An earnest zeal, fervor, fire and passion for God and His ways is required for Kingdom advancement. The Church is called to fervor.
John Wesley was asked how he attracted great crowds. He replied: “I set myself on fire, and the people come to see me burn.”
There exists a parable of an older man named Arthur who absolutely loved Jesus. One day his grandson visited his home in the country and while sitting on his porch, asked his grandfather why he loved Jesus so much.
Arthur motioned to his dog Buster and shared that Buster had chased a rabbit a few days before. Other dogs joined him, but after a while they gave up the chase. Buster, though, continued pursuing the rabbit. Arthur asked his grandson if he knew why Buster never gave up. His grandson didn’t know. He explained that Buster was the only one who actually saw the rabbit. Knowing the rabbit was there kept Buster in the race.
Arthur’s experience with Jesus kept the fervor alive. With spiritual sight he saw Jesus and never lost the fervor of fresh faith.
In each of the seven letters, Jesus emphasizes a different trait characterizing true and living churches. Ephesus is urged to return to its first love, while Smyrna is encouraged to endure suffering and hardship. Pergamum is to champion truth in the midst of error, and Thyatira is to embrace holiness in the midst of evil. Sardis needed to display an authentic and genuine faith. Philadelphia had a mission to fulfill.[i] The final letter to the church in Laodicea stresses spiritual fervor.
“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.
“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
A fervent passion for the things of God provides opportunity for a person to abide with Jesus on earth and reign with Him in heaven.
What things are keeping you hot for God? Are you attempting to follow Jesus while not doing His will? Have you lost the fervor of fresh faith? Have you put your trust in material things, leaving God out?
What a Great God
Jesus is presented as the “Amen.” His ministry fulfills all the promises of God.[ii] When people visit the church, do they say, “Wow, what a great church,” or “Wow, what a great God”? A church with fervor points to Jesus and promises fulfillment in Him.
The War of the Lamb
Did the seven churches prove faithful? Did they refrain from participating in a culture of pagan religion and imperial worship, even when serious social, economic, and political consequences were involved? Were they willing to suffer like John, like Antipas of Pergamum (Rev. 2:13), and like Jesus?[iii]
These churches were in a struggle, a war—the war of the Lamb. Believers will be victorious not by wielding swords but by following Jesus in worship and faithful witness.[iv] Does the book of Revelation exalt martyrdom? The first-century meaning of “martyr” was “witness.” Only later in church history did martyr refer to witnesses dying for their faith.[v] Revelation calls readers not to death, but to faithful discipleship and witness, even if leading to death. The message to the Church from the exalted Jesus is not a call to death but to discipleship, including abstaining from everything that defiles.[vi] These messages reveal that faithful discipleship has costs and rewards. And the eternal reward far outweighs the temporary costs.
Nothing but a wholehearted commitment to Christ will do. Renew an earnest zeal, fervor, fire, and passion for God and His ways. “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matt. 6:33 NLT).
Small Group Discussion Starters
- Follow-up from previous discussion: How did you engage in the mission of Jesus this week in your home, your neighborhood, your workplace and your church (proclamation, justice advocacy, peace-making, and acts of compassion)?
- How could you provide refreshment for the spiritually weary and healing for the spiritually sick?
- How does Jesus tell His followers they will experience “heaven on earth”?
- In what ways have you found satisfaction in life?
- In what areas of your life have you left Jesus on the outside?
- Are you both abiding in Jesus and engaging in mission? If not, how can you start doing this today?
As a group hold each other accountable to abiding in Jesus and engaging in mission to maintain spiritual fervor. Pray and ask for God to revive the Church, beginning with you and your small group.
[i] Stott, 111-112.
[ii] Stott, 118.
[iii] Michael J. Gorman, Reading Revelation Responsibly, (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2011), 96.
[iv] Ibid, 97.