Sunday, September 16, 2012

Zealous For The Lord

About midway through my Officership, while undertaking a review process, I was described as being too passionate and intense and it was suggested that I may want to consider being a little less zealous in my ministry and leadership.  The suggestion of being any less passionate than how God has wired me is unthinkable in my mind and incompatable with my spirit!

John Maxwell, in his book “Put Your Dream to the Test,” articulates well what I feel about this perception of being too passionate, “I have never seen anyone anywhere at any time achieve anything of any value without the spark of passionate desire!  It provides the energy that makes dreams possible.”

I am a driven person and for a period of my training to be an Officer I was almost led to be convinced that this was somehow a negative quality.  But when I discovered that my drive was an Holy Spirit zeal to pursue God’s calling upon my life with every fibre of my being, I rejected that lie and embraced the person the Spirit had empowered me to be!

Zealous means enthusiastic, eager, passionate, intense.
Zealous means full of, characterized by, or due to zeal; ardently active, devoted, or diligent.

A person who is zealous passionately pursues that which they are devoted to!

In Matthew 22:37 Jesus told his disciples to “Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart and with ALL your soul and with ALL your mind.”  Fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ are zealous people!

The problem with zealous people is that they live in a largely apathetic world, where apathy is the antithesis of zeal. 

Apathy means a lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern – indifference.
An apathetic person has an absence of interest in or concern about emotional, social, spiritual, philosophical and/or physical life.

What happens when zeal and apathy collides? 

As a person who has been “Zealous for the Lord” throughout my life since childhood, it has been my painful experience that the collision between zeal and apathy often brings opposition, misunderstanding and judgement from others.  It also creates a "Holy Discontent" within that remains dissatisfied with the status quo.

In Scripture, the prophet Elijah had been “Zealous for the Lord” in a familiar story about his confrontation with the prophets of Baal.  What was a monumental display of prophetic power in Elijah’s life (a legacy of his prophetic leadership), became a struggle with fear and depression as he faced a full-frontal attack against his leadership.  This mighty man of faith became crippled by fear.  Yet, beyond Elijah's encounter with God in the "gentle whisper" at the cave, it is what God spoke into Elijah's life that provides us with prophetic wisdom for those who experience opposition for being "Zealous for the Lord"

"And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  

He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” 

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.  After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave." (1 Kings 19:9-13)

1.  Remain in the PRESENCE OF THE LORD 

God’s COVENANT does not change during times of suffering and opposition.

“As I was with Moses so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  (Joshua 1:5)

Whenever human beings go through a period of conflict or struggle, there is a tendency to withdraw from the places where we draw strength and try to manage our circumstances on our own.  This is true for social connections with others as well as our spiritual connection with God.  Rather than withdrawing from God's presence in these times (if that is at all possible?), it is essential to remain in the PRESENCE OF THE LORD.  However, our desire or ability to remain in God's presence during conflict and opposition is dependent upon the patterns and habits that are in place when life is good.  If you don't have the pattern of prayer and being in the Word when the path is smooth, then the chances are you won't go there when the path is rugged!  

Jesus remained in the PRESENCE OF THE LORD in the Garden of Gethsemane which empowered him to face the pain and struggle of the cross.

"Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus

When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram.  Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.  Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:14-18)

2.  Return to the PLACE OF ANOINTING 

God’s CALLING does not change during times of suffering and opposition. 

“Repent and do the things you did at first.”  (Revelation 2:5)

This tendency to withdraw during times of conflict also manifests itself in relation to pursuing God's calling or purpose.  I have seen way too many godly leaders abandon the pathway of duty when things get tough!  God's direction to Elijah to "go back the way you came" was a call to return to the PLACE OF ANOINTING to realign with God's purposes.  In difficult times it is easy to lose perspective and passion for what God has called you to do.  Returning to the PLACE OF ANOINTING restores our passion and renews our purpose to be ZEALOUS FOR THE LORD!  

In the PRESENCE OF THE LORD in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus returned to the PLACE OF ANOINTING and was able to say, "Yet not what I will, but what you will." (Mark 14:36)

“It is not incidental that the death of Jesus has come to be known as the Passion. The cross of Jesus Christ points to everything that God is passionate about. God the Son so passionately hates the destructive force of sin that He was willing to die to overcome it. And He so passionately loves humanity that He was willing to give even His own life on our behalf. You know what you are really passionate about when you are willing to lay you life down for it.” (Erwin Raphael McManus, “Uprising”)

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