1. A NEW ATTITUDE NEEDED
a. What should we learn from Christ’s warning against murmuring and half-hearted service? Matthew 25:14, 15, 18, 24–30.
“How many feel as did the servant with the one talent, that the Lord is an austere man, reaping where He has not sown, and gathering where He has not strewn. This view of the matter is a delusion of the wicked one; for what have we that we did not receive? ‘All things come of Thee, and of thine own have we given Thee’ [1 Chronicles 29:14], should be the language of our grateful hearts.”—The Review and Herald, June 12, 1888.
b. What admonitions of Christ apply with special force in these last days of earth’s history? Matthew 24:12; Revelation 2:4.
“The members of the church should each have a jealous care that the enemies of our faith have no occasion to triumph over their lifeless, backslidden state. Some have wasted their influence, when with a little self-denial, earnestness, and zeal, they might have been a power on the side of good. This zeal will not come without effort, without earnest struggles.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 287.
2. ZEAL: A QUALITY TO SEEK
a. How does the Bible depict the vital importance of zeal for God? Psalms 42:1; 84:2. If this quality is lacking in us, how can we acquire it? Jeremiah 29:13.
“There are many who give no decided evidence that they are true to their baptismal vows. Their zeal is chilled by formality, worldly ambition, pride, and love of self. Occasionally their feelings are stirred, but they do not fall on the Rock, Christ Jesus. They do not come to God with hearts that are broken in repentance and confession. Those who experience the work of true conversion in their hearts will reveal the fruits of the Spirit in their lives.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 155.
“There is need of fasting, humiliation, and prayer over our decaying zeal and languishing spirituality.”—Ibid., vol.4, pp. 535, 536.
b. What promise is for all who yearn to become Christlike? Matthew 5:6. Why is Jacob’s experience so valuable to us? Genesis 32:24–30.
“God is looking for piety, self-denial, self-sacrifice, compassion for man, and zeal for God. He longs to see in man a deep yearning of soul to save his fellowman from unbelief and ruin.”—The Signs of the Times, February 15, 1899.
“With the great truth we have been privileged to receive, we should, and under the Holy Spirit’s power we could, become living channels of light. We could then approach the mercy seat; and seeing the bow of promise, kneel with contrite hearts, and seek the kingdom of heaven with a spiritual violence that would bring its own reward. We would take it by force, as did Jacob. Then our message would be the power of God unto salvation.”—Reflecting Christ, p. 217.
“Go to your closet, and there alone plead with God: ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me’ [Psalm 51:10]. Be in earnest, be sincere. Fervent prayer availeth much. Jacob-like, wrestle in prayer. Agonize. Jesus in the garden sweat great drops of blood; you must make an effort. Do not leave your closet until you feel strong in God; then watch, and just as long as you watch and pray you can keep these evil besetments under, and the grace of God can and will appear in you.”—Messages to Young People, pp. 131, 132.
3. ZEAL IN ACTION
a. What can we learn from the struggles endured and the victories won by faithful witnesses for God? Jeremiah 20:8–11; Acts 4:14–20.
“So strong was the opposition against Jeremiah’s message, so often was he derided and mocked, that he said, ‘I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name’ [Jeremiah 20:9]. Thus it has ever been. Because of the bitterness, hatred, and opposition manifested against the word of God spoken in reproof, many other messengers of God have decided to do as Jeremiah decided. But what did this prophet of the Lord do after his decision? Try as much as he would, he could not hold his peace. As soon as he came into the assemblies of the people, he found that the Spirit of the Lord was stronger than he was.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 4, p. 1156.
“Zeal for God and His cause moved the disciples to bear witness to the gospel with mighty power. Should not a like zeal fire our hearts with a determination to tell the story of redeeming love, of Christ and Him crucified? It is the privilege of every Christian, not only to look for, but to hasten the coming of the Saviour.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 600.
b. What type of experience must be echoed in us? Psalm 119:137–140; 1 John 3:1–3.
“Elder Loughborough was a zealous worker in the cause. His whole heart had been in the work. He entered . . . [a] new field of labor, and he was willing to place himself in the humblest position, endure any and every privation, economize, live cheap and poor, labor early and late for the infant cause. . . .”—Manuscript Releases, vol. 21, p. 246.
“If the church will put on the robe of Christ’s righteousness, withdrawing from all allegiance with the world, there is before her the dawn of a bright and glorious day. God’s promise to her will stand fast forever. He will make her an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations. Truth, passing by those who despise and reject it, will triumph. Although at times apparently retarded, its progress has never been checked. When the message of God meets with opposition, He gives it additional force, that it may exert greater influence. Endowed with divine energy, it will cut its way through the strongest barriers and triumph over every obstacle.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 601.
4. AVOIDING MISGUIDED ZEAL
a. What are some ways in which we may be in danger of going astray through misguided zeal? Romans 10:1–3; 1 Corinthians 10:23.
“When some who lack the Spirit and power of God enter a new field, they commence denouncing other denominations, thinking that they can convince the people of the truth by presenting the inconsistencies of the popular churches. It may seem necessary on some occasions to speak of these things, but in general it only creates prejudice against our work and closes the ears of many who might otherwise have listened to the truth. If these teachers were connected closely with Christ, they would have divine wisdom to know how to approach the people.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 536.
b. What was wrong with the false zeal of Jehu? 2 Kings 10:16–19, 28–31.
“There are many whose religion consists in activities. They want to be engaged in, and have the credit of doing, some great work while the little graces that go to make up a lovely Christian character are entirely overlooked. The busy, bustling service, which gives the impression that one is doing some wonderful work, is not acceptable to God. It is a Jehu spirit, which says, ‘Come, see my zeal for the Lord.’ It is gratifying to self; it feeds a self-complacent feeling; but all the while the soul may be defiled with the plague-spot of unsubdued, uncontrolled selfishness.”—The Signs of the Times, November 20, 1884.
“Christian zeal is controlled by principle and is not spasmodic. It is earnest, deep, and strong, engaging the whole soul and arousing to exercise the moral sensibilities. The salvation of souls and the interests of the kingdom of God are matters of the highest importance. . . . Christian zeal will not exhaust itself in talk, but will feel and act with vigor and efficiency. Yet Christian zeal will not act for the sake of being seen. Humility will characterize every effort and be seen in every work. Christian zeal will lead to earnest prayer and humiliation, and to faithfulness in home duties. In the family circle will be seen the gentleness and love, benevolence and compassion, which are ever the fruits of Christian zeal.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, pp. 232, 233.
5. THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST
a. How was the psalmist’s prophecy of godly zeal fulfilled in Christ? Psalm 69:9; John 2:13–17; 4:34. What factors should we learn from Christ’s zeal? 1 Corinthians 2:2–4.
“[Christ] lived the law. His purity and beneficence, His devotion to the truth, and His zeal for God’s glory reveal the perfection of the law.”—The Review and Herald, February 26, 1901.
“Christ declared that it was His meat and drink to do His Father’s will. The zeal that comes through such sanctification of the truth makes the believer in the truth powerful, for he is the repository of sacred truth, and as he partakes of the truth he will be a helpful Christian. Zeal should always be uniform, manifesting a holiness of character.”—Manuscript Releases, vol. 10, p. 131.
b. What appeal does Christ make to each one living in the lukewarm era of Laodicea? Revelation 3:19.
“When it comes to the service of God, do men manifest the same zeal for His work as they formerly manifested in the service of the world?”—The Review and Herald, June 12, 1888.
“At this time, when the end of all things is at hand, should not the zeal of the church exceed even that of the early church? Zeal for the glory of God moved the disciples to bear witness to the truth with mighty power. Should not this zeal fire our hearts with a longing to tell the story of redeeming love, of Christ and Him crucified? Should not the power of God be even more mightily revealed today than in the time of the apostles?”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, p. 33.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. What warning should we heed from the parable of the talents?
2. Which aspect of Jacob’s experience is also to be ours—and why?
3. What can we learn from Jeremiah, David, and the early apostles?
4. How might we be manifesting symptoms of misguided zeal?
5. What characterizes genuine zeal?