Needed: Some Real Zeal

No one likes a fanatic! At least it would seem that way. Maybe it’s just the word, but like so many words, fanatic” in its original sense meant something other than it means today. Primarily the word “fanatic” did not carry a negative connotation. It meant one who had a zeal for the temple.

People these days seem to have lost their zeal. As a legacy from the “hippie” days of the late ’60s and early ’70s, everyone has learned to be “cool”—to be accepting and understanding of everything and everyone. These days it is not considered “cool” to be fervent about anything, especially religion. Today in many churches with a history of fervor for God, if someone moved by the Holy Spirit were to exclaim “Hallelujah” during worship, the service would be considered disrupted.

Being moved to joy or praise or proclamation of God’s truths by the Holy Spirit is exciting. The expectation of eternity in heaven is exciting.

Seeing God work in us and in the lives of others through us is exciting. Yet somehow most of today’s “sensible” Christians do not exhibit much zeal, fervor or excitement over God. We are quietly devoted. We quietly pray. We quietly consider; and, in the terms of modern society, we are “cool” about our relationship to the living God.

Maybe it is not so much that we are quiet about our love for God as it is that the “honeymoon is over” as far as our relationship with Him is concerned. Maybe it is not so much that we are cool in manner as we are lukewarm in our love for Him. Most Christians are not in rebellion. They lack the fervor to be rebels. Instead they are merely apathetic. In Revelation 3:16 Jesus described such a condition in the Laodicean church as unpalatable and something to be spat out of His mouth. In today’s vernacular the expression would have been “Yecch!” What we consider “cool” God sees as apathy—listlessness, indifference and unconcern toward Him and His kingdom. Such an attitude in those who claim to be His people brings Him disappointment and even disgust.

Nor does this “cool” sophistication benefit us in any way. Rather, such apathy deprives us of the joy of wholeheartedly knowing and serving God. To experience this joy of the Lord we believers cannot be “cool.” We need to be white-hot fanatics for God and His kingdom.

“But,” you might say, “I don’t want to be a fanatic. Fanaticism does not fit in with my self-image or with my life’s plans.”

Stop and think: In the true sense of the word, shouldn’t it? Anyone planning to be an Olympic champion had better plan to be zealous (fanatical) about training and stretching to the maximum of his or her capabilities. Anyone who is planning to become a physician had better plan to be zealous about studying and maintaining proper focus. All those who want to succeed at their jobs or be good husbands, good wives, good fathers or good mothers must know that they had better plan to focus a great deal of energy and live those roles in life with passion as well as compassion.

An old Christian song proclaims:

There is joy in serving Jesus as I journey on my way/joy that fills the heart with praises every hour and every day.

There is joy in serving Jesus, joy that triumphs over pain/fills my soul with heaven’s music till I join the glad refrain.

There is joy in serving Jesus, as I walk alone with God/’tis the joy of Christ, my Savior, who the path of suffering trod.

There is joy in serving Jesus, joy amid the darkest night/for I’ve learned the wondrous secret, and I’m walking in the light.

Doing God’s will in God’s way with all the zeal we can muster brings true joy. In human relationships, we find joy in pleasing those we love. Seeing our loved ones take pleasure in something we have done or provided brings us happiness because we care for them. How much more should serving the Lord ignite joy in us as we realize that we are pleasing the One we love!

As we serve the Lord with all our hearts, He strengthens us on our way. Then we discover the greater reality of His presence and the fulfillment of His purpose. We taste eternity and sense the cold fire of God’s Spirit moving us. We find joy as we keep to our purpose of serving Him. There is no greater joy than that of finding the reason for life. Thus when we acknowledge and carry out God’s purpose for us, which is to love and serve Him forever, we find the greatest of life’s fulfillments.

Nevertheless, if we are to love God, we must love what He loves and hate what He hates. We cannot know how to love Him if we do not know how to hate sin. That takes zeal—fanaticism in the purest sense of the word. Most of us do not know how to stand tall and reach far and grasp the good for God because we do not allow ourselves to feel that emotion, that surge of energy which arises from the urgency of emergency.

Think of the father who, upon seeing his child trapped under an automobile, is able to grab hold of the bumper and with only the strength of his own back raise the 2 1/2-ton vehicle and rescue the child. Such things have happened time and again when enough urgency was apparent to the one who performed the superhuman feat.

We live in such a time of spiritual urgency, and we need superhuman energy to meet the emergency. Many are in danger, headed for a Christless eternity. Many are dying in their sins apart from the salvation that only Jesus can offer them. Our friends, our families and our neighbors all need a whiff of the reality that we as believers can waft their way. We must abandon our apathy and allow ourselves to feel the urgency. We must seek the divine power necessary to publish the good news of salvation in Jesus and thereby rescue those who are perishing.

So don’t worry about being considered a fanatic for God. Don’t be concerned about heating up a bit for Him. After all, from heat comes light. If you generate enough heat through your zeal for serving Jesus, it will shine the light of God on this dark world. May He who is the Light shine through you. May He keep you going, growing and glowing for Him.


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