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Point of Reference

    by Fred Price

Living Zealously For God
Date Posted: May 20, 2022

Does that sound a bit radical? Maybe the question ought to be: Can we be genuinely serious about anything and not be significantly different as a result? That’s the point isn’t it – to be unique in our approach, support and enthusiasm for the things we are interested by and believe in? But therein lies the problem as well, as fans of all sorts are expected to show enthusiastic support for the things that excite them. However, expressing real commitment and excitement about our relationship with the Lord and our fellow believers is sometimes considered fanatical; going beyond what’s reasonable. In actuality, being a fan is fan atical, designating a devotion to whoever and whatever we zealously support.

For instance, you’re a fan if you paint yourself blue and dye your hair orange, screaming in support of your favorite team or player; a fanatic if you hold standards of behavior that separate you from the crowd. You’re a fan if you attend an outdoor event in sub-zero weather half-naked and half-drunk, deliriously supporting your city and team; a fanatic if you witness to others concerning your faith. You’re a fan if you sing along at concerts, having memorized the words to a dozen of your favorite artist’s songs; a fanatic if you memorize scripture and utilize it in your life and conversation, praying openly over your needs and the needs of others. You’re a fan if you travel extensively to attend racing venues; a fanatic if you tithe and donate time and money to missions. You’re a fan if you imitate a movie star’s fashion and lifestyle; a fanatic if you imitate Paul as he imitated Christ. You’re a fan of video games as hours are spent daily in pursuit of a top score; a fanatic if you spend half that much time in God’s word.

John describes the disciples’ thoughts as they witnessed Jesus cleansing the temple precincts, remembering David’s exclamation of, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” John 2:17; while Paul felt it necessary to caution Christians to, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor.” Romans 12:11 Won’t that make us appear odd? (Like Jesus running around with a whip?) Not necessarily, as spiritual fervor doesn’t dictate weird behavior or odd dress but rather a distinctiveness resulting from who and what we know. In fact, Proverbs warns, “It’s not good to have zeal without knowledge,…” Proverbs 19:2 (See also Romans 10:2) The word for zeal has a number of alternative renderings, expressed as working hard ( Colossians 4:13 & Luke 15:8,9) eagerness or enthusiasm ( 2 Corinthians 9:2 & Matthew 13:44) and earnestness ( 2 Corinthians 7:11 & Matthew 13:45); as well as embracing the concept of hungering and thirsting for righteousness – craving a life-changing relationship with God. ( Matthew 5:6) These adjectives entail passion, determination, intensity, fervency and devotion – the word enthusiast being derived from the Greek en and theos (the root-word for God in Greek), describing someone who is inspired by a being or the things they’ve attached themselves to.

Does that make a relationship with God sound like hard work? It really isn’t, as he wants to be discovered, yet it isn’t so easily accomplished as to require no effort, concentration and desire either. Paul assures us that God, “…rewards those who earnestly (NIV) diligently (KJ) seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 God himself declaring, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 So what consumes your thoughts, energy, resources and time? That’s a crucial question for every Christian, Jesus complaining about those who become complacent in their worship, having lost their zeal for fellowship with him. In comparing them to a drink that you expect to taste one way only to be surprised to find it tastes altogether different, he said, “I am about to spit you out…”; the connotation being forcibly expelling or vomiting something unsavory out of his mouth. ( Revelation 3:15,16)

Let’s consider – again – the zeal associated with the pursuit of athletics and other extra-curricular activities. Football players practice through the late summer heat; sacrificing dates for games, leisure time for conditioning workouts. Basketball teams run endless drills learning proper form and technique; being reprimanded with laps and push-ups for failure to execute them properly. The band, drill team, volleyball, golf, wrestling and baseball, track, cross-country and cheerleading corps all have very specific requirements that must be met before participation is allowed; not to mention the significant cost all these activities entail. (These demands and expectations can then be seen after their own fashion, for college, marriage, child rearing and employment as well.) At times, they are yelled at, brow-beaten and even cursed; which is defended and excused on the grounds that principles and skills are being learned that will benefit them for life. Yet being questioned or challenged at church is unreasonable, memorization of scripture too much to expect, participation in class too demanding, staying awake optional; attendance at anything but an hour of church too time-consuming. (Sometimes that measly hour is too much!) It has been repeatedly said that this generation of people can’t be expected to think deeply, being accustomed to receiving their entertainment and information in 30 second sound and video bytes. My response to that is to point out that no generation automatically demonstrated an ability to ponder great questions, consider high principles or unravel the meaning of life. They were taught, it was expected; they developed the ability to do so as they realized the importance of doing so. A desire for excellence was created in them that was then demonstrated as zeal for the task at hand.

It really comes down to Lordship ( Philippians 2:5-14), which brings about a like-mindedness with Christ; doing everything, whether in word or deed, for the glory of God in the name of the Lord Jesus. ( 1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17)

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Biography Information:

Fred Price - married (49 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.

Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker.  He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today.  Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.  

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