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Zeal & Passion

To be zealous means to be full of zeal. And to be full of zeal means to be driven by an overwhelmingly strong desire. Zeal is a strong emotion that is very much akin to passion. Just like other strong emotions, zeal and passion push a person to a point of dedicated laser focus, and keep him or her in a state of devoted arousal. In its negative sense, zeal in biblical and ancient literature actually means to burn or to boil, and is very often associated with the emotion of envy or jealousy. In its positive sense, it is associated with pursuit and exertion toward a goal or desired object. While passion is often associated with sex, romance, or love in various forms, zeal is often associated with devotion, earnestness and fervor. A young man meets and develops a relationship with a beautiful young woman, and his heart is set afire with passion. He becomes consumed with thoughts of her, and his life becomes fused with an active bond. A young patriot burns with zeal to fight the enemies of his country, or to strengthen the pillars of his national culture. In both cases, the strong emotion presses them into action, and sets on fire every area of their lives.

The root word for zeal occurs 12 times in 11 verses throughout the New Testament. One of those places is James 4:2. In that verse, James is illustrating how a wrongly placed zeal, which modern English bibles translate as envy or covetousness, can lead to murder and strife among believers. However, in Revelation 3:19, Jesus commands us to be zealous. He makes this command after telling us that he doesn’t want us to be a lukewarm drink. He’d rather us be hot or cold, arguing that he spits out lukewarm drinks because they’re undesirable. The point he is making is that we should be pursuing him and his life with a dedicated fervor. When we are content to stay the same, then we become too comfortable, and there is no motivation for pursuit. We lose the driving emotion that makes us hot. Desire vanishes in our contentment, and we begin to covet our own comfort, rather than to feel the push toward holiness, growth, and true divine connection. The relationship becomes like a drab marriage, or a boring job in which we find ourselves droning through the motions.

God doesn’t want that relationship. And neither do you. Such a relationship bars you from divine pleasures, and true goodness. So be zealous for God. Burn for his goodness. Pursue him with fervor, and fuel your passion for the one who has demonstrated zealous passion for you.

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