The Bible is not written like a spiritual textbook, merely explaining and analyzing life’s spiritual truths. Nor is it just a scholastic history book, simply providing a boring record of ancient people and ancient beliefs. The Bible is a passionate expression of the heart of God toward us.
The Bible is filled with the passion of God. In the pages of Scripture, we find God exploding in anger over injustices that harm those whom God cares immensely about. In the pages of Scripture we find God weeping in solidarity with those who are in deep sorrow. And in the pages of Scripture we find God rejoicing ecstatically with those whose joy is overflowing.
The Bible is filled with the passion of God, and it is filled with the compassion of God. “Passion” has to do with depth of feeling; “compassion” is the capacity to feel deeply with a person. The Bible is filled with God’s passionate care for us, and it is filled with expressions of God’s deep compassion with us.
For example, in Psalm 56:8 David says about God, “You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights. Each tear entered in Your ledger, each ache written in Your book” (New Living Translation). In His compassion for us, God keeps track of every tear we cry.
John 11:35 records, “Jesus wept.” At the grave of His friend Lazarus—even though Jesus knew He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead—He wept. This short verse makes it clear that Jesus feels so deeply with us that He weeps with those who are grieving.
Luke 15:10 states, “I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” In the depth of His compassion for us, God rejoices ecstatically when a person finds the great joy of being reconciled to God!
The Bible is filled with the passion of God for us and the compassion of God with us.
The Bible also reveals to us that the work of the Holy Spirit is to grow within us the character of God.
Since the Bible makes it clear that God is passionate in His care for people and compassionate with us, we should expect to find that everyone who opens his or her heart to Christ will be growing in passionate care for people and compassion with others.
What will happen if God’s passion and compassion begin to grow in me or in you?
I am inspired by the Biblical example of what happened to a man named Nehemiah. While Nehemiah was living in comfort as cupbearer to the king of Persia, he received news about how poorly his countrymen were living in his homeland of Judah. Listen to his reaction, as recorded 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 a “godly reaction,” a reaction in keeping with the character of God. As we grow in the character of God, we should expect to find ourselves caring passionately about the hurts and needs and joys of others. As God’s character grows in us, we should expect to find our hearts breaking with the things that break the heart of God.
Perhaps one of the most important spiritual disciplines we can take up is the discipline of paying attention to the aching in our hearts. It may well be that when you find your heart aching it is because you are in touch with the heart of God that is breaking for those whom He cares about deeply. If that’s the case, continue to pay attention to how God happens to nudge you. He may nudge you to weep and to mourn and to fast and to pray, as Nehemiah did. And He may nudge you to get involved in some further way (which is exactly what God did with Nehemiah as the story unfolds).
— Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa. Pastor Tripp can be reached by e-mail at: email@example.com