Nothing transpires without passion.

Today, we use that word passion to mean drive. Yet the Latin which gave birth to the word was passio and meant suffering. Hence we speak of Jesus’ final hours as his passion.

Yet these ideas—drive and suffering—are not far removed from each other. For although you can suffer without drive, you cannot be driven without suffering. Any great endeavor will cost you pain; it cannot be otherwise in this present age.

Jesus was driven to do his Father’s will and to redeem for his Father a people for his own possession. That was his passion on earth. “My food,” he said, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34). He was like the athlete who says, “Basketball is what I eat and breathe.”

When Jesus drew near to Jerusalem he was fighting for the lead in the final minutes of the game, every muscle strained beneath a layer of sweat. Before him lay the pain of battle, but his passion would not accept refusal. “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.” (John 12:27). So he suffered, and he won.

Paul shared the same determination when he drew near to Jerusalem.

And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:22-24)

He poured himself out like a drink offering on the altar (2 Tim. 4:6); he set his face like flint toward Jerusalem and he, like his Master, ached in every muscle. And he won the race (v. 7).

You must decide what sort of life you will live, even as a believer. There are those who choose comfort; they warm the bench and do not mind to do so. They lose their life in a way that looks a lot like saving it. Even men and women with immense advantage, nurtured long years under the faithful ministry of the word and in a healthy community of Christians, can bear small fruit. They can avoid suffering, and live without passion in both meanings of the word.

But on the other hand, any follower of Christ may win a varsity seat and the opportunity to suffer more than most in pursuit of the common goal. You yourself who read these words, no matter your natural disadvantages, can play the final half or quarter against giants. When Jesus summoned his first twelve followers he paid no regard to their natural advantages. They were weak and remained weak throughout his life.

But after the resurrection, they were shown how much they must suffer for his name’s sake, how much they must strain and ache and labor and lose (Acts 9:16). All that Jesus required of them was, when he called, to leave all else and follow him (Luke 5:11). He as a coach can instill in us, as in them, whatever skill our task demands—but we must be driven.

How much are you willing to suffer for the cause of Christ? Will you play Christianity as mere recreation and slip comfortably out of this life—or will you go to Jerusalem and strain with passion through the final minutes of the play clock?

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” (1 Cor. 9:24)