Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord (Romans 12:11).
One of the dear saints from my childhood had a saying, “When you get down, get out.” What she meant was that in the face of discouragement and disappointment (i.e. when we’re “down”) Christians are called to avoid falling into the trap of isolation. While our human tendency is to treat our heartaches with the placebo of self-pity, the only effective remedy is to “get out”—i.e. go serve someone in the name of Jesus!
If you’ve followed the path of Christian discipleship for any length of time you know firsthand how our excitement for the faith waxes and wanes. Sometimes, even though we may earnestly want our spiritual life to blaze like a bonfire, the best we can muster is a mere flicker. These fluctuations are predictable and inevitable. Don’t be caught off guard by them. Instead, learn to embrace your “valleys” and harness them as opportunities to refuel your stamina for the journey ahead. This is the key to maintaining our “zeal” and “spiritual fervor” over the long haul.
Yet what is it about service that results in refueling? After all, going out and dealing with other people’s problems can often feel like the last thing we want to do on the days when we’re feeling down. Notice, however, that Paul’s instructions are not to merely go out and be active. Although getting some physical exercise and/or doing some good in the world can certainly improve our frame of mind, Paul is pointing us to a more specific form of service—namely, “serving the Lord.”
Serving the Lord brings the greatest fulfillment because it restores the vital relationship between our lives and God’s plan for humanity. We were created to live in life-giving harmony with both our Creator and our fellow human beings. But sin intrudes and bends our desires inward on themselves so that we falsely—and often sincerely—believe our ultimate fulfillment will come from satisfying our personal desires for love, acceptance, and happiness.
When we turn to Christ, the One who came to earth to embody the perfect relationship between God and people, we receive the freedom to no longer be ensnared by our false hopes. We can see beyond our own finite worries and catch a glimpse of God’s Kingdom come to earth. Such a glorious vista inspires us with the fuel we need to carry out our calling to be the Body of Christ.
Are you down? Are you discouraged? Has your faith become humdrum? Then let’s get out and serve the Lord together! Not sure where to start? Take a look on the next column and see where you might feel led to serve through Operation Inasmuch on April 28.