Recently, our worship pastor led a mission team to an orphanage in Haiti. When he returned, he shared something profound: their small house church of 50 people could, in terms of volume, easily out-sing our congregation of 500. Despite developing-world hardships, their worship had a purpose and passion that ours seemed to lack. And so our pastor challenged us to worship God with Haitian fervor.
I wondered why the Haitians were more enthusiastic than we seemed to be. Plenty of verses in the Bible show God blessing the poor and giving strength to the weak. In many cases, hardship and trial actually brought people closer to God. The congregation in Haiti lacked physical luxury; instead, they possessed a truly joyful faith. If trial can aid spiritual passion, what do we do if our basic needs are met? Does our comparably “easy” life get in the way of our relationship with God?
Scripture offers little guidance about relying on God when you’re financially secure and free from trial. The Bible doesn’t say, “Blessed are the comfortable, for they will receive spiritual passion.” Rather, the Bible says the opposite: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25). I found this startling until I discovered a passage in Revelation that contained Jesus’ address to the church in Laodicea.
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Rev 3:15–16).
The imagery in this passage refers to the waters that flowed into Laodicea. Hot, medicinal water came from nearby Hierapolis, and cold, refreshing water swept in from Colossae. By the time these waters reached Laodicea, they became warm and had a nauseating effect. But Jesus isn’t just talking about water.
Jesus didn’t have our modern spiritualized categories of hot and cold in mind when He referenced the waters of Hierapolis and Colossae. Both waters were good and useful—the cold wasn’t lifeless. By the time the waters reached Laodicea, though, they had become useless, just as the congregation at Laodicea had lost sight of its purpose.
We often think of passionate faith as hot and lifeless faith as cold. The congregation in Haiti was in the hot category. Did that make us lukewarm?
I know that my church doesn’t face the same trials as the congregation in Haiti, but that doesn’t mean we can’t provide healing and transformation in our community. Our lack of hardship may not make us hot like the waters of Hierapolis, but we can be like the cold and refreshing water of Colossae—and we can provide it for others. Hot or cold, the same Spirit works in both our churches. And the same command applies to both: Do not grow lukewarm and stagnant. The Haitians worshiped passionately with all they had available to them. For us, this might not look the same. But ultimately, we’re both worshiping the same God.
Biblical references are from the New International Version (NIV).