“Grace turns a saint into a seraph. It makes him burn in holy zeal….But there is…something looking like zeal, which it is not.” – Thomas Watson
When I was 30 and living on a commune in Maine in 1970, I picked up a Bible and opened to the book of Jeremiah and began reading the words of “the crying prophet.” In it, he spoke the immortal words “Peace, peace when there is no peace….” He was saying to the people of his times that Almighty God calls the shots about the outcome of the attacks by the Babylonians; the simple-minded negotiations for “peace,” failing to look to the Almighty, were vain or even useless. God has the answers, and we know God in Christ is the touchstone – the source -- for an ever-perfecting relationship with the Author of Creation. Christ is the Word of Creation, and He came to make his own those whom the Father gave to Him.
It would take another 18 years before I answered an altar call and turned my life over to my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Finally, I would be able to serve Him in Spirit and Truth – meaning with humility, love, faith, and zeal. Zeal has been a key value when walking the walk of faith with Him. He tells us to follow Him.
Zeal is not proved only by being persecuted – thrown in prison and tortured like Richard Wurmbrand who was held for many years in a communist Romanian prison. Rather, zeal in the USA can be enduring ostracism, ridicule, hostile comments, or getting the silent treatment, and being the butt of angry remarks. Zeal endures being “refuted” in one’s faith with simple-minded, silly comments like “I’m a good person and I believe in God even though I don’t go to church, but it’s alright that you have your belief.” This latter type of patronizing remark by people one may witness to is a uniquely American form of oppression. It takes a believer with a zeal for Jesus to listen to this pap and continue witnessing with kindness and hope to such a listless and unspiritual feedback. This writer entered the teachers’ lunchroom in one school where I taught, and a group of teachers were laughing together, and as I approached their table, one of them called out, “Hey, are we all going to hell?” and all the others laughed uproariously. Frankly, although I did not say so, their laughter was music to my ears.
When we have a zeal for the Lord, we may have to experience the menacing hatred of the devilish spirit of God’s enemies. Once, while street preaching with a friend across from a well-known Brooklyn neighborhood bar, three denizens of that unholy place stood outside to listen to some of our preaching. The spirit of hatred and intense anger emanating from them was very real, very tangible, and very oppressive, but the armor of God, especially the shield of faith, enabled my friend and I to keep preaching despite the menacing vibes. We Christians may yet have to stand firm against the police power of a hostile government as has been the case in many countries; but at the present time, our zeal for Christ must withstand a host of intangible but VERY REAL forms of rejection. If we cave to hostility, in prayer we must cry out for more zeal, pick ourselves up by our spiritual bootstraps (in reality, we are ‘picked up’ by the Holy Spirit) and return to the scene of our embarrassing defeat until we confront the enemy with the peace of mind that our Savior has bestowed upon us as our birthright in Christ.
Written by Jeffrey Ludwig: Jeffrey Ludwig is a Harvard Master Teacher who has been teaching and writing for more than fifty years. He presently teaches philosophy and is a guest preacher at various pulpits in New York City, and has authored four books including his latest work Christian Perspectives, Vol. 1.