“What is ‘holy zeal’? Pure and simple, it is the heart of God beating in the heart of His people. It is a hunger for the glory of God to pour into a church and overflow into the community. It is a longing for more than a church ‘circling the wagons’ so the world won’t get in... Holy zeal is a passionate commitment to count the cost, be willing to sacrifice, and follow Jesus into His ministry of making disciples of all nations.”
— Kevin G. Harney
God’s keenest desire is that our hearts would burn with holy zeal. Having defined what one author calls it, we can see that holy zeal is something quite other-than what many Christians’ experience of church.
Church might be a radical crusade of love or nothing in this light.
An indication of typical church experience—but not a universal portrayal of evangelicals—is inward focus. Not that an inward focus is bad in itself; the people of God need to be loved and journeyed with. But it is death to the church, and a befuddling of Christ’s Great Commission, to ignore the imperative of making disciples, for many would-be disciples are ripe for the kingdom simply by their circumstances of oppression, loneliness, and hunger for meaning.
Now, the very core of this holy zeal that is bent toward evangelism—the seeking of hearts for God, and the bridging of hearts for healing, in Christ’s name—is a holy zeal for God within the individual heart of a believer. They are a disciple, first and foremost.
Perhaps the surest indicator of someone who has lost (or never had) this holy zeal is their indifferent criticism, or worse, ridicule, of that one who loves God so much they invest all their emotion toward that end. Christian spirituality is not just an intellectual exercise; it involves the totality of our beings in surrender before a holy God who will use us if only we will allow. Surrender to the Holy Spirit will cause us to consider, and be open to, unconventional thoughts toward radical actions of love in the aim of pleasing God.
Holy Zeal Is the Key to Growth in God
How are we to grow and broaden the name of Christ in our community if we do not have holy zeal? There is nothing attractive in God to non-believers unless they see the fire of God, which is love and humility and justice and mercy, in us.
Non-believers will see nothing attractive in the church unless they see growth; unless they witness miracles of transformation in the lives of ordinary people like you and me.
Why else would they need God or the church, if not to make their lives better?
Holy zeal is the key to growth in God, but just the opposite is true. As we grow and are transformed by God we exhibit this holy zeal; it is a sure and certain by-product.
Perhaps this is why people with holy zeal are often criticised by ‘more mature’ believers—here there may be the unconscious note of envy evident. Holy zeal should never be criticised. Holy zeal is confirmation of the Spirit’s sanctifying work in the believer. It is unfettered joy that ignites this holy zeal. We ought to be very careful how we handle God’s joy in a believer; it should never be quenched by human intervention.
Someone may have 40 years in ministry to speak of, with degrees and letters as long an arm, complete with great accomplishments of yesteryear, but if they have no holy zeal they are useless for the Kingdom; indeed, they are a blight on God’s glory. They ought to make way for someone with enthusiasm and passion for God, or repent before God in earnestly seeking a spiritual transformation.
The person, that lives and breathes to grow in God, to convene with God, to please God, with such zeal they may be criticised for it, is the person after God’s heart; a person God will use greatly in the redeeming of those lives who don’t know him yet.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.