Zeal is an interesting word. Scriptures tell us that zeal for God’s house consumed Jesus (Psalm 69:8-9; John 2:17). We see it played out when Jesus tossed the merchants and money changers out of the temple (John 2:13-17). In doing so, I believe Jesus set an example as to how we should react to things that stand in contrast to God’s design. While tolerance is preached today, Jesus demonstrated none of it towards those who were blatantly ignoring and abusing God’s commands. When was the last time you were so consumed by zeal for God that you took action regardless of what people thought and without thinking of any possible ramifications?
Recently I wrote a post on being zealous for God, and a reader asked how one goes about getting this zeal. It’s a great question that I thought would be worth exploring further. Zeal is not something that can be artificially manufactured. It can be fanned into a flame by many sources, but the seed of it is organic and must rise up from within you. For the purpose of our discussion, that seed is a love for Jesus and a desire to serve Him. If we truly want to serve Him above all else, we have the makings of a zealous person. The question then becomes how to fan our innermost desire into a consuming passion that engulfs us in our daily lives. There are many facets to the answer, and certainly the “how” will vary somewhat given each individual personality; I’ve put together some ideas below that have been useful in my own life.
• Get to know the character of God. Nothing develops zeal faster than learning about who God is. Reading the Bible with the intention of getting to know Him and seeing the way He has worked through history allows us to see how truly Awesome and Holy He is. Most of us tend to read the Bible to try and find out how it applies to our own lives. Ultimately, however, the Bible is not a book about us; it’s the story of God and His love for those He created. Like any relationship, if we don’t spend time learning about the other person, we will soon become disinterested. Don’t be content to learn all you know about God from a Sunday morning sermon. Dig in and discover the character of your Creator. Learn what drives Him, what angers Him and what inspires Him. Pray constantly, talking to Him as you would your closest friend. God is not afraid of your questions, your honesty, or your anger. He longs for you to learn more about Him and is a patient teacher. Ask Him to reveal His very essence to you and never stop praying and reading to learn more about who He is.
• Read inspiring material. It cannot be overstated how great an influence reading has on your mind. If we read depressing material, we will find ourselves discouraged even if we have no actual reason to feel that way. If we read books that teach concepts contrary to the teaching of Christ, we will find our minds consumed with those thoughts rather than thoughts of God. It is nearly impossible to be zealous for God if your mind is not consistently and wholly focused on Him. By reading inspiring articles and books, words that are uplifting and point to Jesus, you will find yourself developing a positive attitude; someone with a positive attitude is far more likely to see possibilities. When we begin to dream of what is possible, we become inspired to take action. Taking action is what zeal is all about; we cannot help but move.
• Be intentional with what you allow to influence you. Just as reading has a profound influence on your life, so too does what you listen to, what you watch, and those with whom you associate. Music is powerful and can easily lift one to the heights of worship; on the flip side it can bring you to the depths of despair. We need to guard against anything that leads our thoughts away from God. This isn’t a statement against any particular type of music, but rather just a warning to take notice of how certain songs affect you. The same can be said for television and movies. The windows are the eyes of the soul, so be careful what you feed your innermost being. In our modern age, we are bombarded with images at an unprecedented rate every day. Most of the images are not designed to draw us closer to God, and many of them will do the exact opposite. To be zealous we must keep our hearts and minds clean and focused on Christ. In the same way, those with whom you associate hold great influence over you. We must be intentional in choosing our friends. If we surround ourselves with those who are intent on pursuing what the world has to offer, we will find ourselves carried along for the ride. Instead, choose to associate with those who are seeking God, with people who are passionately pursuing Jesus. Hanging out with zealous people will develop zeal in your own life in a somewhat passive manner because zeal is highly contagious!
• Become active in causes that are close to the heart of God. As you learn more about the character of God, immerse yourself in causes that work towards fulfilling His mission on earth. Jesus said to care for the poor, so get involved with ministries and organizations that work to alleviate hunger and poverty. Since God detests injustice, become an advocate for the oppressed. As you give yourself to become the hands and feet of Jesus, your character will align with God’s. As your heart begins to beat in rhythm with His, you will be consumed with desiring Him more and more. This is where passion is born. This is the seed of zealousness.
The ideas listed above are far from exhaustive, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on developing zeal for God. What have been the turning points in your life, the “a-ha moments” that pushed you deeper in your relationship with Him? It is through the sharing of ideas that we will all grow closer to our Lord. Let me know how these suggestions work for you, and let’s pray for one another that we might all grow in our zeal for the One who gave His life so that we might live. Seek Jesus only and always and you will discover your own passion and zeal for following Him.
We read much in scripture about zeal. In Psalm 69, David speaks of the zeal of God consuming him despite all the calamities that were being inflicted upon him. Psalm 119 finds the author literally worn out by his zeal; he is exhausted by a righteous anger over those who have forsaken the teachings of the Lord. In the New Testament, Paul writes in Galatians that it is good to be zealous for the right things (Galatians 4:18).
The book of Titus states that God’s people will be zealous to do good works. Finally, in the book of Revelation, Jesus Himself tells us to be zealous and repent. Different versions of the Bible translate the word zealous as earnest, eager or committed. The point is that we should diligently strive to do the good works that Christ has given us to do.