Indifference. Laziness. Plodding along. Going through the motions. Running in neutral. Marking time. Spinning your wheels. Treading water. Do any of these describe your activity in the kingdom?
From time to time, all of us go through such periods of frustration or apathy. But if it lasts long, it’s displeases God! He says to the Laodiceans in Revelation 3:14-15, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”
Most of us, when we detect indifference in our lives, seek to do better. What’s the cure for this problem? Zeal! Titus 2:14 says Jesus, “gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” Why did Christ die for us? So we may be content with our moral status-quo? So that we may be indifferent to our friends’ lost conditions? No! He died for us to enable us to work zealously for Him in this present world.
Zeal is an “enthusiastic and diligent devotion to a cause.” Zeal always contains the thought of being consumed with passion, which motivates one to fervent action, even daring action. In John 2:13–17 we see the zeal of Jesus:
Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the moneychangers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house will consume Me.”
Where is our zeal? Where is our dedication to God? Anything worth doing takes dedication. Setting a record in a sporting event takes diligent devotion. Reaching the top of the corporate ladder takes diligent devotion. Having kids in school and extracurricular activities takes diligent devotion. For these, everything else takes second place—a sniffle, a headache, vacation, inconvenience, leisure—all distractions are shuffled around the primary thing.
Christians are called to the same dedication. God and His kingdom come first. Nothing else gets in the way. So when it comes to our own spiritual growth (reading the Bible, praying daily, attending services) and working for the Lord (helping others, speaking to friends and neighbors about Christ, being good parents and spouses) everything else must be made to yield.
If we are stuck in inactivity, let us repent with godly sorrow. We must learn to bear fruit, or eventually be pruned away (Luke 13:6-9). Resolve to get busy in the work. After Jesus had lamented the indifference in Laodicea, He said, “be zealous and repent … He who overcomes I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne” (Revelation 3:19).
Zeal is contagious. Paul praises the Achaians in 2 Corinthians 9:2, for their example had rubbed off on the neighboring Macedonians: “your zeal has stirred up most of them.” If one or two members would get active and excited, many more would follow. The congregation would have no lack of volunteers.
Yet, we must take one warning: zeal can be in vain if not according to God’s word. A zeal for a cause is meaningless or even harmful if it’s not God’s cause! There were few people more zealous for God than the Jews, and yet, it profited them nothing. Paul said of his Jewish brethren in Romans 10:2, “I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.” So when you feel consumed with the need to do something in God’s house, stop and be sure first that it is according to the will of God, and that what you are consumed with is not just your own anger, envy, or ignorance.
Let’s be consumed with zeal for God’s house, and pursue zeal in accordance with God’s word. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality” (Romans 12:9–13).