What is Zeal? Everyone has “Zeal” for something. Zeal is just simply the human emotion that causes our passion to trigger. So I will interchange the word Zeal and Passion periodically. Passion is a good thing depending on what you are passionate about. When we see a zealous person we are tempted to think that the passionate person is either a gifted individual or some kind of a freak!
We can be passionate about our relationships with those we love, but if too much passion is shown in public, what is a gift from God suddenly becomes a disgusting display of passion. This gives the love we share a twisted, distorted view of the love we are so passionate about.
The real key here is to use wisdom with our passion. Wisdom will put our zeal on a balancing scale that will keep our passion in check. Let’s take a look at the unwise zeal of Peter from the book of John. Jesus has been in the garden praying in preparation for what is about to happen when Judas enters the Garden and kisses the savior of the world on the cheek. Suddenly and army of Roman soldiers irrupt on the scene seizing Jesus when Peter draws out his sword and violently defending Christ by cutting off the ear of Malchus. John 18:10 Peter was only doing what he thought Jesus wanted him to do. But instead of trying to find out what Christ wanted he was sleeping when he was supposed to be praying. Many of us find ourselves yielding to the flesh and making the excuse that we are too tired to find time to pray. Then, like Peter we jump in swinging our swords chopping at anything that stands in our path. If we would have just spent time in prayer we would of made a better decision in the first place.
The next thing we see in Peter’s story is Jesus response to Peter’s sword wielding. Here is Our man Peter proud he had just sent a message to this Roman soldier letting him know they were not taking Jesus without a fight. His boastful attitude is turned to dismay when his mentor looks at him and rebukes him. Jesus tell him in John 18:11 “Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” Peter’s mind must have went back to the last supper as he heard these words just earlier that evening. He promised he would follow Jesus anywhere he went and that he would even give his life for Jesus. But Jesus responded to him; “Will you lay down your life for my sake? I tell you the truth before the rooster crows you will have already denied me three times.” John 13:37-38 So now we see a Peter who is more passionate at proving his point than ever. Jesus questioned his willingness to lay down his life and then told him that he would deny him. Peter must of had a “How dare you question my motives attitude.” So when he saw the Roman Soldiers he thought this was his chance to prove himself, so out came the sword!
Following the rebuke, Peter must have been so confused and hurt. His zeal had led him into a passionate reaction. Passion without wisdom leads us to a confusion that could run us in the wrong direction. We find that after Christ heals the soldier’s ear and is taken away Peter follows them all the way to the high priest’s house and he stood outside the door. (Remember this all happened in the same night.) While standing at the door he is recognized as being with Jesus and he denies it. Three times he denies Christ and immediately following the third denial the rooster crows. Shame overwhelms Peter as he realizes in his Zeal he fulfilled the words of Christ. He realized he wasn’t as willing to die as he first thought and he leaves and weeps bittterly. Often we say things such as, “I would give my life for Christ,” or “Jesus is my everything,” even “I am a Child of God.” All of these are good if it isn’t just zeal! Our hearts must be in alignment with our words. We must mean what we say! Peter was reacting out of Zeal but when it came right down to it, he didn’t mean a word of it.
Now before you think I’m being to hard on Peter, let’s finish this story. After Peter was informed Christ was no longer in the tomb, he made the decision he was going to go back to his old job as a fishermen. John 21:2 Isn’t it funny that when we make a mistake and we see our zeal has actually lead us to a failure that we want to revert back to our old lives? We decide that we aren’t fit for God’s love and grace and we go back to the last thing that actually brought us a since of fulfillment. Being a fisherman isn’t a bad job, or a job that will send Peter to hell, so what’s wrong with being a fisherman? Jesus said he was no longer a fisherman but a fisher of men. John 4:18 As you can see for Peter to go back to fishing he was reverting back to his old life. His guilt took him back to the boat! Don’t let your failures send you back to what Christ called you out of! But while Peter is in the boat fishing Jesus appears to them on the shore, when Peter finds out Jesus is there he comes running to him. Now, I’ve left a lot out of this part of the story, but the point I’m trying to make is Jesus came to find Peter where Peter was at. Back in the fishing boat! Jesus will look you up every time you fail!!!
Now back on the shore, eating the fish of the miracle catch, Jesus restores Peter. Three times he asks Peter do you love me more than these? Is so, feed my sheep! Peter did not feel adequate enough to feed the sheep but he did accept the call. Once for every denial, Jesus ask Peter if he loved him. This time we find a sincere Peter who without an exuberant zeal says, Oh, Lord you know I do! This time Peter gives a heartfelt answer in place of the zealous sword swinging showmanship. Zeal is an important trait to have, but without a heartfelt response it is nothing more than the work of a firework, a big bang, a lot of noise, then in a fleeting moment it is gone. I challenge you today, to go beyond the zeal, seek the Lord’s face and let your heart run your actions.
In everything we do, our Christian lives, our jobs, our relationships, and our evangelizing, we must find the balance between getting the job done right and getting it done with passion. You can’t loose your passion for it is what drives your heart, and you can’t loose your heart because it will drive your passion. You must walk with Jesus to obtain that spiritual balance everyday.
You cannot kindle a fire in any other heart until it is burning within your own. -Unknown