never be lacking in zeal (Romans 12:11)

May 9th, 2024

11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. 

If you have been a Christian long enough, you might be all too familiar with the command "serve the Lord". Likely, you have heard the reciting of Joshua 24:15 countless times, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord". Often, this is something Christian parents try to impart to their children as a way of training and discipleship. Serving the Lord then has essentially become a core family value that is in one way or another ingrained into us. Although this is very much the truth of the Bible, we ought to be careful in explaining what is meant by "serving the Lord".

Our passage from the book of Romans seems to make clear that there is a desired manner in which we are to serve the Lord. It is not simply that we just wake up and go about serving God in our own preferred way. And, just because we might go around and tell others that "we serve the Lord", does not actually guarantee that we are carrying out that command in a biblical manner. In fact, we know that many people have gotten away with a sheer amount of evil under the guise of "serving the Lord". It should be clear that we are to avoid becoming like these kinds of people. Perhaps an easy way of understanding this point is to understand the difference between performing a task and performing a task well. This kind of thinking is very similar to the way our work environments are structured. Our managers and supervisors are not all too concerned with the quantity of our work if the quality of our work is lacking. I believe this is the way we are to accurately apply the instruction of serving the Lord in our own lives. There is a proper way to serve God and that is to do so in a way that is worthy of His name and glory.

Paul tells us the way we can do this. We are commanded to never be lacking in zeal. Zeal is not a word that simply means get things done quickly or check things off a list. It is a word that conveys the heart posture or right attitude we bring in rendering service to the Lord. It means to be bring an earnestness, intense conviction and diligence to Jesus Christ as we serve Him. It is to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all of your heart (1 Samuel 12:24). Reflect on this definition today. Am I serving God in order to be praised and recognized by others? Am I serving only because someone asked me to serve? Am I just trying to fulfill a cultural duty so that no one looks down on me for not serving? Am I seeking to serve God in every area of my life or only when it is convenient for me? 

However we answer the questions above will determine whether or not we truly understand what it means to serve God. It is clear that if we are going to serve Him, we need to be zealous for His glory and for His kingdom. But how are we to be continually conscious of our zealous heart in serving? How do I keep my spiritual fervour and strength? The answer may be simpler than you think. Good and proper service to the Lord does not ever begin with how we serve but rather, who we are serving. Rather than deriving your excitement and energy from your serving activity, receive your zeal from the Lord Himself. If you have determined that your service is for Jesus Christ and Him alone, you will never be lacking in zeal. In fact, it is in Him that we are supplied with all that we need for every good spiritual service. Apart from Christ, we can do nothing (John 15:5). It is only when we start serving mankind, seeking their approval and looking for status that we lose spiritual fervor. Or, we may also lose focus when we decide to operate on our own talents, intellect and capabilities. How can the Lord receive glory from our service, if we have determined to get glory for ourselves?

Seriously contemplate this reality. If you have found yourself too tired to continue serving in your workplace or serving your family, consider if you have grown tired in worshipping Jesus. If you find yourself burnt out from church service or in helping your neighbours, consider if you have grown weary in ministering to Jesus. Jesus taught His disciples in this manner, that whatever it is we do unto others, we have actually done unto the Lord, Himself (Matthew 25:40; Colossians 3:23). If it was the voice of Jesus that had asked us to serve in a particular area, would we say no to Him? If it was Jesus who was in need of a specific kind of help, would we ignore His cry? I am sure each one of us would line up to help Jesus with whatever it is He is asking of us. In the same manner, our zeal for serving in this life must be directly focused on ministering to Him. As long as our eyes remain fixated on pleasing Christ, we can have every good reason to serve with zeal and spiritual fervour.

The loving reminder from scripture today is to ensure we know whose kingdom we are building. It is very possible that we could be laying bricks down for the sake of someone else or even ourselves. Take time to realign your service with the will of God today. Put strong boundaries in place so that you continually keep your heart and mind centred on serving Christ and Christ alone.

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