Have you ever hit a point in your life where you began to question where you currently are and where you are headed? For me that happens more often than I would like to admit. I am inquisitive by nature and that doesn’t change in my relationship with God. I often spend time wondering where He is taking me and sometimes that leads to me questioning His path for my life. Ever been there?
In one of my most recent editions of Quinn Questions His Future I began to seek out advice pertaining to my career path. I read through the book of Proverbs every month and a consistent theme mentioned 16 times throughout the 31 chapters is that wisdom comes from guidance and counsel. So I decided to heed that advice and I began to pursue counsel about my situation.
In my pursuit there was one piece of advice that stuck out far above the rest, mentioned by nearly every individual that I spoke with. It was this, “Follow your passion.” The more I heard it the more I began to truly think about the meaning behind that advice. Was this wisdom or was it merely a result of our copy-and-paste mentality from today’s top music artists, celebrities, and cultural powerhouses?
This advice is quite likely the most frequently imparted advice of our current generation. In his book Welcome to Adulting (highly suggested by Humbled Daily if you have not read) Jonathan “JP” Pokluda dives into the phrase “Follow Your Passion”:
You might think that’s always been advice given to young people starting out in the world, but that’s not actually the case. In fact, when looking at trends of word usage in literature, the phrase “follow your passion” was virtually nonexistent in books before 1980. By 1990, though, it was showing up 1.5 million times. In the 2000s, the phrase skyrocketed; by 2008 it was being used over 21 million times in English literature. This isn’t because of the rise of the internet; we’re talking about print books here.
This advice is being given as blanketed advice to nearly all generations, and most frequently to the most malleable generation… the youth. This advice is not only being given more often, it is also being followed nearly as religious doctrine.
But if following our passions is the missing key to happiness why are suicide rates among the highest they have ever been? Why still do 85% of the working population resent their jobs or choose to be unengaged at work? Why do we have substantially more options with much more dissatisfaction?
We have made passions our god and in our pursuit of said god we’ve found it to fall short of the joy and splendor that the world so willfully overpromises and under delivers.
Whether you are 100% on board with the advice or not, I believe we can all agree that we would hope not everyone on the earth would heed the advice and follow their passions.
First of all, it would destroy the economy as we all pursued our Instagram model and YouTuber careers (Fun fact: American children are 3x more likely to want to be a YouTuber than an astronaut as of 2019.) Not only that, I certainly hope terrorists don’t follow theirs, or that my future daughter's middle school boyfriend doesn’t follow his. Maybe those are a bit extreme, so let me bring it closer to home…I bet you hope your husband/wife doesn’t follow their lustful passions when they see another beautiful woman/man.
If we are honest most of our passions are not passions at all. They are just the options in life that allow us to reap the most reward with the least amount of effort. Rewards being more than just monetary, but attention, influence, and status. Most of our “passions” involve being our own boss so that no one can tell us what to do and being free from responsibility. It is not that we are inherently passionate about quitting our job to travel the world, but rather we like what comes with it. The inherent freedom from responsibility, the experiences we gained that others don’t have. We desire the feeling of being impressive to others and doing something that others can’t do. It is ingrained in us.
You see, the problem with “follow your passion” is simple… it is really bad advice. Especially for the Christian. It is advice that is the result of multiple generations that chose to pursue feelings over wisdom. JP goes on in his book to say:
“Following your passion is pretty much the opposite of what God’s word teaches. We’re not supposed to follow our passions; we’re supposed to bring our passions under control (Gal 5:24). Instead of following our hearts (Jer. 17:9), we’re called to follow God and become passionate about what He’s passionate about.”
So how do we become passionate about what God is passionate about? I am going to try and make the case here that true passion is a by-product…not a primary pursuit. By in large our country has made the pursuit of passion our ultimate. If you are not in the millennial generation you are likely tempted to point fingers here, but whether you like it or not your generation is taking the bait too and has proven just as discontent and transient in recent years. Despite the hate, the millennial motive has proved to disciple generations outside of itself.
So if passion is a by-product… what is it a by-product of? Purpose.
But I would also make the case that purpose is a by-product. Of what? Mission.
If this were true, the path to passion would look something like this.
Mission - Purpose - Passion
You see, if we just dive into passion it is ever-fleeting and we find ourselves jumping from passion to passion only to end up feeling hollow and empty with no purpose in our lives. If we jump straight to purpose we may for a short while find a little flame of passion, but we will run consistently into the question of “Why am I doing this?”
Now here is where this gets encouraging. If you are running radically after Christ and proclaim Him as Lord of your life… you will not live a day of your life outside of mission.
Lets look at Paul who was in many aspects the unbreakable man, writing some of his most known work on being content in all circumstances (Phil. 4). Which is useful because when many of us talk about passion, we are really aiming for contentment. This is the man that when his life was threatened said, to die is gain (Phil. 1:21) and when they kept him alive and threw him in prison, he converted the jailer at his cell (Acts 16:25-40).
Paul’s contentment and accomplishments would make it easy to assume that he must have been passionate about doing the Lord’s work. But was it Paul’s passion that anchored him in that contentment? No, it was the mission and relationship with Christ that fueled his contentment and produced a healthy zeal as a biproduct. We see in nearly all of Paul’s writings that he is operating on a very clear and stable mission that aligns with the words spoken by Jesus in the Great Commission. In Paul’s own words in Colossians 1:25-29 he says:
I have become its servant [the church] by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
No matter where Paul found his feet he operated in this mission knowing that it was his highest calling. Spread the gospel, make disciples, preach the word, and contend for the faith. It was never contingent on his situation, his occupation, or his location. He lived on mission and wherever he was that mission from Christ gave him purpose and an overflow of that purpose produced the passionate apostle that wrote most of our new testament.
So I ask you friends… have you been putting your desire for passion in place of the mission?
Because if you claim Christ as your savior and Lord of your life, you won’t go a day without mission. Where there are people the harvest is ripe, but if you’ve placed passion as your primary litmus test you will continue to miss the mission field God has so intentionally placed you in as your vision is clouded by the unending pursuit of passion.
What if you saw your workplace as a mission field and not as a burden?
You know that town you feel stuck in? What if you are there for a purpose?
What if each and every day from here on out you operated as if the Creator of the heavens and the earth reached down and gave you instructions for a specific mission? Here is the punchline… He did.
Souls are at stake and people are the prize. You don’t need to leave the country or go on the World Race to be on mission. (In fact you shouldn’t do either of those things if you aren’t living on mission where Christ has strategically placed you.) Where you are now there are broken and hurting people in desperate need of the hope that you have. And unfortunately, many Christians have abandoned their mission in the pursuit of passion not knowing that where they were planted was the path to the passions God had in store for them.
I challenge you to find anything that will make you more passionate and zealous for life than the transformation of a soul through a relationship with Christ. Go out and make disciples my friends. Preach the word, share the gospel, shine a light where He has you. Christ designed us for mission and when we live in His design, we live in His freedom. Your mission is clear. Walk in your mission and trust that purpose and passion will follow.