First Priority

Pragmatics vs. Passion

When the ‘needs’ of ministry usurp the hunger of the heart.

Passion is one of "those" words. You know—the kind of word that means one thing to one person and something totally different to another. Passion in our secular society is often associated with something illicit or immoral fueled by sinful energy. Certainly, that is not our interest here. Yet redeeming the true nature of godly passion is vital to our Christian life and our personal fulfillment.

Generally, passion is considered to be an ardent desire for something or about something that propels us. Our passion motivates us. We are often urged to "pursue our passions." Leaders are frequently asked, "What makes you passionate? What makes you feel alive?" We hear these questions often when considering which career, decision or destiny to follow. Yet I believe the true key to passion is not "what," but always "Who." It is not what you do that will bring you passion or joy, but Whom you do it for—and why.

Our example is Jesus. What Jesus did on the cross, He did for His Father and for the joy set before Him. His great sacrifice is called "the Passion" even though the activity was a cruel and horrible death. He was so in love with His Father that He was willing to endure being spit on, tortured and hung naked on a cross. Jesus didn't choose this activity—in fact, He asked if there was any other way.

It was also the passion for every person who would ever live that defined the "joy set before Him." Jesus could see us being set free to be in unhindered relationship with the Father and Him through the Holy Spirit. He knew His seeming tragedy would end in delightful, eternal relationship for those of us who would also choose the priority of "Who."

It is easy to let this priority slip. When we go through times of uncertainty in our lives we often encounter confusion. Too often, we spend so much time entrenched in being reasonable, logical or dealing with the obvious, that we see only human solutions. We are driven by timelines, calendar commitments, expansion opportunities or other "needs" of the ministry. We pursue our productivity and projects instead of our passion. We choose "what" makes sense instead of "Who" satisfies.

I believe that is why God gave us such a passionate directive in Psalm 37:4: "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart" (NIV). This verse says that as Jesus Himself becomes our consummate delight we will then discover clearly what our true desires are. He promises that He will cause our desires to be fulfilled. Yet I believe it means that in the intimacy that comes from delighting in Him first, He will reveal to you hidden secrets of your heart and show you what would truly fulfill you. He will unveil your passion, and it may be very different than what you have purposed in your head!

Passionate adoration was Jesus' first priority. That's not all He did, but the pursuit of that relationship was the most important thing He did. Through that pursuit, His direction was then clear and effortless, as His intimacy with the Father was maintained. The rest of His "works" flowed from that first passion. And He was able to impart that same life-giving passion to others.

And what about the Father's passion? Is it also focused on relationship first? His love flows unhindered to His Son, yet His passion is not limited to just that one relationship, but also extends to us as well. We, too, are His magnificent obsession.

God the Father needed Jesus and the Holy Spirit. They were each interdependent on one another to discover the fullness of Their passion and creativity in Their relationship—a passion that makes Them fully satisfied and all of creation complete. Imagine, all creativity and all that is seen was birthed from the relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit together! Each defers His praise to the other so that the focus of adoration is not on Himself. Yet They are one, and Their joy and fulfillment was, is and forever will be shared together. God is offering us an invitation to share in this same delight.

He is calling us as one to be His bride. To worship the Lord is not just to do His bidding, but to be captivated by who He is and find our passion in relating with Him. This is not a solo calling, not just individual passion, but collective desire. Clarity for the next step of our journey with Him cannot be achieved alone.

We are in a time in which we are called as His bride to go there together. From our collective intimacy with Him stems the "what"—the direction and action we are called to. Together, as we continually and increasingly find our passion in the "Who," the "what" will readily come forth to consummate our lives in unspeakable joy, and birth the fullness of His kingdom here on Earth.

Ché Ahn and his wife, Sue, are senior pastors of Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, California, and the author of several books, including Fire Evangelism: Reaching the Lost Through Love and Power. For more information, please visit

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