ZEAL: Are You on Fire for the Lord?

Have you ever heard of a man named Phinehas? This is what the Lord had to say about him: "he was zealous with My zeal" (Numbers 25:11); "he was zealous for his God" (Numbers 25:13). Could the same be said of us? Are we showing zeal for God?

Of course, to be able to answer that question, we need to know what the word zeal means. Someone has defined it this way: "enthusiastic devotion to a cause, an ideal, or a goal; and tireless diligence in its furtherance." Webster offers this definition: "To be excited; intense enthusiasm, as in working for a cause; ardent endeavor or devotion; ardor; fervor."

Notice the last word in the previous definition: fervor. Other forms of that word are fervent and fervently, words which are found in the New Testament. This word fervor is an interesting one. It comes from a Greek word which means to boil with heat, to make hot. In fact, the Greeks used this word to describe boiling water. The Scriptures confirm for us that this is the basic idea found in the words zeal and fervency (see 2 Peter 3:10-12; Revelation 3:14-19).

So when the Lord tells us to be zealous, He is telling us to be "on fire." He wants us to have great interest and concern for His cause; to show eagerness and enthusiasm in our work for Him.

Now that we understand the meaning of the word, let's look at two major areas in which we ought to show zeal.

First, in doing the will of God. The Scriptures teach us to love one another fervently (1 Peter 1:22; 4:8); to pray fervently (Colossians 4:2, 12-13; James 5:16); to do really everything fervently (Colossians 3:23). What will inspire this zeal? The fact that Christ gave Himself for us (Titus 2:11-14). Zeal will come when we remember that we are living for someone who died for us. What will be the effect of this zeal on others? As 2 Corinthians 9:2 indicates, it will stir up others. Our zeal will make others more zealous.

Secondly, in teaching the will of God. The following is said about Apollos: "being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord" (Acts 18:25). In other words, Apollos was on fire; he was eager to teach others the word of God. A similar attitude is expressed by Peter and John: "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20). That's the kind of zeal we need today; that's the kind of zeal which will cause the church to grow.

A word of caution before we close this article. Zeal, by itself, is a dangerous thing. Here is what Paul said about his fellow-Israelites: "they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge" (Romans 10:2). It is important to have zeal, but it is equally important that this zeal be directed in keeping with God's word.

By Bryan Gibson -- Via The Bulletin of the Church of Christ at New Georgia, May 25, 2003

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