Zeal: Enthusiastic diligence; eager desire; fervor. There are two synonyms for this word - passion and intensity. Anything which is done with great "fervor" is done with great intensity - there is a robustness to the action. Maybe this is why God looks for a people who will have great zeal - he desires a robustness of relationship!
For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous (those who are upright and in right standing with God), and His ears are attentive to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who practice evil [to oppose them, to frustrate, and defeat them]. Now who is there to hurt you if you are zealous followers of that which is good? But even in case you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, [you are] blessed (happy, to be envied). Do not dread or be afraid of their threats, nor be disturbed [by their opposition]. (I Peter 3:12-14 AMP)
Thomas Fuller penned the words: "Zeal without knowledge is fire without light." Chew on that one a little. Desire, enthusiasm, and intensity are one thing - to have them rightly directed so they produce something of the greatest value is another! Thomas Fuller also wrote, "All things are difficult before they are easy." If you don't know who Thomas Fuller was, look him up. He was an English churchman and an author - entering college at the age of thirteen. He wrote a book entitled "Good Thoughts in Bad Times", a book of prayers and meditations. Maybe some of his writings got him into a little trouble, as he told things as they were, but he had some good thoughts which I honestly believe he gleaned from bad times!
He also penned the words, "A good garden may have some weeds." This should give each of us a moment of hope! We all desire to be fruitful gardens, profitable in every way. Yet, we struggle with "weeds" which seem to interfere with our "good growth" on occasion, don't we? I think Thomas had come to realize the weeds are common - the fruit requires the skilled hand of the gardener! Weeds will grow wherever there is prepared soil - it is just part of the growth process. It is God's intention for us to allow him the privilege of "weeding" in our gardens!
As we wrap up our 28-day journey through the character traits of God's kids, let's not forget this final trait of zeal. God exercises great zeal over our lives. In turn, he asks but one thing for us - be eager to embrace the work he is doing. In our eagerness to embrace his inner work, we will soon begin to reveal the intensity of this work to those who live around us. Intensity is something which cannot be contained. It is like a brilliant light - it cannot be held back - it must invade the darkness.
Peter's words to us are full of instruction and hope:
* When we embrace "right-living" (righteousness), God's eyes are upon us. As one who needs a whole lot of "watching" in order to stay the course, I take heart in this promise! I need to be "watched" - how about you?
* His words are full of instruction - but a listening ear is paramount to hearing! It is one thing to be spoken to - it is another to take action upon what has been revealed. Zeal without knowledge is like fire without light - God enjoys our zeal, but he also wants us to have knowledge about what it is he would have us do with all that zeal! Getting to know his Word, and listening for his voice, will ensure we don't go off "half-cocked" in our zeal.
* Being zealous for the good things in life will not keep us from problems - it just keeps us from harm! Bad things happen to good people, don't they? So how can I say God keeps us from harm? Think on this one a little - God never forsakes us. To forsake means to abandon, to quit or leave entirely. His presence is with us, even in bad times. His grace is what preserves us in the midst of stupid and ugly stuff. We may quit God, but it is impossible for him to quit us! This is counter to his character. So, even in the midst of the problems, he is watchful over us.
Passion, intensity, earnest desire - these sum up the "drive" behind all the other character traits. One who seeks with intensity will not have his seeking unrewarded! Zeal is evidence of the Gardener at work in the garden of your life. The weeds may still grow up alongside the "good stuff", but he is actively weeding them away. All he asks from us is the willingness to allow him access. Do you grow brilliantly beautiful flowers to keep them hidden away from view? Nope! So, don't you think God will put on display the brilliance of his care in our lives? How? In the beauty of these character traits! His touch becomes the change agent - his continual care becomes the growth agent - his light becomes the transforming agent. Truth be told, we need all three. Just sayin!