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.