By Drew Zuverink
"Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."
The apostle Paul commands the Christians in Rome to never be people who are lacking in zeal for the Lord. To have zeal or to be zealous for something is to have great energy or enthusiasm towards a specific objective. It's the opposite of being indifferent or passive. It's active, it's caring very much. It's having strong passion and drive to achieve something. Zeal is when Jesus made a whip and used it to drive the money changers out of the temple courts in John chapter 2.
Does that describe your spiritual life right now? Is your spiritual life filled with passion, excitement and drive?
For some of you the answer is yes, it does. For others of you zeal is the last thing that you feel describes your spiritual life at the moment. Many Christians live in a fairly constant state of spiritual numbness where they just kind of feel blah towards the things of God. They have a relationship with God but it isn't vibrant, it's just kind of there. For those Christians they might even think back to a time when their relationship with God was exciting but over time they have lost their zeal. How does that happen?
You see Zeal for the Lord should not be a spontaneous feeling that we either have or we don't. It's not a feeling that comes and goes or ebbs and flows depending on the day. It's not as simple as thinking, "Today I was not zealous for God but maybe tomorrow I will be." It's not something out of our control, instead Paul commands us to always control our zeal so that we never lack it.
Zeal for the Lord is something that we are to actively guard and nurture and keep all of our days. The ability to be zealous for the things of God is something that lies within our control, that's why we're commanded to never let it slip away.
So how come so many Christians wouldn't describe their spiritual life as zealous? It's because we so often neglect to keep our zeal and instead we allow it to fade. In high school I went on 3 different mission trips with my youth group. Each time many of the kids would be spiritually moved during our many worship sessions. Students would share their struggles and their sins, they would commit or recommit their life to Christ, they'd talk about starting Bible studies, quitting alcohol or porn, basically they were filled with zeal. Everything seemed great until we went home. After leaving a spiritually focused environment that was far removed from the normal distractions and responsibilities of life, and returning back to normal, the same students who were talking about all of the changes they were going to make - started to lose their zeal.
I do not doubt that many of those students were genuinely filled with zeal to live a vibrant life for Christ, but when they returned back to their normal life they did not do enough to keep that same zeal. On the mission trip we had many worship sessions each day filled with songs, time alone with God, sermons and prayer. Back at home these students did not fill their routines with the same things. What was the result? The zeal they felt on the mission trip faded quickly.
Can you relate to those students? Have you been on a Christian retreat where you were filled with passion and drive to recommit your life to serving Christ only to return home and make few changes? Have you listened to a sermon that convicted you and you were moved to make certain changes but you didn't and now you have lost the motivation that you once felt? Of course you can relate, we all can, but we don't need to continue this way. Zeal is something that we can control.
I'm not saying zeal is easy to keep but it is simple. It's as simple as making a resolution to set your alarm an hour and a half earlier so that you can begin your day in prayer and in the word. It's as simple as doing family devotions at the dinner table like you once used to. It's as simple as filling your daily routines with more God because how do you expect to passionately care about someone that you rarely even think about?
Parents this is especially important for you. The most important thing that you are teaching your children is how to be a Christian. If you are intentional enough to keep your zeal for the Lord by setting an early alarm to start your day with God then I won't sound like a crazy person when I encourage your children to do the same thing.
We can all have a vibrant, passionate and exciting spiritual life filled with zeal. It's within all of our control. It isn't a feeling that comes and goes without reason. If you are sick of living in spiritual blah-ness then this is good news! Make the changes that you need to today. Don't wait until tomorrow. Zeal is within your reach. But if you are someone who is unwilling to make the necessary changes, if waking up an hour earlier or starting family devotions is too extreme for you, then this is bad news. It's bad news for you because zeal is not a feeling that is going to come to you without you working for it.
May God reward all of us who order our lives around the things of God so that we will never be lacking in zeal! May he bless all of our pursuits of him with a real sense of his presence. May he honor his promise to "draw near to those who draw near to him." Praise be to the God who deserves our affection.