This Week's Teaching: "How's Your Zeal?"
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In the time of adversity, I know of no prayer more zealous and faith-filled and trusting than this: "Lord, remove this suffering as soon as it has served its purpose. Not a moment after, but not a moment before."
We think of zeal as enthusiasm. It is, sure! But that doesn't mean hype. It means hope. It means a radical, lived-out hope that even affects how we do adversity. This radical hope is bold enough to endure whatever comes, be it outright persecution or just the hardships of life, because it believes passionately that God is good, loving, and powerful, and that he can be trusted to lead us to maturity and completeness. And it believes that he is fully capable of removing the suffering with a word, with a blink, with a nod, with the authoritative twitch of his finger. There is nothing he cannot and will not do for the good of those who love him.
And sometimes that means we must endure hardship.
In this week's teaching, we look at the scriptures that prepare us for hardship and adversity, and we learn this prayer of faith: "Lord, remove this suffering as soon as it has served its purpose. Not a moment after, but not a moment before."
Watch above and read below. And start praying it over everything that comes your way.
<TRANSCRIPT OF ABOVE VIDEO>
I was talking with a man in an Asian country where it's illegal to be Christian. And he told me that when he turned from the faith of his people and became a follower of Christ, the village where he lived, beat him one day, threw him in the bushes, and left him for dead. After about four hours, he got up and went into the village. And he said, "It was that day that I became very bold in my faith."
In Romans 12, it says, "Keep your spiritual fervor serving the Lord." Keep your zeal, serving the Lord.
We think of zeal as worshiping greatly, or being expressive in demonstrative ways or rallying for things that we believe in. "Zeal!" Like, really believing in God for things.
But when I hear his story about being persecuted to the point of death , I think that's where the zeal is!
Today I just want to do a zeal check. How is your zeal doing? And how do you measure your zeal? Zeal for the Lord? Your spiritual fervor? I mean, sure, it can be the things that you believe God for, your love for him, your affection, your great devotion, all those things. Absolutely.
But I want to ask: How do you respond to adversity. How do you respond to trouble and hardship? Do you just believe God for it to be taken away from you, or do you allow God to use it to make you bold, to endure it, to walk through it, in spite of it? Because I would suggest that it's there that zeal really shows itself.
In Acts 4, the persecution is starting to break out, and we read that the believers got together and they prayed, " The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one. Indeed, Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and..." rather than asking they — get this, they don't pray, "Now, Lord, consider their threats and rebuke them. Take it away. Deliver us from that." They pray, "Now, Lord, consider their threats toward us and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness." Not "take this away," but "enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness." Even if it means the worst.
They say, "Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus." and it says, "After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly." Even though to do so invited persecution.
What if instead of praying against discomfort, we prayed for boldness? What if instead of praying against suffering, we prayed for endurance? What if instead of praying against persecution, we prayed for steadfastness. And what if this was our go-to? Even if all this world's powers break out against us, what if we could say, "It was that day that I became very bold in my faith"? What if it would also be said of us: " The place where they were praying was shaken and they spoke the word of God boldly"?
What if instead of praying for hardship to be taken away from us, we prayed for endurance to go through it.
Jesus told us that if anyone wanted to be a follower of him, they must take up their cross daily and follow him. To follow Christ means self denial, denying my flesh the things that it craves choosing not to please the flesh, but to please the Holy Spirit. It's a daily zeal of dying to self and living to Christ.
What if instead of praying against the hardship in your life, you prayed to God for boldness to go through it? You prayed to God for endurance, for strength, for steadfastness.
In Romans five, we read, " We boast in the hope of the glory of God, but not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope."
In Colossians 1 verse 24, Paul writes, "Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, which is the church."
Philippians 1 , "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in the manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ. Then whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved, and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him."
Philippians 3:10. " I want to know Christ, yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow attaining to the resurrection from the dead."
In Acts 9, when Saul came to faith, Jesus said, "I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." And then in Acts 14, when he and Barnabas were going around and encouraging the church, it says "they strengthened the disciples and encouraged them to remain true to the faith." And their message was this: "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God."
Hebrews 12. "Endure hardship as discipline. God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined, and everyone undergoes discipline" — that's not me saying it, that's this saying it — "and everyone undergoes discipline. If you are not disciplined, then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all... God disciplines us for our good in order that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time. It's painful, but later on it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and your weak knees. Make level paths for your feet so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed."
We glory in our sufferings. It doesn't make sense in this world, but we glory in our sufferings.
This is the zeal check. How is your zeal doing? Are you only zealous to have trouble and hardship and discomfort taken away from you? You can muster up a lot of zeal to believe that God will take those away, to declare it away? Or! Is your zeal such that you would say, "God, I am here to endure whatever you allow to come my way. May it train me in righteousness and peace as I submit to it, as I endure it. As I participate in the sufferings of Christ, as you've called me to, so that I may somehow attain to the resurrection of the dead, that I may participate in the sufferings of Christ, that I might share in the death of Christ."
You see, we think of faith as rebuking suffering. But the Bible speaks of faith, and the early believers acted as if faith, and those apostles taught as if faith, was not rebuking suffering, but trusting God in the suffering and being willing to endure suffering, even to the point of laying down their lives for Christ. Not picking up their lives and making something of themselves in this worldly kingdom, but saying this kingdom has nothing for me. I live for the kingdom of God. I will lay down my life in this kingdom so that I might attain to the resurrection of the dead. Where it all makes sense.
How's your zeal? What if instead of believing for things to be taken away from us â€” what if instead of believing for hardship to be taken away from us, we committed ourselves in faith to faithfully go through the suffering?
Zealous for God. "It was that day that I became very bold in my faith."
How's your zeal?
What if we really did glory in our sufferings, because we really did believe that suffering produces perseverance? And what if we really believed that perseverance produces character? And what if we really believed that character produces hope.
And what if we really believed what James says, to "consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."
What if we decided that we would "Let perseverance finish its work in you so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
What if we believed that "blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him."
What if we really believed this? How's your zeal doing?
Some years ago, I taught my congregation a prayer that said, "Lord, remove this suffering as soon as it has served its purpose. Not a moment after, but not a moment before."
That is a prayer of great faith that trusts that God is good, he's loving, he's powerful. He will never bring harm to us for harm's sake. He is good and loving and powerful. He will love us to the nth degree — way more than we can imagine. And he's powerful. He can do anything he wants to. If it is his will to do it, he can do it. If we fully believe that he's good, loving and powerful, we can pray even over the worst suffering, "Lord, remove this suffering from me — I know you can — remove this suffering from me as soon as it has served its purpose. As soon as it has produced perseverance and character and hope, as soon as it has disciplined me, as soon as it has taught me what I need to learn in order to produce a harvest of righteousness and peace, as soon as I have submitted to its training, as soon as it has served its purpose, take it from me.
Lord, remove this suffering as soon as it has served its purpose, not a moment after, but also not a moment before. Because I trust you, God. I believe that you have a design for me to mature me, to make me complete, and you are giving me opportunity, even in suffering, to be trained. To become mature, and complete.
Lord remove this suffering as soon as it has served its purpose. Not a moment after, but also not a moment before. I trust you.
And with that, I would add: Lord, strengthen me to endure this suffering for as long as it's necessary to fulfill its purpose. Yes, Lord. I trust you. Amen, Lord. I trust you.
How's your zeal doing? Is it just to believe God to have life better, or is it actually to lean in and to take up the cross and to do the most radical thing that you can do — the thing that this world will just mock you for — to lay down your life for God?
How's your zeal doing?
Be encouraged to be strengthened. We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God. This is our lot, but our hope is eternal life in Christ. Wow.