Zeal may be defined as an ardent desire which propels a person forward to complete a task. It is the opposite of apathy and laziness. We talk a lot about the need of faith but we fail to realise that it is meaningless without zeal. This zeal is the power that causes faith to plough through all obstacles and hindrances for the glory of God. When Christians become zealous for Christ and His word, then revival breaks out and the church advances as a mighty army. Where there is a lack of zeal, the church becomes prey to every false prophet and ungodly organisation that seeks its destruction. Just as we need fuel to run our cars, so we are in need of zeal to complete the Great Commission Jesus gave to His church.
It is required
“But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing”(Galatians 4:18). If we have zeal, then our lives will overflow with joyful service, and those around us will be affected by our enthusiasm for the things of God. Zeal is contagious! What a wonderful thing it would be if all of God’s people were infected with the zeal to obey and serve Him! The ungodly would not be so quick to mock the church of Christ. How many souls would be won to the Lord if we were to believe that the gospel is a powerful life-changing force. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16).
Zeal is not an optional addition to the Christian life, instead it is a requirement for victorious Christian living. Jesus saved us to be a zealous people. “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). Yes, we are saved. Yes, we do good works. But the question before us is, “Do we have zeal?” How many Christians limp through life and think they are doing God a service, but lack the essential ingredient that inflames their faith. Such zeal is a sign of true love for their Saviour. In reality few have it.
The Lord Jesus is a perfect example of someone who so loves God that he zealously serves Him. He had the desire and the urgency to fulfil the mission that He was sent to complete. “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day” (John 9:4). He wanted this zeal to rub off on His disciples, for with this in their hearts even the mountains could be moved (Mark 11:23). The apostle Paul certainly had the zeal to take the work of God throughout the known world of his day. “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also”(Romans 1:15). He was willing to suffer deprivation, persecution, imprisonment and death to reach the lost with the message of salvation. “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). And we think we are wonderful Christians because we leave a Chick Tract on a bus! There needs to be an epidemic of zeal in the house of God today or else we will never get the job of reaching the lost done.
It is effective
Zeal is like an unstoppable blaze and its flames spread from building to building until the whole city is ignited. Faith certainly believes it can be done, but zeal gets it done. Why are so many young men and women willing to blow themselves to smithereens for their false god? They have zeal, a bad sort, but nonetheless very effective. The zeal that we are expected to have is not based upon hate but love, it does not kill, instead it brings life. The world is yet to see a church on fire for God. Some Christians are zealous about hurting other believers. They go out of their way to be nasty, offensive and judgemental. Yet how mightily they could be used by God if they used their zeal in the way the Lord intended! Sadly the church has be plagued by misguided zealots for centuries. “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2). When believers have godly zeal it is a force to be reckoned with and it will produce good wherever it goes.
Maybe we do not have this zeal because we are no longer reliant upon the Holy Spirit’s power that God has made available to the church. Maybe we have become so comfortable in shallow and lifeless Christianity that we are too scared to be zealous lest someone labels us a fanatic. We need to zealously acquire the power of the Spirit once again. “Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church” (1 Corinthians 14:12). The fire of zeal burns the most intense when it is fanned by the breath of the Holy Spirit, and it is impossible to quench its flame. Jeremiah described this fiery zeal as “a burning fire shut up in my bones” (Jeremiah 20:9).
It is also likely that we do not desire this zeal because it demands purity of heart. Do we love our sin too much to be on fire for Christ? Evidently so! Zeal for the Lord burns away the dross and filth from our lives. Those who possess this zeal are never content with “lukewarm” Christianity (Revelation 3:16), instead they press on towards full sanctification while they life a life of holiness unto God. Unlike the Laodecean church of today, they are willing to listen to the rebukes and repent. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent”(Revelation 3:19). Nothing can hinder their relationship with the Saviour.
Many theorists have put forward reasons for the sorry state in which the church finds itself in today. These range from a lack of faith, ungodliness and sin, to misuse of spiritual gifts, love of money and Bible illiteracy. There probably is really only one reason for the pitiful mess, and that is the absence of zeal. We no longer agonise over our sin and desire to “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). Where is the zeal to see the lost saved? Actually, where is the zeal to “Go” to them with the truth that can set them free (Matthew 28:19-20)? Let us honestly answer the question, “Do we have zeal or not?” In other words, are our hearts ablaze with a holy passion for the things of God? Until we can affirm that we have it, we will never truly be used by God in a mighty way. If He does call you to do something, do it with all your heart and soul. “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). When we have zeal our lives will be radically changed, and those around us will be inspired to serve the Lord too. We need that unstoppable passion for Christ that we call zeal.