Passion & pain

by Alvin Reid

Everyone you meet lives somewhere on a continuum between the poles of passion and pain. Where they are on the continuum varies from mild to severe depending on their circumstances and how they react to them. Let’s say a guy just got his dream job or his family bought a new house, or a couple were married, while another had a baby. These represent things people get excited about, things that stir our passion. Or, conversely, a lady just lost her job, or an elderly couple received some bad health news, or perhaps a teen is experiencing deep hurt with a family member or friend. Whether the pain is deep and life-altering or something minor like a cold, we are all aware of pain. And, we all love to have our passions stirred. 

Sharing Jesus is as simple as connecting with others around their passion or their pain. It’s in our everyday conversations that we can help people see that their life matters, that their passion to live comes from God, and that the good news of Jesus can rescue them from pain.

Let me give an example or two using the 3 Circles. If you aren’t familiar with it you can find out more here. In a nutshell, it’s an approach sharing the gospel from the perspective of the grand story of Scripture by use of three circles: the first is God’s Design, relating to creation, the image of God, and purpose. The second is Brokenness, where sin, its consequences, and our failed attempts to deal with sin are explained. The third is the Gospel, where Jesus’s work on the cross are explained. Following that, the pursuit of God’s Design represents the hope of Restoration.

I often share Christ with young adults, Most display passion for one thing or another pretty quickly. Sometimes I will ask, “If you weren’t limited by money or geography, and could go anywhere and do anything with your life, where would you go and what would you do?” I normally get one of two responses: most have an answer immediately and get very excited talking about the possibility. Some don’t have an immediate answer, but they admit the question gets them thinking. We all want to be part of something bigger than us. When I talk about this, I tell my story of being a teacher and how almost nothing gets me as excited as seeing someone “get it” when I’m teaching. We all have a passion for something. As we converse about this, I take the person to God’s Design, noting the Bible teaches us that God created us with an insatiable appetite to matter, and has given us the capacity to have a passion. From there I walk through the gospel, explaining how sin and brokenness keeps us from the things we want (and even more significant things we can’t even envision–God’s purpose for us), but how Jesus has made a way to know God and to discover the true passion of life: to be in fellowship with God and to serve him with a whole heart. I’ve found this to be a powerful way of explaining the good news.

If I meet something who is hurting, going through some pain, I don’t start with God’s design. I start with brokenness. I also admit the brokenness in my own life, recognizing we all suffer from some form of it. I discuss why this bothers us so much, because God has designed the world and us for something more than survival. So I start with brokenness and sin, and then go back to God’s design, and from there I explain how Jesus is the one who both understands our pain and has dealt with it on our behalf on the cross.

That’s a very quick and oversimplified summary of the kind of conversations I have. This week, think about the people you know who face pain, or those who are currently enjoying the passion of life. Apply the gospel story to their story. By the way, this will also help you to encourage fellow believers walking through a dark season, and will help to give glory to God for whatever joy they currently experience.

Adapted from Sharing Jesus without Freaking Out: Evangelism the Way You Were Born to Do It

Alvin Reid is a professor of evangelism and student ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. This article was originally published at his blog and is used by permission.