There is a secret ache within a number of people I have met recently. They go to church but no longer feel they have zeal in their relationship with God, others no longer in the church are grappling with the fact they do not go but they love God and want to serve him. The emotions these situations create can cause us to question God’s nature, whether he still loves us or whether we are being punished somehow. We may even begin to scrutinise our lives and ask what have we done wrong? Why don’t we fit? I wonder whether you have ever asked these kind of questions.
In Romans 12 v 11 we read ‘Do not be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour in serving the Lord.’ Keeping your spiritual fervour is about confidence in the gospel, it’s about the fire, passion and excitement that comes from understanding that the gospel works, it is for me and it is for the world around me. It is also about conviction. We cannot convince others of what we believe unless we are convicted ourselves that what we believe is true. ‘Therefore’, says Paul ‘keep your spiritual fervour in serving the Lord’.
When Paul raises the issue of spiritual zeal in serving the Lord he says don’t be lazy or inactive but keep your spiritual passion in serving the Lord. He uses the word ‘service’ which relates to a bond servant; someone who could not pay a debt and therefore served the person to whom they owed the debt, until it was repaid. This has parallels for us as Christians; we know we are sinners and have become ‘slaves’ to righteousness, servants of the Lord. We know the debt we owed to God was far more than we could pay and we gave our lives to God that he might transform us. We serve the Lord because we know we were made by God for his glory. We are connected to, entwined with and cast upon God, as his ambassadors and bond servants. This bond generates our spiritual fervour and zeal.
Paul says that this zeal comes from the ‘Pneuma’ of the Spirit, which is about the renewal of our minds in order to know God better. It is in this context – the renewal of our mind, emotions and will through the Holy Spirit – that Paul talks about keeping our spiritual zeal. It is through the Holy Spirit that we receive fervour (heat, passion) to serve the Lord and our fervour therefore does not come from our circumstances or how we feel about them, but it comes from the person we are serving. It is the Holy Spirit working through us that causes us to overflow, to boil with a passion to serve the Lord.
Our focus needs to be on the Lord and serving him. If we focus on other things we will lose our zeal and passion to serve God. Sometimes we get lost in the mix of serving people and our own values rather than serving Christ and him only. Serving Christ might cost us reputation and comfort. It can also cost us something we greatly value, which is to be able to understand and articulate exactly where I am, what I am doing and why I am doing it. Sometimes when serving the Lord we don’t know or can’t articulate where we are, what we’re doing or why we’re doing it but we have peace that we are in the right place, that God is sovereign and in control and know’s what he is doing with us. Serving God sometimes requires us not to understand but to stand where God has put us.
Paul says keep your spiritual fervour – keep your boiling hot passion to serve God. We know the saying ‘If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.’ Well, here, Paul is saying ‘You need to make the heat, to be in the kitchen’ – in other words, serving the Lord requires the active stirring of our hearts towards God.
How do we keep our spiritual fervour?
Guard your heart
Ask ‘What am I focusing on?’ Focus on serving the Lord
Look around today and see where you can serve him right now.
Ask the Holy Spirit now for what you cannot do by yourself.
(With thanks to Riley Bible church)