When Jesus did His first temple protest early on in His ministry as recorded in John’s Gospel, the disciples it says remembered a Scripture which says “zeal for Your house has eaten me up.”
Well in ‘proper’ language it says “consumed” which isn’t bad but I like “eaten me up” because I like to think about what it would look like for zeal to come along and eat me up.
One thing I know, is if it came and ate me up, what would be left? Any of me? Or just zeal, relaxing its jaws and licking its lips as it thinks about what to do next with the energy it has just received from its latest meal? I like to think about the fact that when zeal came upon Jesus, it totally consumed Him, this intense passion and fire just engulfed Him so that all that was present doing the work that day was holy zeal. There’s not an ounce of fleshliness getting in the way saying “hmm, maybe I should just go easy here for a bit.”
Here’s the thing about zeal, is I see it a bit like fuel. We all need fuel in our lives, the fuel of the Holy Spirit. But I think too often we can be guilty of striving to attain the results that previous people have had, using the means people have had – but we’ve lacked the fire and the passion and the fuel of the anointing oil that they had. It’s like trying to drive to a place someone else did, using the same car as they did, but without anything in the tank.
And in such cases it is always a real battle, a real push and struggle to get anywhere. You might be doing all the things that another great man or woman of God did, and yet some reason it isn’t working for you, there’s not the same results coming about. Why? Because they were driven by something that they had allowed to come and eat them all up. They weren’t running on their own steam. They were drinking from the fountain of everlasting life, and were burning with the fire that never dies.
Our commission is to spread the gospel of the kingdom to the ends of the earth, and according to the Gospels this is done through the means of ‘word, works and wonders’ – demonstrating the kingdom as well as declaring it, through healings, miracles, signs and wonders. This kingdom is one of which it says “there will be no end to the INCREASE of the increase of His government and of peace” (Isaiah 9:7, my emphasis). But let us not miss what it is that lies behind this mission, what fuels and drives it, how it is accomplished: “the zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this” (Is 9:7). How can we expect to carry out the mission that we have, unless we are consumed and awakened by this zeal? He is ready to impart His zeal, but let’s be ready to receive it in such a way that it will eat us, consume us all up, so that nothing of us, our flesh, is left behind, that we are utterly sold out to the purpose of seeing the kingdom come to earth, so dependent upon the success of this mission that if it fails we will seriously feel it.
Just a last point on that note. Too often we give ourselves natural, earthly backups, cushions or safety nets, so that if a mission or something doesn’t succeed in the way we wanted it to then we can remain comfortable because, well perhaps it wasn’t God’s will to heal, or well we had a good time together anyway even if no one got saved and no lives got transformed.
When Jesus sent out His disciples, however, there was none of that. He told them (Matthew 10 for reference) to take no bag, no bread, no money, no staff, only one shirt, one pair of sandals – in short only just enough to keep their backs covered, and no more. This put them in a place of utter dependency on God and on His supernatural provision to come through, and do consider that without it, they would have been helpless and the mission would not have been able to go on for very long!
I think it’s when we’re in the place where we have removed all safety nets, all comfort zones and cushions that God is most pleased and ready to come through, because we evidence the fact that we are a people of faith amidst a world of unbelief. If we’re carrying around the baggage of our cushions and safety nets, why should He come through? It’s like we’re saying to Him, “we trust You – but just in case You don’t come through, don’t worry about us, we’ll be alright.”
He doesn’t want that! I believe He’s looking for a generation of His children who will cry out and understand saying, “Lord if You don’t come through we’re going to really mess up here! We’re going to look foolish as the people who trusted You and we’re not going to be able to survive much longer!” This is what He is looking for, and for you who are reading it I hope you are ready to take up the challenge.
It’s time once again for a generation to sell themselves out for a cause, to live in a way where it’s all or nothing, to take up their crosses and follow Him not for the sake of sacrifice itself but because there is a cause so great that it is worth going through death for – through death, and into resurrection and its power.