lord (Nehemiah 1:7). Thus, he went to the only source of hope and help for the distress of his people. Nehemiah went to the Lord. We have many humanitarian causes across the face of this earth. I am not downplaying the necessity of striving to better the conditions of those who suffer, but the first passion that every believer must have is a passion for Christ. At the heart of Nehemiah’s passion was the restoration of the majesty of God’s name through the redemption of God’s people (Nehemiah 1:9-10).
The passion of Nehemiah, the passion of Paul, the passion of every man and woman of God who is stirred in their heart to accomplish God’s purpose is a passion for God Himself. God said, “My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun” (Malachi 1:11). God is seeking hearts that are completely His (2 Chronicles 16:9). The overwhelming disposition of the modern Christian life is that it is all about the individual and not about God. God does not save for our glory but for His. God does not call us for our glory but for His. It is when believers are consumed with glorifying God that they will discover the passion that will carry them from vision to victory. However, rather than just lamenting the prevailing attitude, it is imperative that you see the solution to the problem of indifference. God wants you to have a heart of passion for Him and His work.
When was the last time God stirred in your heart a desire for His name to be great? Do you recall a time when you knew that God had spoken to you concerning the restoration of His people? Bill McCartney was moved to restore God’s name among Christian men and Promise Keepers was born. God moved in the heart of John Wesley and the Methodist movement began. Martin Luther was stirred in his soul and the Reformation found a voice. Evan Roberts prayed “O God, bend me” and the nation of Wales was never the same. In each instance, God moved in the hearts of His people who were ready for His presence to move them from mere spectators to leaders.
The passion of your life is built upon your relationship with Christ Jesus. If there is no passion for God and His activity, examine your life and re-evaluate your relationship with Him. Commit your life by faith, confess your sin, and stand confident upon God’s promises to begin your move from vision to victory.
(modified from the book: From Vision to Victory, chapter one)
Michael Duncan is a multi-published author, including From Vision to Victory and Shadow Remnant. He is co-host on the Alive in Christ radio network and serves as a pastor in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. He is a keynote speaker and conference presenter and can be contacted at: http://www.authormichaelduncan.com or Facebook.com/michaelduncanbooks.