There are some things in life which are just hard to maintain. An A average or a constant speed in driving quickly come to mind.
Yet, in our focus on the Christian life as expressed in Romans 12, there is a verse which speaks to this subject. Let me share it with you. It’s verse 11:
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
All I can say, is this:
Sometimes I can get my spiritual fever up, but maintaining fervor is another thing!
Paul has the Hebraic knack of saying the same thing in two different ways in order to get the message through those of thick skulls. I need it with this verse, because I wouldn’t call myself a zealot for Christ. Yet, that’s what he says.
As we live the Christian life, we should never be lacking in zeal or drive. Our desire should always be high to serve Christ to our utmost. Or, as Oswald Chambers would say, “My utmost for his highest.”
To stress the point, Paul adds the second phrase, “keep your spiritual fervor.”
I don’t mind serving the Lord, but with zeal and fervor? Always? I’m not so sure.
Do you know our problem as descendants of the great Protestant work-ethic patriarchs? We think this verse is the litmus test to a person’s Christian faith. If they’re not zealously serving the Lord 24/7, then they must not be a good or real believer.
How quick we are to forget all the other verses in the Bible, when one will do the trick!
As one who said “no” and stepped back this past year from an area of service, this verse can be very damming. Thankfully, however, the Lord brought people into my life and guided me through his Word to other verses that helped me learn to rest.
Rest? How can you rest and be zealous at the same time? You can’t. Plain and simple. There is a time for everything in God’s economy. What I discovered is that only when I do rest am I then able to serve with fervor and zeal.
There’s nothing worse than a wimpy servant. God doesn’t want me to serve out of the dregs, the tiredness, the bottom of the barrel of my spiritual tank, but that’s what I was doing, and it wasn’t helping me or those I was serving. I had to rest.
Is there a time period for the rest and the service? Sorry, no tidy boxed set here. You have to figure that out for yourself with God’s guidance. He’ll show you when to step back and when to step forward. A key though, I think, is that internal fervor gauge in each of us. When the zeal wains, when I lose the joy of service, I need to step back and ask God what to do.
Jesus is our ultimate example in service. He gave himself over to the horrors of crucifixion “for the joy set before him.” Without that zeal to serve the Heavenly Father, he would never have endured the shame of the cross.
Rest in Christ and focus on him, so that as you serve, you’ll overflow with zeal and fervor to his glory.
Grace and Peace