BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
“Zeal without knowledge is not good; a person who moves too quickly may go the wrong way” (Proverbs 19:2 New Living Translation).
In Romans 10:2, Paul says concerning the Jews, “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (New King James Version). This scripture, Proverbs 19:2 and the opening text, Romans 10:2, talk about zeal without knowledge but there is also knowledge without zeal. Both are bad. There are many in the church today having knowledge but without zeal – no enthusiasm to win souls, no passionate commitment to serve God, etc. But there are also others who have zeal but lack knowledge.
Knowledge is not enough! That’s why the Bible says in 2 Peter 1:6 to add to knowledge, self-control. Your knowledge is not sufficient. We need knowledge and we need zeal. Zeal without knowledge can make you reckless! Knowledge without zeal can make you useless! To your knowledge add zeal, and to your zeal add knowledge.
Knowledge is important. Isaiah 5:13 says, “Therefore my people are gone into captivity for lack of knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude are parched with thirst” (American Standard Version). Hosea 4:6 says something similar to this: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children’” (New King James Version).
If you don’t want to destroy yourself, don’t despise knowledge. Proverbs 1:22 says fools hate knowledge. Be wise. “Wise people store up knowledge, but the mouth of the foolish is near destruction” (Proverbs 10:14 New King James Version).
In the secular world, they don’t joke with knowledge. That’s why they pay so much to acquire it. They believe knowledge is power. That is not far from what the Bible says: “A wise man is mightier than a strong man, and a man of knowledge is more powerful than a strong man” (Proverbs 24:5 New Living Translation).
Some facts about knowledge
1. Knowledge can be basically divided into two. It can be good or bad, correct or wrong. It can also be edifying or unedifying.
2. Knowledge is very precious. It’s more precious than gold. “Receive my instruction, and not silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold” (Proverbs 8:10 New King James Version).
3. Knowledge can be taught. Ecclesiastes 12:9 says, “And moreover, because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yes, he pondered and sought out and set in order many proverbs” (New King James Version).
Pastors should be teachers of knowledge. They’re supposed to feed the people with knowledge. Jeremiah 3:15 says, “And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding” (New King James Version).
Malachi 2:7 says the priest’s lips should keep knowledge; he should teach people. Preachers or ministers of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ are not called to be entertainers but teachers of knowledge! They should not be like the experts of law in the days of Jesus who took away or hid the key of knowledge from the people. “How terrible it will be for you experts in religious law! For you hide the key to knowledge from the people. You don’t enter the Kingdom yourselves, and you prevent others from entering” (Luke 11:52 New Living Translation). A wise person acquires knowledge from instructions that he receives (Proverbs 21:11). But a fool doesn’t appreciate knowledge.
4. Knowledge can be sought or learnt. If knowledge can be taught, that means it can be learnt or acquired. A wise person therefore should seek the right knowledge, go after it and acquire it because it is crucial to whatever God wants to do in his life. Proverbs 2:3 talks about crying after knowledge. Proverbs 15:14 says, “The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness” (New King James Version). According to Proverbs 18:15, intelligent people are always ready to learn. Their ears are open to knowledge. “Intelligent people are always open to new ideas. In fact, they look for them” (Proverbs 18:15 New Living Translation).
5. God gives knowledge. Ecclesiastes 2:26 says God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight. So knowledge can be sourced from God. Prophet Jeremiah said that God gave him a prior knowledge of the plots his enemies were making against him (Jeremiah 11:18). That is revelation knowledge. That means without God, he wouldn’t have known.
God gave knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom to Daniel and the other three Hebrew youths, while he also gave Daniel understanding in all visions and dreams (Daniel1:17). From Daniel 2:21, we learn that God gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. So if God gives knowledge, it means you can ask Him for it, and you can also acquire it from those who have received it from God. Matthew 7:7-8 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (New King James Version).
6. There is a spirit of knowledge. This is beyond what one learns from others or is taught. It is a spirit. It is one of the components or manifestations of the Holy Spirit in a life. Isaiah 11:2 says, “The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, …The Spirit of knowledge …” (New King James Version). I pray that this Spirit will rest on you or, better still, come into you and reside there.
7. You can grow in knowledge. Knowledge can increase. If it can increase, it also means it can decrease – knowledge can be lost. 2 Peter 3:18 talks about growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
If you value knowledge, you will pay the price necessary to ensure it increases in your life. That is why people go back to school to obtain higher degrees, go for more training or continue to read to update their knowledge.
8. Knowledge can lead to pride or arrogance. Knowledge can make one feel big, and this is not good. No wonder, in order to ensure that Paul was not exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, God gave him a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet him (2 Corinthians 12:7) Paul says knowledge puffs up – it can make someone arrogant, proud (1 Corinthians 8:1).
However, if you can manage knowledge well, it is a great blessing. It will give you stability. Ignorance will make you shift here and there. Isaiah 33:6 says, “Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times, and the strength of salvation; the fear of the LORD is His treasure” (New King James Version).
Unfortunately, it is not everybody who is able to manage knowledge well. For some, their knowledge has caused them sorrow just as Ecclesiastes 1:18 says. “For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow” (New King James Version). May your knowledge not cause you sorrow.
What is Zeal?
But as I’ve said, in spite all the good things about knowledge, knowledge alone is not enough. We need to add zeal to our knowledge.
The Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines zeal as “a strong feeling of interest and enthusiasm that makes someone very eager and determined to do something.” The Free Online Dictionary defines zeal as “enthusiastic devotion to a cause, ideal or goal and tireless diligence in its furtherance.” Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary describes it as “Enthusiastic devotion; eager desire; single-minded allegiance.” According t the KJV Dictionary, zeal is “Passionate ardor in the pursuit of anything. In general, zeal is an eagerness of desire to accomplish or obtain some object, and it may be manifested either in favor of any person or thing, or in opposition to it, and in a good or bad cause.”
One of the important things you must add to your knowledge to excel in life is zeal – passion, passionate commitment, strong love or feeling, burning desire. God is a God of zeal! God has zeal. He acts with zeal.
Isaiah 63:15 asks God, “Where is thy zeal?” Isaiah 9:7, a prophecy about Jesus, says, “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (New King James Version). Take note of that last sentence: The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. The New Living Translation uses “passionate commitment” instead of the word zeal. So the zeal of God is His passionate commitment to get things done. In that verse, it is not the zeal of the Lord of hosts that will do it, not the knowledge. Knowledge is not enough!
2 Kings 19:31 and Isaiah 37:32 also say, “The zeal of the Lord of host shall do this” (New King James Version). The New Century Version uses the phrase “the strong love of the Lord All-powerful” instead of the zeal of the Lord of host. So God’s zeal, God’s passionate commitment is God’s strong love that propels Him to take action. Knowledge is not enough!
Isaiah 59:17 says God was clad in zeal as a cloak. You should have godly zeal not ungodly, misguided zeal. “So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them. Now the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel, but of the remnant of the Amorites; the children of Israel had sworn protection to them, but Saul had sought to kill them in his zeal for the children of Israel and Judah” (2 Samuel 21:2 New King James Version). Saul, in his zeal for Israel, killed the Gibeonites contrary to the agreement Israel had with them in Joshua 9:15-20. Saul’s misguided zeal caused three years of famine during David’s reign. The Gibeonites asked for seven sons of Saul to kill as appeasement. David granted their request for the famine to end (verses 6-9). You must avoid misguided zeal. It will always have its negative consequences.
You must add godly zeal to your knowledge. Your knowledge will amount to nothing until you add zeal, passion or passionate commitment, inner drive, strong love. I read somewhere about David Garrick, the great actor. According to Rev. Walter Lee Lingle, a Presbyterian minister, a bishop asked the actor how it was possible to take fiction and produce a tremendous effort on his audience. He said, Garrick replied, “Because I recite fiction as it were truth and you preach truth as if were fiction.” Even your preaching will lack effectiveness, won’t make the impact it should make, without zeal or passion birthed by the Holy Spirit in you.
The Lord says in Ezekiel 5:13, “Thus shall My anger be spent, and I will cause My fury to rest upon them, and I will be avenged; and they shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it in My zeal, when I have spent My fury upon them” (New King James Version). Did you see that phrase? – In My zeal. Preach the gospel in your zeal. Your zeal is key to making impact in life – making eternal change. D.L. Moody said, “The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives.” Obviously, when our lives change, we bring changes in other people’s lives.
Where is your zeal? Knowledge is not enough! You can have all the knowledge in the world, full of strength, full of wisdom, and still do nothing.
Jehu’s and Jehonadab’s zeal
Jehu told Jehonadab, also called Jonadab, “Come with me, and see my zeal for the LORD” (2 Kings 10:16a New King James Version). How did he demonstrate his zeal for the Lord? He went to kill all who remained in the house of Ahab. But Jehu misdirected his zeal for the Lord by engaging in unnecessary bloodshed. He went beyond what God commanded him to do: wipe out the entire family of Ahab, every male, slave and free alike, in Israel (2 Kings 9:8) because of the killing of Naboth ordered by Jezebel for Ahab to take over his vineyard.
However, Jehu killed those he was not commanded to kill. He killed everyone who had any relationship with the house of Ahab such as Ahab’s leading men, close friends and priests who had helped Ahab when he was alive (2 Kings 10:11). God pronounced judgment on him because of this excessive shedding of blood. The Lord said to Prophet Hosea that he would avenge the bloodshed of Jezreel on the house of Jehu, and bring an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel (Hosea 1:4-5).
Despite his proclaimed zeal for the Lord, Jehu failed to walk in the law of the LORD God of Israel with all his heart. He did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, who had made Israel sin (2 Kings 10:31). He departed from the sins of Ahab by destroying Baal from Israel (verses 18-28), but continued with the sins of Jeroboam by preserving the golden calves that were at Bethel and Dan (verse 29). This shows that his religious reform was not total. But he did well in executing God’s judgment on Ahab’s house.
The Lord promised him that because he had done well in doing what was right in his sight, and had done to the house of Ahab all that was in his heart, his sons should sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation (verse 30). This was fulfilled (2 Kings 15:12). Jehu’s house continued to reign after him for four generations with Jehoahaz, Joash (Jehoash), Jeroboam II and Zachariah, Jehu’s son, grandson, great grandson and great-great-grandson respectively reigning as kings. This means that Jehu’s family reigned, altogether, for five generations, the longest by any family in Israel.
What about Jehonadab’s zeal? He was also zealous for God. In 2 Kings 10:16, Ahab had invited him to join him in his chariot and see his zeal for the Lord. He rode with Jehu, in his chariot, to Samaria. Jehu killed all who remained in the household of Ahab in Samaria, till he had destroyed them, according to the word of the Lord to Elijah which he declared in 1 Kings 21:21-24.
Jehonadab was the progenitor of the Rechabites, a group named after his father, Recab. Rechabites were a people separated from the materialism of the world and committed to God. They never drank wine, built houses or planted crops or vineyards, but always lived in tents (Jeremiah 35:6-10). They had zeal for the Lord. Where is your zeal?
David said the zeal for the house of God had eaten him up (Psalm 69:9a). He meant that passion for God’s house burnt within him. And because of the burning zeal in him, David said, “When people insult you [God], it hurts me” (verse 9b New Century Version).
Psalm 69:9a also applied to Jesus. The disciples of Jesus remembered this scripture after Jesus had cleansed the temple, driving away sellers of oxen, sheep and doves and the money changers who were doing business in the court of the gentiles (John 2:13-17). Jesus was driven by zeal or passion for the house of God. He couldn’t stomach seeing God’s house being abused.
If you have zeal, it will show in your action. If you have much zeal, it will be evident in how much action you’re taking or the price you’re paying.
As a sinner, Paul was zealous. He had much zeal and therefore persecuted the saints. Hear what he said about himself: “I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished” (Acts 22:3-5 New King James Version).
In Philippians 3:6, Paul said, concerning zeal, he persecuted the church, and, concerning the righteousness, which was in the law, he was blameless. He was part of the gang that killed the first Christian martyr, Stephen. The Bible says, “They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. The official witnesses took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul” (Acts 7:58 New Living Translation). Saul was his name before his conversion.
Saul (Paul) was zealous for the devil before his conversion but when he got converted, he became zealous for God. He did much work for God; he made great sacrifice. “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:7-11 New King James Version).
Hear the words of Paul again, which tell us about his zeal for God: “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law(not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 New King James Version).
Be zealous for God too. If you have zeal, it will show in the work you’re doing for Him. It will show in your commitment to fulfilling your destiny. You won’t just fold your arms doing nothing.
Corinthians’ and Epaphras’ zeal
Writing to the Corinthians, Paul spoke about their zeal to give to the Jerusalem Christians which provoked many to begin to give (2 Corinthians 9:2). But the Corinthian church lost their zeal. A year after, they were yet to complete the contribution they began enthusiastically. Paul wrote to them, saying, “I suggest that you finish what you started a year ago, for you were the first to propose this idea, and you were the first to begin doing something about it. Now you should carry this project through to completion just as enthusiastically as you began it” (2 Corinthians 8:10-11a New Living Translation).
Titus, who initially encouraged their giving, was also urged to return to encourage them to complete their share in this ministry of giving (verse 6). Therefore, zeal can be lost. It can fizzle out. It can evaporate! Zeal is not enough. You need knowledge.
Paul also spoke about the zeal of Epaphras for the Colossians. “Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis” (Colossians 4:12-13 New King James Version). Zeal will always spur you to action; you can’t have zeal and be passive. Epaphras’ zeal was evident in always laboring fervently in prayers for the Colossians, those who were in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis.
Don’t be zealous for wrong causes
Do you notice that those who pursue and accomplish wrong causes and gain large following are also zealous? Yes, they are, otherwise not many people will follow them. This is ungodly zeal. As we have already seen in the case of King Saul, Paul and Jehu, zeal can be misdirected. That was actually why Paul accused the Jews in Romans 10:2, which I quoted in the opening paragraph of this message. In the New Living Translation of the scripture, Paul said, “I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal”.
Writing to the Galatians about the false teachers, Paul said, “They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them. But it is good to be zealous in a good thing always, and not only when I am present with you” (Galatians 4:17-18 New King James Version). That was misdirected, negative zeal, which as I said earlier Paul was also guilty of, and testified against himself concerning this. “For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (Galatians 1:13-14 New King James Version). Paul was guilty of zeal without knowledge – he only had wrong knowledge. After he received the correct knowledge, he began to direct his zeal for the advancement of the Kingdom of God.
That’s why zeal is not enough. You too need the correct knowledge. Paul’s knowledge was incorrect but he had much zeal, and he wrecked much havoc. Go for the correct knowledge, and add godly zeal.
God wants you to be zealous. God wants you to be zealous for good works. That’s what Jesus saved you to do. He didn’t save you to be idle, to be lethargic, to be indolent or to be apathetic. Titus 2:14 says Jesus, “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (New King James Version).
Phinehas had zeal and he did something with his zeal which gladdened the heart of the Lord. He killed both Zimri and Cozbi with a javelin and put an end to the plague that resulted from Zimri’s sin with the Midianite woman (Numbers 25:6-13). Verses 10-13 say, “Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in My zeal. Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace; and it shall be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel’” (New King James Version).
Where is your zeal?
Are you zealous for good works? Where is your zeal? Jesus told the Laodicea church to be zealous and repent because she was lukewarm (Revelation 3:19b). May be you too need to repent of your backsliding, idleness, waywardness, selfishness or lack of concern for the Kingdom of God.
You may need to repent of your knowledge that you’ve not put to use and add zeal to your knowledge. Knowledge is not enough. Be zealous; be enthusiastic. “Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic – be on fire in the Spirit as you serve the Lord” (Romans 12:11 Common English Bible).
The English word enthusiasm is borrowed from the Greek enthousiasmos which means “divine inspiration” or “possession by a god.” Enthousiasmos comes from two words en and theos which means in god. Enthousiasmos was formerly used in a derogatory sense to describe “excessive religious zeal” but that has since changed.
As a child of God, you remain enthusiastic as you stay in God doing what verse 12 of the scripture above says. It says, “Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and always be prayerful” (New Living Translation).
To be on fire, as written in Romans 12:12 above, is to be zealous. And we see zeal for the Lord in the willingness to live for him and die for him if necessary. “Remain faithful even when facing death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10c New Living Translation).
In Acts 7, we see Stephen’s zeal for the Lord. He died in faith gallantly as he was stoned to death (verses 57-60). Also, the church of Ephesus, influenced by the pagan society and false teachers, lost her zeal for the Lord, though she was still doing many works which the Lord acknowledged (Revelation 2:1-5). The Lord told her: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place — unless you repent” (verse 5 New King James Version). That is still the Word of God to anyone today who has lost his zeal for Him. Works or activities are not enough.
How to get godly zeal and sustain it
1. Be born again, baptized in the Holy Spirit in and controlled by the Holy Spirit. The journey of walking with God begins by first giving your life to Jesus. You must be born again (John 3:3, 7). Destinies are perverted when people fail to give their lives to Jesus.
Accept Jesus as your LORD and Savior and receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Then, yield the control of your life to the Holy Spirit. Paul asked some believers, twelve of them, in Ephesus, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (Acts 19:2 New King James Version) Unfortunately, they were not aware of anything so called. Paul enlightened them. He laid hands on them and the Holy Spirit came upon them. They spoke with tongues and prophesied.
One of the things the Holy Spirit, dwelling inside a believer, does is to put in him a burning desire or zeal for a particular cause (ministry) in line with the call of God upon his life. This is not limited to the preaching of the gospel. “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:4-11 New King James Version). The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29). Be inspired by the Holy Spirit.
2. Acquire correct knowledge. This is the basis or foundation for the right kind of zeal. Don’t forget that Paul said of his Jewish brethren that they had zeal for God, but not according to knowledge (Romans 10:2).
As we saw previously, Paul, before his conversion, had zeal for God but it was a wrong kind of zeal. Because his knowledge was faulty, he misdirected his zeal, killing the saints (Philippians 3:6) thinking that he was serving God. While he was persecuting the church, he didn’t know he was actually persecuting Jesus. “Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads’” (Acts 9:4-5 New King James Version). Paul related this same story in Acts 22:6-7, 26:13-14.
Paul’s knowledge was wrong. In fact, he confessed that his persecution of the church was done in ignorance. “How thankful I am to Christ Jesus our Lord for considering me trustworthy and appointing me to serve him, even though I used to scoff at the name of Christ. I hunted down his people, harming them in every way I could. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:12-13 New Living Translation). That is why you need correct knowledge. Zeal is not enough.
3. Love the LORD and fellow human beings. Your desire for godly zeal, the deployment of the zeal and the purpose of that zeal must be borne out of your love for the LORD and people, not out of any wrong or selfish motive like those Paul said preached Christ out of jealousy and rivalry (Philippians 1:15). “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5 New King James Version).
Jesus put it this way: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40 New King James Version).
Jesus taught his followers to love one another as he had loved them. He called it a new commandment (John 13:34, 15:12). He also said that we should love our enemies (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27, 35) – we shall always need the help of the Holy Spirit to do this. Ephesians 5:2 says, “Live a life filled with love for others, following the example of Christ, who loved you and gave himself as a sacrifice to take away your sins. And God was pleased, because that sacrifice was like sweet perfume to him” (New Living Translation).
Jesus loved both the Father and human beings when he was on the earth doing his ministry. He did his miracles out of compassion for people. What is zeal without love for the LORD and people?
Without love, you’re nothing; love is the greatest. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 New King James Version). Verse 13 says, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (New King James Version).
Life without love is a bankrupt life no matter the cause you pursue and your sacrifice. Everything is useless without love. Love is the fulfillment of all the law. The apostle John said, “Love means doing what God has commanded us” (2 John 6a NLT). The easiest way to fulfill the Ten Commandments is to love. Love God and love people.
Paul said, “For the commandments against adultery and murder and stealing and coveting — and any other commandment — are all summed up in this one commandment: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” (Romans 13:9 New Living Translation). Verse 10b says, “Love satisfies all of God’s requirements.” The NKJV renders it thus: “Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Be motivated by love. It will sustain your zeal.
4. Fellowship with the LORD. The LORD gives zeal. If you cultivate a discipline of fellowshipping with the LORD, he’ll baptize you with zeal through revelation that will become fire in your bones. In Jeremiah 20:9, Prophet Jeremiah said that if he said he would never mention the LORD or speak in his name, his word burnt in his heart like a fire. He declared, “It’s like a fire in my bones! I am weary of holding it in!”(New living Translation)
Isaiah 40:31 says, “But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (New King James Version).This involves prayer and study, meditation and confession of the Word of God. “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results” (James 5:16b New Living Translation).
Prayer should not be a selfish thing. Believers have a responsibility to pray for one another. We need to pray that the LORD will give others the zeal to serve him and that their zeal will not wane. Paul wrote to the Colossians: “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9-11 New King James Version).
5. Have a single, correct focus. People of zeal are usually people of one thing. Paul said, “This one thing I do” (Philippians 3:13). Whether in the ministry or academics, business, science, sports, etc. people of zeal are people of one thing.
They are clear about their destiny, life assignment and pour their entire life into it, paying any price necessary. Paul said of himself, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law(not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 New King James Version). Zeal for the LORD made Paul do all that. He didn’t allow anything to limit him – not anything called “comfort zone.”
Paul was single-minded and ready to pay any price. Hear him in Acts 20:22-24: “And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (New King James Version). That was a correctly focused man.
As Paul was making his defence in the presence of Roman governor, Festus, King Agrippa and others, Festus shouted, “Paul, you are insane. Too much study has made you crazy!” (Acts 26:24 New Living Translation) To many people, zealous people are mad or insane. This is because of their devotion to the causes they believe in and pursue. This is why zeal should be godly.
6. Give priority to eternity. John 6:27 says, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him” (New King James Version).
Are you living for eternity or just for this earth? Don’t be pre-occupied with the thoughts of this world that is passing away and everything in it (1 John 2:15-17). “Those in frequent contact with the things of the world should make good use of them without becoming attached to them, for this world and all it contains will pass away” (1 Corinthians 7:31 New Living Translation).
Set your mind on heaven. “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honor and power. Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2 New Living Translation). Let heaven fill your thoughts; don’t think only about earthly things.
7. Obey the Word of God. Any zeal that does not respect the Word of God is ungodly zeal. Reject it. Obey God’s Word and respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Paul told King Agrippa that he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision (Acts 26:19). Unrepented sins will kill your zeal. “Remember that some people lead sinful lives, and everyone knows they will be judged. But there are others whose sin will not be revealed until later” (1 Timothy 5:24 New Living Translation). Repent of every sin, secret or evident, and obey the Word of God. Wonderful times of refreshment from the presence of the LORD follow repentance (Acts 3:19).
8. Associate with those who have godly zeal. Elijah said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts” (1 Kings 19:10 New King James Version). One of the disciples of Jesus was called Simon the Zealot (Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13) probably to distinguish him from Simon Peter. He was also referred to as Simon the Canaanite (Matthew 10:4; Mark 3:18). Some Bible scholars have said that Simon the Zealot was possibly a former member of the Jewish political party called the Zealots. Zealot means a zealous supporter of a cause.
The point I want to make here is that you should associate with zealous people who can influence you positively. As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend (Proverbs 27:17). “Whoever walks with the wise will become wise; whoever walks with fools will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20 New Living Translation). Bad company ruins good character (1 Corinthians 15:33).
Zeal is contagious, and the lack of it is also transferable. Don’t walk in the counsel of the ungodly; don’t stand in the path of sinners; don’t sit in the seat of the scornful (Psalm 1:1). Don’t company with ‘fire extinguishers’ – those without zeal for the LORD who can kill your zeal for him. Don’t partner with those who have ungodly zeal.
Conclusion: We have looked at zeal without knowledge and knowledge without zeal. We have seen that both are not desirable. This is not limited to the Christian ministry. It affects every aspect of human endeavour. Therefore, seek knowledge but to your knowledge add zeal. Knowledge alone is not enough, neither is zeal alone enough. Get both.
Discover your destiny. Have a worthy and God-ordained purpose for living and zealously pursue it. Don’t be lukewarm. “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:15-17 New King James Version).
I’ll conclude with the words of Paul the apostle: “Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and the Master you are serving is Christ. But if you do what is wrong, you will be paid back for the wrong you have done. For God has no favorites who can get away with evil” (Colossians 3:23-25 New Living Translation).
If you’re not born again, I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you’re a sinner and you can’t save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start to attend a Bible-believing, Bible -teaching church. There you will be taught how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: “O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent and confess my sins. I confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and surrender my life to him today. I invite Jesus into my heart today. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you Jesus for saving me and making me a child of God.”
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible believing, Bible teaching church in your area where you will be taught how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I’ll be glad to hear from you. May the Lord be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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