In Romans 12, Paul goes into great detail to describe the transformed life, or better the life in process of being transformed. The journey of transformation is daily presenting our bodies, the battleground of our souls where we fight against our sin nature, as a living sacrifice. Worship is constantly confessing, repenting, and renewing ourselves to obedience to our Lord and Savior. Further, the journey of transformation is engaged by using our spiritual gifts, allowing the Spirit of God to flow through us in unique ways to minister to others and to glorify the Father. And the journey is transformation is the ever changing process of learning how to love the Lord and each other without hypocrisy, abhorring what is evil and clinging to the good.
This transforming life is further described in Romans 12 with a shotgun blast of exhortations and descriptions of how to live in Christ. Reading them all at once is like drinking out of a fire hose, so it seems more profitable to break them down one at a time. Consider the following,
10Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. (Romans 12.10-11 ESV)
Since we focused on love without hypocrisy (Romans 12.9) last week, I am drawn to this marvelous exhortation of verse 11. A closer examination of the text helps us to understand what Paul was trying to say, although it may not answer the “elephant in the living room question.”
We are told not to be slothful, a word which means slow or lazy, in our zeal. “Zeal” is a word that means “haste, earnestness, diligence, striving after anything.” So, we should not be lacking in zeal (NIV) nor should we lack diligence (HCSB). In addition, we are to be fervent in spirit (ESV). The word translated “fervent” literally means “to boil.” Our spirit is to “boil over” as we serve the Lord.
The picture is not hard to grasp. As followers of Christ, in process of being transformed by His Spirit, we are to be “boiling in our spirit,” or to use a popular phrase, to be “on fire for the Lord.” The lack of zeal is easy to spot in another, and the evidence of zeal is captured time and again in the Book of Proverbs. Consider,
I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, 31and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. 32Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. 33A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, 34and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man. (Proverbs 24.30-34 ESV)
But the struggle to “live into” Romans 12.11 is not so much in understanding what the Scriptures are saying to us, but in doing what it says. We are commanded to “keep our spiritual fervor,” and my soul has to ask, “How do we do that?” Consider the way the Message translates Romans 12.11,
11Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, (Message)
How, exactly, do we keep ourselves fueled and aflame? That seems to be the difficult question of Romans 12.11. Anyone who has been following Christ for more than a week knows that weariness and lack of zeal are constant struggles on the pathway to maturity. The question is, “What can we do to bring back zeal to a spirit that is zeal-less?”
For those of you who have taken the time to visit this site to read this post, I would be very interested to know what you do to “keep your spiritual fervor” so that you will “never be lacking in zeal.” Please post your suggestions or experience in the comment section below.