Fervently Zealous

I came across a passage that was a key text in one of my sermons early in my ministry. Back when I was preaching at this church and that church. Here and there and getting a little experience. Meaning I could use the same sermon on numerous occasions. There was one verse in Romans 12 that really jumped out at me all those years ago. (I think I first preached this passage when I was 19.) The funny thing is that I read it in my quiet time this morning and it hit home again. So I thought I would share the thought with you.

Romans 12:11 says, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” As a young preacher I had no knowledge of Greek or near the number of study tools I have today in my office so I did the profound thing to figure out what zeal and fervor are really about. I pulled out Webster’s dictionary. I still remember the answer I found. Zeal means enthusiastic diligence. Fervor means zealous. They are synonyms for enthusiastic diligence.

So that became a part of one of my first sermons. We need to be enthusiastically diligent in our service and faith. We do not often combine these 2 thoughts. Enthusiasm means you are excited and ready to do some thing. Diligence refers to working hard through a difficult task. Here is the cool thing. That combination is exactly what serving the Lord should look like. Serving the Lord is a difficult task yet it is exciting. We should be enthusiastically diligent in serving the Lord.

The problem is that too often in the seasons of life that seem more diligent than enthusiastic we give up and quit. Or the times that seem so enthusiastic and exciting we forget to be diligent about it and it somehow loses its excitement and then we do not like the diligence so we give up and quit.

The thing is that our tendency is to do the exact opposite of this verse. I have seen so many people quit serving the Lord because they had lost their zeal, that it makes my heart hurt and my head spin. So often these well intentioned people said they just needed a break so they could restore their zeal, but it never happens. They never get back up and going (or at least EXTREMELY rarely).

You want to know why? The Bible says that you need to do the exact opposite thing. If you want to not lack in zeal then keep your fervor by SERVING THE LORD. Serving the Lord will make you more zealous for the Lord. Why do we think not going after the things of God would make us want to go after the things of God more?

It’s like sports. The more you practice…the more you want to play. I have started trying to really run and the further I run…the further I want to go the next time. (My longest yet is a 6 mile run.) The more you are around a person you think you are interested in – the more they interest you. (Or not and you don’t marry that person.) But when you are dating someone you would never say, I think the best way for us to get to have a good close relationship would be for me to do nothing else for you for a while. That will really build up our relationship. I am just going to sit around and do nothing and ask you to join me in it. That will give us a great and lovely relationship that is exciting and full of fervor. WHAT??????

Why do we think that would be true with our relationship with God? So if you don’t feel very zealous for the Lord, quit telling the Lord you are sitting and waiting and get up and serve him. If you have been hurt some how in serving the Lord or in the church, realize that healing starts with rest, but is really experienced in rehabilitation. You got to get some spiritual exercise.

So I challenge you today to not lose your zeal, but to stay fervent by serving the Lord. I challenge you to find your lost zeal in the only place it can be found…in the fervent service of the Lord.

Cannonball Faith

Some times in our lives we get to hear stories that make us laugh so hard we cry, but at the same time can teach us a very valuable lesson. I heard such a story last week.

Last week I met with a young lady in our church who has accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior and Lord and she decided to be baptized. While riding home in the car she called her grandmother, who led her to the Lord, and told her about the baptism. After she got off the phone her little brother – who has a tendency to need to one-up his sister – spoke up.

He said he already has been baptized. His parents asked him, what do you mean? He then told them, the other day as he was at the swimming pool, he ran towards the pool, asked Jesus to come into his life, did a cannonball all the way under water, and when he came to the surface, he had a new life!!!

I love two things about this story. First is the cannonball and second is that he knew he needed to go all the way under. The story is humorous and fun, but it also teaches us a great lesson.

As soon as I read the email with the story I thought of these words. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it (Mark 10:15) Do not misunderstand what I am saying. I do not believe this idea to be the process by which a person has a genuine experience of salvation, but I do think it is a genuine expression of genuine faith. It is a faith that is still not completely informed or understood but a genuine and true all the same.

This child does not yet understand what the Lordship of Christ means and how the death and resurrection of Christ forgives us of our sins, but I told his dad this the other day, The day he does understand, his faith is ready. Listen to what he says. He asked Jesus to come into his life. He immersed himself. And he had new life.

Do you believe in new life like that? Do you believe that Jesus Christ does exactly what he says he does? He did not have potential for new life or hope for new life – just NEW LIFE! Jesus told us that he came to give us life and life more abundantly.We, however, must have faith like a child to enter into it.

We must have faith that is all in. All the way. No qualifications or limitations.

Faith like a cannonball. Faith that is committed to going all the way under and coming up having made a huge splash.

So…do you have cannonball faith?

Learning Wheel – Link Six

This one is from a cool lady in our church, Donna Guillot.  Donna has been a Christian for about a year now and she is growing in the Lord in leaps and bounds.  She has a past of many struggles with her health.  She was blogging before I knew her, but some of her blogs since she became a Christ-follower have really inspired me and challenged me.  I went back to an old one for this learning wheel challenge.  In my blog that started all this I told pastors to listen to the people they pastor, too.  Donna is one I have heard from and learned from this year.  http://trials2triumph.blogspot.com/2009/07/true-cost-of-our-freedom.html

Learning Wheel – Link Five

Craig Groeschel is the man.  His book It has really challenged me this year to seek it, to keep it, and to know it is all from God.  His blogs are great thoughts.  The one I am linking is actually the last of a 4 day series on “spiritual fathers.”  If you know me and my ministry and my age you will see why this one challenged me.  I too struggle with the same thing he discusses often in my life.  He had a great practical series on hiring from within or from the outside for churches before this one.  It was great to learn from too.  http://swerve.lifechurch.tv/2009/08/06/are-you-ready-to-be-a-dad/

Learning Wheel – Link Four

Here is a great and challenging word about the Gospel and its place in our Christian lives.  It is written by the mack daddy author of the modern era – John Piper.  If you want something deep go buy a Piper book.  I can barely read an entire book from him because my brain hurts, but I am pumped to have recently heard of his blog.  Dude writes some great stuff.  Read this one and take it in.  It is really good.  (BTW I heard about this one in the morning meeting from Jonathan, too.  The Learning Wheel works.)


Learning Wheel – Link Three

This one is from Sir Todd Blount.  He is a great writer.  The cool part about this one is that it was from one of our morning office meetings I mentioned in The Learning Wheel.  This one had really stuck with me like Joey’s quote in the Jonathan’s blog that came from another morning meeting Joey led.  Do you see how this thing works yet?  The more you are around Godly people and have God-centered conversations or take in thoughts from books, blogs, songs, and other forms of communication that point you to God the more the wheel turns.  So here is a great thoughy for the day from another great dude who learned it from a dude who was great but kind of blew it in the end.  http://toddblount.blogspot.com/2009/08/devils-in-details.html

Learning Wheel – Link Two

This blog entry by Steven Furtick also makes The Learning Wheel point.  I think Steven is a great blogger.  He is not like me at all.  He writes short stuff.  He preaches long and writes short but does both exceptionally well.  Anyway, in this blog he does not even write the part that really hit me.  He knows a man in his church who is great at what he is writing about so he has him write the meat of the blog.  Brilliant use of the The Learning Wheel.  (BTW his whole series of blogs on encouragement, thoughtfulness, and kindness is really good and will probably be fodder for a series at FC in the next year.  I drew some great inspiration from it in just a few short moments of time.)  So here it is…