Tuesday, August 9, 2022
Many years ago Eugene Ormandy was directing the Philadelphia Orchestra. Suddenly something terrible happened. In his enthusiasm over the music, and his burning desire to bring out the best in the musicians, he dislocated his shoulder. I don’t know what they were playing. Certainly not Mozart. Perhaps Stravinsky. But at any rate, he was giving all of himself to it!
In the Bible, such burning desire is called zeal. The very word zeal means “to be hot.” It is translated in a variety of ways in the New Testament, but always has to do with strong desire and passion for something or Someone.
Romans 12:11-13 “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”
As I read the story of Mr. Ormandy, I asked myself, “Have I ever been so passionate about something that I’ve dislocated anything, even a necktie while preaching?”
I looked for some examples of zeal this morning, and I think I’m getting a good idea of what it is. My understanding started to grow when I read this prayer from a country preacher in Red Rock, Mississippi. “O Lord, give Thy servant this mornin’ the eyes of the eagle and the wisdom of the owl; connect his soul with the gospel telephone in the central skies; ‘luminate his brow with the Sun of Heaven; possess his mind with love for the people; turpentine his imagination; grease his lips with ’possum oil; loosen his tongue with the sledge hammer of Thy power; ’lectrify his brain with the lightnin’ of the word; put ’petual motion on his arms, fill him plum full of the dynamite of Thy glory; ’noint him all over with the kerosene oil of Thy salvation and set him on fire. Amen!”
That’s zeal! To be set on fire. To burn hot with passion for a purpose or cause. And who has a better cause for which to be zealous than the cause of Christ? What other mission can ‘lectrify the brain like sharing the Good News of Jesus? What other outcome can compare to the miracle of rebirth in the life of a sinner as we watch God transform their life before our eyes?
Unfortunately many have never experienced zeal. The nuggets of knowledge they collect about God never become a blazing fire of activity for God. Instead of the unsaved being warmed by the love of God burning in the Christian’s life, they are driven away shivering with the coldness of condemnation. So many Christians live life like Luigi Tarisio, who collected violins.
Luigi Tarisio was found dead one morning with not a comfort in his home. As they looked through his house, they found 246 exquisite violins which he had been collecting all his life. They were crammed into an attic, and the best one was in the bottom drawer of an old rickety bureau. In his very devotion to the violin, he had robbed the world of all that music because he treasured the instrument rather than burning with zeal for the music they make. His greatest treasure was a Stradivarius that had not been played for 147 years.
Many of Christ’s people are like old Tarisio. In our very love of the church and with a displaced zeal we seek to protect ourselves from the world rather than sing out the Good News to the world. In our zeal for the truth we forget to publish it. When shall we all learn that the Good News needs not just to be cherished, but needs to be told? All people need to hear it.
I challenge you to read carefully again these words from the Apostle Paul: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Take these words to heart. Let them be the embers that start a raging fire in your heart to bring the love of God to a lost world. Be zealous for Christ!