Zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me (Psalm 69:9).
One of the burning need that our church, and every church faces, is to have a zeal for God, and for His glory. Throughout the centuries, and certainly in ours, there is a tendency to go lukewarm, to be apathetic. To take it safe, and to go for the path of least resistance. But more than that, to treat our faith as something like a club membership, something we can take up, and put down, something that doesn't really redefine who we are, or what we are about. The call to follow Christ is a call not to club membership, but to cross-bearing, to responding to the gospel by living a life zealously for the glory of God.
So what is zeal? It’s not a very common word these days. The Great Anglican Bishop J.C. Ryle gives a great description of zeal in his book Practical Religion.
Zeal in religion is a burning desire to please God, to do His will, and to advance His glory in the world in every possible way. It is a desire which is not natural to man. It is a desire which the Spirit puts in the heart of every believer when he is converted, however, a desire which some believers feel so much more strongly than others that they alone deserve to be called “zealous” men.
This desire is so strong, when it really reigns in a man, that it impels him to make any sacrifice–to go through any trouble–to deny himself to any amount–to suffer, to work, to labor, to toil, to spend himself and be spent, and even to die–if only he can please God and honor Christ.
A zealous man in religion is preeminently a man of one thing. It is not enough to say that he is earnest, strong, uncompromising, meticulous, wholehearted, fervent in spirit. He only sees one thing, he cares for one thing, he lives for one thing, he is swallowed up in one thing; and that one thing is to please God. Whether he lives, or whether he dies–whether he has health, or whether he has sickness–whether he is rich, or whether he is poor–whether he pleases man, or whether he gives offense–whether he is thought wise, or whether he is thought foolish–whether he gets blame, or whether he gets praise–whether he gets honor, or whether he gets shame–for all this the zealous man cares nothing at all. He burns for one thing, and that one thing is to please God and to advance Gods glory. If he is consumed in the very burning, he does not care–he is content. He feels that, like a lamp, he is made to burn; and if consumed in burning, he has but done the work for which God has appointed him.Such a one will always find a sphere for his zeal. If he cannot preach, and work, and give money, he will cry, and sigh, and pray. Yes: if he is only a pauper, on a perpetual bed of sickness, he will make the activity of sin around him slow to a standstill, by continually interceding against it. If he cannot fight in the valley with Joshua, he will do the work of Moses, Aaron, and Hur, on the hill (Exodus 17:9-13). If he is cut off from working himself, he will give the Lord no rest till help is raised up from another quarter, and the work is done. This is what I mean when I speak of zeal in religion.