Last year while street evangelizing in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, I got to know a man who was one of the most “on fire” believers I ever met. Surprisingly, this man insisted he wasn’t zealous enough. Many times when I talked to him on the phone, he asked me to pray that he would have more zeal. Personally I thought he was more zealous for God than me!
One dictionary defines zeal as “great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective.” Worldly people think it’s wrong to be zealous or fanatical about the things of God (I’ve often been labeled a “religious fanatic” when taking a public stand against sinful activities). Yet many of these individuals have no problem acting fanatical at a sporting event. Keep in mind the word “fan” is short for fanatic.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “Be ye still men of might and vigour, men who serve their God with diligence and zeal.” Several verses in the Bible encourage zealousness. Here are a few of them…
“Do not let your heart envy sinners, but be zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day” - Proverbs 23:17
“who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” - Titus 2:14
“But it is good to be zealous in a good thing always, and not only when I am present with you.” - Galatians 4:18
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” - Revelation 3:19
Zechariah 1:14 and 8:2 says the Lord is zealous about His people and their land. When Jesus chased the moneychangers out of the temple in John 2:17, His disciples remembered Psalm 69:9, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.” Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13 refers to one of the apostles named Simon as “the Zealot.”
However, being zealous doesn’t mean being rude to people. We must always speak the truth in love and with compassion. I’ve seen eager believers witnessing in a manner that pushes people away. A soul winner must learn to discern when to draw back from someone who isn’t receptive to the gospel.
Overzealousness can create problems when sharing the gospel in certain situations. Just two days ago while doing street evangelism in a Minneapolis suburb, three boys were riding their bicycles towards where I was standing. Believing this was a divine appointment, I offered them tracts and soon found out all three boys weren’t sure of their eternal destiny. As they prayed to get born again, I perceived I needed to keep my time short talking with them. Instead I attempted to minister to them more when a woman interrupted our conversation and got upset with me because I didn’t know the boys beforehand. This is a reminder we must use wisdom when witnessing to younger children and get parental permission first whenever possible.
Romans 10:2 mentions that the Jews “have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” The next verse explains why: “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.”
One should be zealous not to build their own kingdom but the kingdom of God.
“Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel.” - 1 Corinthians 14:12