Have you ever known someone so exuberant, so passionately fanatical about something it made you feel apathetic or indifferent in comparison, even though you both were saying the same thing? I’m always annoyed by those guys who can quote baseball or football statistics from 15 years ago, like it was front page news. Who cares who hit .323 and is headed for the Hall of Fame as a 3rd baseman? Avid people do, apparently.
I really like playing golf. In fact I probably would be called “avid” by people who don’t like golf. However, as avid as I might be about the sport, and while I do have opinions which I tend to be passionate about regarding the game, I’m not zealous about it. Well, let me think about that again. Maybe I am.
Some of the synonyms for zealous include: devout, dedicated, hard-core, enthusiastic, card-carrying, intense, and fierce. So, does being a card-carrying member of the USGA (United States Golf Association) make me zealous? Does talking about the sport to anyone who’ll listen make me zealous? Does joining a Senior Men’s Golf Association to play golf every Tuesday morning at 8:00am make me zealous. Ok, I’m zealous. But I’m not a Zealot. I’m an avid golfer.
A Zealot is a fanatical partisan, but more specifically a religious zealot. When applied to a specific group a Zealot was a member of a fanatical sect of Jews in Judea during the first century A.D., which opposed the Roman domination of Palestine so much they regularly planned assassinations of key Roman leaders in the middle east. Today we would call them Terrorists. The Zealots were the most radical of rebels within Israel, finally making a stand against Rome at a great fortress called Masada. Here some 1,000 Zealots fought for a time, and when it became apparent the Roman army was going to overtake them, committed suicide rather than be captured alive. Zealot came to mean someone who is passionately dedicated to some cause. They weren’t just avid in joining the opposition to Roman rule, they were zealously called Zealots. It rings of “give me liberty or give me death!”
The apostle Paul was zealous, yet not a Zealot in this political sense. Paul was so passionate about convincing everyone he came into contact with, that Jesus was the Living Christ, that his whole existence was devoted to this cause. Paul ate the job, talked the job, walked the job, slept the job. Paul was the job. If the job is “making disciples” like Jesus commanded us all to do (Matthew 28:19-20). Paul’s overwhelming commitment to the task, makes me look like an amateur playing against the professionals. Paul’s eloquence about Jesus makes my puny little articles seem like kindergarten text.
Even though my life-long goal has been to speak, teach, preach, and now write in such a way that people come to know God better, and entrust their lives to Jesus, compared to Paul, I seem like just an average avid “fan” of God, rather than a “fully-devoted follower of Christ.” I hear in Paul’s words a message of encouragement to keep trying though. Paul really doesn’t want me, or you, or anyone to compare ourselves to him. He wants us all to use what we have, do what we can, and leave the results up to God’s own Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 9:19-23
For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.
There are very few people today who can live the zealous lifestyle of the apostle Paul, making their life-focus the gospel of Jesus, becoming all things to all men, so that by some means God will save some. Yet, God doesn’t call us to be Paul. God calls me to be me. God calls you to be you. And in this calling, God wants to use you to bring Him glory, experience His grace, and do whatever is necessary so that He can win some, save some, around you.
My desire is to become as zealous about speaking out for Christ, as I am about discussing golf.
What about you?
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