For this week’s “Word Wednesday” I’m posting an outline that I shared at our ministry training night. It’s rooted in Romans 12:6-8 and the starting point is the observation that ‘leadership is meant to be exercised with zeal”.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Often though there is a serious ‘zeal leak’ in our lives. The pressures, challenges, conflicts and burdens of life cause the zeal to leak out of our life. The fire of passion grows dim and what once burned brightly is at best a smoldering ember. There are days when I feel like that. Days when I have to ‘crank myself’ into passion for God and His kingdom. What can help me on those blue zeal-less mornings?
What is zeal?
A character of God.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
It helps to observe that zeal is part of God’s nature. That He is a zealous God whose zeal is the power to accomplish the important tasks.
Jesus demonstrated it.
The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
If God’s character includes zeal then it’s not a surprise that Jesus demonstrates it in such a public way as flogging and cleaning at the temple.
Wrong type of zeal.
Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Paul had this ‘wrong zeal’ before he became a Christian as he will admit in the next passage. The motive and goal of zeal is therefore very important.
It’s what Paul had before conversion and continued after too. Only the motivation of and goal for of his zeal changed.
Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Zeal is a burning desire for the person of God, the fulfilling of the purposes of God and the execution of His plans in our life over a long period of time.True zeal therefore is:
- God centered
- Christ exalting
- Spirit inspired
- Kingdom of God extending
We’ve all tasted this. We’ve all enjoyed and exercised this. The BIG question: “How do you keep this fire going?” Paul’s continued zeal gives us some clues. It was a zeal that was rooted in the:
1. Worth of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord
Have I really counted all things as loss compared to the worth of knowing Jesus? Is He for me the pearl of great price, the supreme treasure? For where my heart is there my treasure will be and I will be zealous for my treasure.
2. Righteousness that comes through faith in Christ
Valuing this righteousness that comes freely through faith in Jesus, contrary to the human efforts of striving. And do I enjoy it. This righteousness is rooted in the Cross and therefore calls me to a daily reflection of the Cross of Christ. With the old hymn writer I can say
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride. (Isaac Waats)
3. Power of His resurrection
This power is working in us: Ephesians 1:19-20
Power that came on us by the Spirit. Acts 1:8
4. Practically speaking
We need to daily
- Remember what God has done for us in Christ
- Forget what lies behind. Everyday there are many challenges and those challenges can become burdens difficult to carry. Depending on our personality those burdens can range from difficult to carry to burying us with care. We need to learn to forget the things that need to be and can be forgotten. What are some of these things for you?
- Look forward and up to what God has planned for us. See Php 3:13-14 What you think and where you look affects how you feel