Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog
It’s so easy to lose sight of our purpose. Even as Christians, our identity can become the things that are associated with this earth and this life. We can move along the road of life, unmindful of why we’re hear and what we’re to be doing with our time. Since at least my college days, I have asked God, “Help me make the most of my opportunities to Your glory.” He has opened doors I did not even know existed. These have not happened because of who I am, but all of it has happened because of who He is. That doesn’t mean that any of us can sit back passively until God makes things happen, but it is an exciting thing to try and order your life in such a way that He can use you for His purposes in the brief time we have on this earth.
The longer we live, the more we see our utter dependency upon Him and understand that “it is God who causes growth” (Col. 2:19; 1 Cor. 3:6-7). The Bible is His Word revealing His will, and we serve at His pleasure for His glory (Phil. 2:13). We can never forget that as long as we live in this life. None of us is indispensable and irreplaceable. Yet, for the brief period of time we’re here, we are a tool in God’s hand (cf. Rom. 6:12-13). We should work hard and prepare ourselves for service, but it’s exciting to watch God open doors and make things happen!
Life has its difficult moments, dark days, trials, temptations, and disappointments. But no life can compare to the Christian life. With all the temptation to be distracted by issues that will ultimately not matter to the dead and those in eternity, let us reflect daily on why God has us here.
If you would make for self a name, to seek for glory or for fame,
At life’s quick end, you’ll know the shame of serving self, not God.
If you make pleasing men your aim, and fawn and fumble for their acclaim,
When life is done, an empty same, of serving self, not God.
But if for Him you will proclaim, and let His glory be your flame,
At life’s great end He will exclaim, “Come home, O servant of God!”
The word translated “zealous” is from the Greek word zero (Dzay-lo-o). It is found 17 times in the New Testament. It means to “burn with zeal; to be heated or to boil, whether with envy, hatred, anger, or to be zealous in the pursuit of good; to desire earnestly, to strive after, busy one’s self about” (Thayer 271). It is found in both the positive and negative sense:
- Negatively–Acts 7:9; 17:5 (“became jealous”), 1 Corinthians 13:4 (“jealous”), Galatians 4:17 (“eagerly seek”), James 4:2 (“envious”)
- Positively–1 Corinthians 12:31 (“earnestly desire”), 1 Corinthians 14:1,39 (“desire earnestly”), 2 Corinthians 11:2 (“jealous”–with a godly jealousy), Galatians 4:18 (“eagerly sought”–in a commendable manner), and Revelation 3:19 (“be zealous”).
(The object of the zeal and the attitude it describes
determines whether it is an acceptable emotion or not.)
We have all known people who are prone to boil over with jealousy and anger. They seethe. They grit their teeth. They explode! They are just like that unattended pot on the stove, and they usually leave an even bigger mess. They are proving that there is something underneath them leading to such “outbursts of anger” (Gal. 5:20).
We also know people who always seem enthusiastic about serving the Lord. They are effervescent. They have an infectious smile and positive attitude about almost everyone and everything. They are eager to serve and help. They go the extra mile. They seem genuinely thrilled to be able to engage in spiritual service, no matter what it is! Guess what? They are proving that there is something underneath them leading them to be “zealous of good works” (Ti. 2:14).
Both vessels, boiling over, impact the church. Both have influence. Yet, one is using his or her passion constructively, but Satan is using the other destructively. What lights your fire? Is there one underneath you? Let it be an earnest desire to build up the Kingdom! This is one instance where a “watched pot” needs to boil–boil over with enthusiasm for serving Christ!
Yes, Paul does say it the other way in 2 Corinthians 5:7, and this isn’t an attempt to contradict the Holy Spirit there. His message, in that context, is trust in a Lord you can’t physically see rather than place your faith in what might be set up as an alternative to Him. Evolutionists reject the idea of God because He cannot be quantified, measured, sampled, or empirically experienced. They walk by sight. Some give up the Christian life because they have a preference for the things of the flesh, things they can experience through their senses.
Some are putting their faith in the wrong things while failing to look in the right direction. Consider what God says in His Word about this.
Some things do not deserve our faith and trust:
- Military might or weapons (Ps. 44:6)
- Brute force or robbery (Ps. 62:10)
- Government or nobility (Ps. 146:3)
- Self-delusion (Jer. 7:4)
- Sinful associates (Jer. 9:4)
- Men and women who aren’t loyal to the Lord (Mic. 7:5)
- Ourselves as opposed to God (2 Co. 1:9)
- The uncertainty of riches (1 Ti. 6:17)
But, sometimes God urged us to “see”:
- “Behold the Lamb of God” (Jn. 1:29)
- We “look” for Jesus to come from Heaven some day (Ph. 3:20)
- We are to be found “looking for the blessed hope and His glorious appearing” (Ti. 2:13)
- We “see Jesus,” One who by God’s grace died for everyone (He. 2:9)
- We “look” unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (He. 12:2)
- We are to “see to it” that we do not come short of God’s grace (He. 12:15)
- We are to be found “looking for the coming of the day of God” (2 Pe. 3:12).
Obviously, this is a play on words. The only way to “see” the things God urges is “by faith.” And, as Paul writes, “Hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees?” (Ro. 8:24b).
The exhortation of the Bible is to “wake up” and think about what it is you put your trust in. Is it a good job? Is it a “perfect” relationship? Is it money? Is it pleasure? Is it things? Is it power and control? Is it family? Is it recreation? What is it? Is it the Bible? Is it Christ? Is it heaven? We should walk by spiritual sight, never by misguided faith!
While this song is not one of our “toe tappers,” it is meant to be reflective. What a challenge it presents to us, too! Johann Wolfgang Goethe wrote the poem during Napoleon’s heyday and Anne R. Bennett translated the lyrics a full decade before the Civil War, but the words are perhaps more timely today than they were in her place and time. While the song is about more than just holiness and purity, the idea is about aspiring to greater, better service to God. Goethe’s original poem had four verses, talking alternately about finding duty dearer, calmness in pain, peace and confidence in God, greater nearness to God, running the Christian race swifter, and the like. All of these endeavors are tied together, but I want to focus on that first phrase: “Purer yet and purer, I would be in mind.”
Do you feel like you are doing pretty well at purity of thought and heart? May I encourage you to take Goethe’s challenge to heart and make his prayer your prayer? Do you ever have feelings, however “small” or infrequent, for someone other than your mate? Do you ever look at things and people in web sites, advertisements, magazines, commercials, or an immodestly or provocatively dressed person of the opposite sex without looking away or in a way that produces lust or inappropriate thought? Do you ever find yourself harshly judging motives or drawing conclusions in your mind about people without sufficient knowledge of the person’s heart or situation? Do you ever envy another’s situation, their job, popularity, wealth, or home or marriage situation? Do you ever harbor a grudge toward someone, feeding those unhealthy feelings?
Obviously, that is just a starter list designed to create a host of similar questions. Purity of heart and mind is a daily challenge. Just because you defeated those purity foes yesterday does not give you respite from today’s battles. In fact, we know that since these challenges often arise when we least expect it, so we have got to keep the battle implements close at hand. Will you take the challenge of Goethe’s writing? Will you have as your goal absolute purity of heart? Being pure in heart will not inherently bring wealth, health, or fame, but it pays off in the highest and best way. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).