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In his 84 years, Thomas Edison patented over a thousand inventions.
He is most famous for inventing the light bulb, but made more money off
the alkaline battery.
Edison was a bulldog, unwilling to accept failure as a final outcome
to his efforts. Before he successfully invented the alkaline battery, he
failed 9000 times! Edison credited his success to hard work. "Genius
is one percent inspiration," Edison said, "and 99 percent perspiration."
No one will debate the fact that Edison was a hard worker. He built a laboratory
beside his vacation home in Fort Myers, FL and he is known for sleeping
He was unstoppable. On his 80th birthday he announced the
formation of a company to do research to develop rubber. He was relentless.
(From Fresh Illustrations)
Why did he work so hard? Was it determination? Was it will power? Was
it discipline? No. I believe the key to Edison's success was his PASSION
to invent. Determination, discipline and will power will only take a person
so far, but passion is unstoppable!
Great people have passion-a force that consumes their lives and directs
their energy. They are not always the strongest or the brightest of their
peers, but they consistently outperform them. Their greatness cannot be
explained by their education, privileges or talents, because their accomplishments
always exceed their abilities. They are driven. Not by the spirit of competition
or self-discipline, but by passion. This morning, you'll discover the origin
of that passion. And, if you are willing to pay the price, you could leave
on the path to greatness.
Saul of Tarsus was a man who kept his shoes shined and his brass polished.
He played by all the rules and emerged as a qualified Rabbi. He gives his
resume in Philip. 3:5-6"circumcised
the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew
of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee;  as to zeal, a persecutor of
the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless."
But Saul's privilege began
before his birth. He was of the tribe of Benjamin. Benjamin, you will recall
was Joseph's little brother, he was the son of Israel's old age-the only
one of the sons of Israel born in the promised land (Gen. 35:17-18). Perhaps
Saul was even named after the first King of Israel, who came from the tribe
Saul was born into a strict
Jewish home and was blessed with a privileged upbringing. Adhering to the
command God gave to Abraham in Genesis 17:12, Saul's parents circumcised
him on the 8th day.
Saul did not turn his back
on his heritage. He was a "Hebrew of Hebrews." The Jewish people have always
been a misunderstood and persecuted people. Persecution forced them to
the four corners of the earth. Wherever they went they retained a portion
of their culture, but usually sacrificed their language. Saul was not a
Hellenized Jew-he did not adopt the culture and the language of the Greek
people. Though familiar with their language and customs, Saul retained
the ways and the tongue of his people
Not only did he fight to
retain the culture of his people, he actively fought against those who
differed with his view. He was zealous in his beliefs to the point that
he persecuted the church.
Saul was a Pharisee. Now,
I know that today, the word carries a negative connotation because of their
many conflicts with Jesus, but remember that Saul is giving his qualifications
as a Jew in this text. The sect of the Pharisees began a couple hundred
years before Christ with the intent of combating the Hellenization of the
Jews and a desire to restore purity to their religion. They had a strong
focus on keeping the law. The Pharisees turned the 10 commandments into
613 prohibitions, including 39 kinds of work that was prohibited on the
I know, I know-that sounds
a little bureaucratic and extreme, but their heart was in the right place,
even if their efforts were misguided. Their "aim was not prudery but piety."
(Connick, 47) The Pharisees numbered around 6000 in Jesus' time, the largest
of the Jewish sects.
A sparkling resume, but Rabbi
Saul never achieved greatness, not until a life changing (and name changing)
event-a turning point.
On the road to Damascus,
Saul carried a writ giving him the authority to persecute Christians, but
God had another idea.
"And it came about that as he journeyed, he was approaching Damascus, and
suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him;  and he fell to the
ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting
Me?"  And he said, "Who art Thou, Lord?" And He said, "I am Jesus whom
you are persecuting,  but rise, and enter the city, and it shall be
told you what you must do."
(Acts 9:3-6 NASB)
God struck Saul to the ground
and sent the proud man to Damascus with orders to wait until someone comes
to tell him what to do. Saul went.
What was the journey like?
He was a blind man going into an unfamiliar city to receive orders from
a stranger. Did he stumble? Did he fall? Was he anxious? Why did God require
him to "hurry up and wait?" Why didn't God tell him what Saul needed to
know right on the spot, instead of sending him, a blind man on an errand?
Saul had a choice to make.
Did he return to Jerusalem and his former life, or did he forget about
his privilege, throw his resume on the dung heap and embrace his future?
He ambled into town, not
in the light, but in the darkness. It was in the darkness, that he found
his passion and ultimately achieved his greatness.
Many times, God dos not engrave
great people with passion in the light. God carves passion, that key element
of greatness, on their character in the "dark night of the soul."
In Philip. 3:13-14, Paul
gives his formula for greatness:
"Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one
thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies
ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call
of God in Christ Jesus." Notice
that Paul knew he was on a journey, he hadn't yet attained his destination,
and Paul was not allowing his past accomplishments or failures rob him
of the potential of his future. But the key to his greatness is found in
verse 14. He is driven by God's upward call-he was passionate! A passion
he received in the darkness in Damascus.
After his conversion, Persecutor
Saul became the Apostle Paul, a prolific writer, penning nearly half of
the books of the New Testament. Paul was a church planter, representing
the church on three missionary journeys to plant churches and nurture believers.
He was a leader that molded the future of the church and trained others
to lead. He was passionate.
They stoned him and he kept
preaching. Because of his determination? No! Because of his passion!
They threw him in prison,
but he kept on praising. Because of his superior discipline? No! Because
of his passion!
They chained him to a guard
and put him under house arrest but he kept on writing. Because of his will
power? No! Because of his passion!
Other great leaders found
their passion through trials.
Joseph's journey to greatness
wasn't through a life of privilege as the favorite son of his father, but
in a pit at the hands of his brothers and a jail cell at the hands of Potipher's
wife. Not in the light, but in the dark. He emerged with a passion to know
and do the will of God!
Daniel's moment of truth
did not take place under a spotlight, but before an openwindow in Babylon
where he prayed. Not in the light, but in the dark. He emerged with passion!
Whether in the King's court or in the Lion's den, he had a passion for
David's defining moment did
not come among his father's sheep at home, but in a battlefield against
a Philistine champion. Not in the light, but in the dark. He emerged with
a passion to know and follow God's heart!
Saul's turning point did
not come at the feet of Gamaliel, where he studied, or in the synagogue
where he worshiped, but after an encounter with a Holy God who confronted
him with his unrighteousness. Not in the light, but in the dark. And Saul
emerged with a passion to build the church he once tried to destroy!
You may receive your training
in the light, but you will receive your passion in the dark-in moments
when life feels like it is caving in on you. In those "dark nights of the
soul" God gives you your passion. Great people are driven by their passion
and guided by their God!
With his life in disarray,
Steven Lavaggi sat on his bedroom's wooden floor, and began searching his
Bible for answers. His wife had just left him to marry a writer for The
Rolling Stone Magazine. Ten days later, Steven discovered his son was stricken
with Juvenile Diabetes. As if coping with the personal crisis wasn't enough,
Lavaggi also lost his graphic art business.
Unemployed, abandoned, and
worrying about his son, Lavaggi turned to God's Word. As Steven read, he
skipped over the black letters, only wanting to read the words of Jesus.
The Risen Christ emerged from the pages. Lavaggi gave his life to Jesus.
As a new Christian, he clung
to Psalms 91:11:
"For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy
ways." Out of his
brokenness, came a passion to create and message of hope. He left the lucrative
world of graphic art to become a fine artist.
Since Steven's passion is
to minister through fine art, he moved to California, to influence the
people who influence the world--Hollywood.
He is doing just that. The
response to his work is overwhelming. Inspired by the Psalmist's words
he painted a 4' X 5' angel. When a friend encouraged him to make the image
three dimensional, he collaborated with a sculptor, and together they cast
While speaking to a crowd
of thirty-five hundred natives in Soweto, South Africa, Lavaggi held a
20" sculpture of a black angel above his head. When he did, the crowd erupted
with enthusiasm. A man on the stage told him that just a few days before,
a preacher had said, "One of the things we need is for international
artists to express the love of God through art, perhaps even painting angels
in black." When Lavaggi heard this, he grabbed a 20" white angel, held
it above his head and said, "these angels were created to be like brothers
and sisters, even as we are supposed to be." Later, as he reflected
on the day, he decided to call the sculptures, "The Angels of Reconciliation."
His creation graces the cover
of the Winter 2000 GROWING CHURCHES magazine and two 20" bronze statues
are in the city of Lake Village, Arkansas symbolizing the hope of racial
reconciliation in the deep South.
Steven's message would not
exist without his passion! His message is easy to see-it is in the light,
but remember, his passion was born in the dark, on a wooden floor while
he grieved the loss of his wife, his job and his son's health. Through
the struggle, he gained a passion, and today, he is changing the world.(From
Knowledge will never change
the world. Talent won't change the world. Skills won't change the world.
Great people who leave their mark are ones with passion. And many times,
they get that passion in the dark.
Knowing this, let me close
with three challenges:
While you walked through the darkness you wondered if God was forsaking
you. Could it be that He was incubating passion?
Why did Candy Lightner found
Mothers Against Drunk Driving?
Why did John Walsh become
a crusader against America's Most Wanted?
What will you do with what
you've learned during your "dark night of the soul?"
Dark times don't necessarily mean you are out of God's favor, they may
be the turning point God uses to give you the passion that will propel
you into your destiny.
For More Information about The Angel's of Reconcilation, go to http://www.lavaggi.com