So Paul here in Romans 12 is in a section about being involved in Christian community and has been talking about how we need to use our God given gifts to benefit the Body and ultimately the world.
I want to highlight verse 11 “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord”
I think this verse, which is made up of three phrases needs to be connected to thinking about using our gifts, or having a “ministry” in church. In fact, Im going to call verse 11 the 3 Ps of Ministry, three things we need to experience and express to have a healthy and suStainable ministry in church, which are PASSION, POSTURE AND POWER
To minister in the Body of Christ we need PASSION …. Paul puts it like this “Not lacking in zeal,” The idea certainly implies not being lazy, but goes beyond that to mean being enthusiastic and passionate about what God has called us to do in the Body of Christ. We are to serve in our ministry with a joy and passion, not reluctantly. It’s interesting that in the 17th century people looking at the early Methodists, used what they thought was an insult, to describe them, they wrote them off as “enthusiasts” As they looked at this amazing group of largely ordinary people, what stood out was their enthusiasm for what they were doing for the Kingdom of God. In a world where cold detachment was prized these people were passionate and enthusiastic about God’s work. It’s easy for us as believers and in fact as whole churches to become unenthusiastic about our ministry and mission, to be depressed, to just go through the motions with a sense of duty rather than delight. A sad truth that in church life too much is left undone because people who are gifted and called to do it, cant be bothered, they cant generate the enthusiasm.
POSTURE …. So to have a ministry and mission in church means being enthusiastic about it the danger is that passion can easily degenerate into a self serving fanaticism that’s why our passion for what we are doing for the Lord needs to be linked to a certain what I’m going to call “posture.” Paul says we in serving in the Body of Christ are to assume the posture of servanthood, “serving the Lord.” If we want to be like Jesus our fundamental calling is to adopt a posture of servanthood towards the church and world.
In adopting a posture of servanthood we are following the example of Jesus, who was in very nature a servant
Phil 2 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
Rick Warren talking about the importance of servanthood to us as Christ followers says “The world defines greatness in terms of power, possessions, prestige and position. If you can demand service from others, you’ve arrived. In our self serving culture with its me first mentality acting like a servant is not a popular concept. Jesus however measured greatness in terms of service not status. God determines greatness by how many people you serve, not how many people serve you
Its important that we make sure we are serving the Lord through what we do in ministry in the Church. Its easy to allow ourselves to start serving our own interests, or even become servants of other people’s expectations rather than Christ’s When we are “serving in the Lord” we are serving Christ’s priorities in Christ’s manner.
So how do we know we are serving the Lord, rather than serving our own agenda or serving to get the approval of others?
- How do you feel when you are taken for granted?
- How do you feel when your sacrifice and servanthood go unrecognised and unrewarded?
POWER …. Can I tell you from personal experience that trying to keep being passionate and keeping serving is impossible. What I mean by that is that if we are relying on ourselves on our own resources and force of personality to keep up passion for what God has called us to do and to keep on serving what will inevitably mean serving difficult people in difficult circumstances we will fail. The burn out rate and sense of spiritual and emotional burn out among church leaders and committed church members is evidence of this reality. That’s why Paul reminds us that the power to be enthusiastic and to serve, is, to use a cliché, “sent down” not “worked up”
This is what is implied in the phrase that tells us we to be “IN THE SPIRIT BOILING.” Other translations put that phrase like this, “LET US KEEP THE FIRES OF THE SPIRIT BURNING,” “LETS KEEP OURSELVES FUELLEDAND AFLAME,” “BE AGLOW IN THE SPIRIT” “BE FERVENT IN SPIRIT” You get the picture!
Its actually quite a difficult phrase to translate, the question is
Does Paul mean OUR spirit or THE (Holy) SPIRIT ….
Is he describing what our spirit should be like or what the Holy Spirit does?
I have come to the conclusion that this is not an “EITHER OR” but “A BOTH AND”
We become fervent in spirit, can sustain serving the Lord, through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our spirit, in us.
The picture Paul is painting is of A pot boiling over a fire, which is a picture of energy, life, activity, caused by an external power, ie the fire. What I think Paul is trying to get us to understand is that maintaining our passion and a posture of servanthood is only possible through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.
I think Francis Chan is bang on when he says “If I were Satan and my ultimate goal was to thwart God’s kingdom and purposes, one of my main strategies would be to get churchgoers to ignore the Holy Spirit.” Too many us effectively ignore the Holy Spirit rather than learning to rely on the Holy Spirit when it comes to being part of the Body of Christ which is why so many of our churches seem so different from the Spirit empowered movement we see in the book of Acts and in so many nations in the majority world, where the people have nothing to rely on except the Holy Spirit. The best we can do in our strength will always be a far cry from the best is that the Holy Spirit can empower us to do.
So how do we connect to the Holy Spirit’s power to keep our passion up and our posture in the right direction? Well that would take a book but think we need this in mind for a start
THE HOLY SPIRIT IS SENSITIVE
By our attitudes & actions we can either:
“fan into flame the gift of God” 2 Tim 1:6
That is, encourage the Work of the Spirit
By our attitudes & actions we can discourage the Work of the Spirit
“Do not quench the Spirit” 1 Thess 5:19
IN OUR LIVES AND CHURCH
Why not spend some time thinking and talking with others about how you do the former and avoid the latter?