Phil Cox Phil Cox

Recent Columns

Home page
Recent Columns
Previous Series
Phil's background
Preaching engagements
Creation and science
Contact Phil

Stubbington Baptist Church
Acorn Christian Healing Foundation
Evangelical Alliance Basis of Faith

Maintaining spiritual fervour

Romans 12v11

14th June 2019

We've been studying Romans Chapter 12, to see what it is to be a healthy Christian in a healthy church. Last time, we were reminded by verses 9-10 that love is the supreme ingredient in healthy Christianity. The next verse is:

Romans 12v11
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour serving the Lord.

Thus Paul continues to write about genuine love for God. It's so easy for Christians to lose the enthusiasm they had when they first met the Lord, and to slip gradually into a comfortable semi-Christianity, in which they pray sometimes, come to most of the meetings, and acknowledge that God's will should be done, at least in theory. They lose their passion for God and for His mission to reach the world for Jesus.

If that's happened to us, our first reaction to the idea of being zealous and fervent for God might be to ask "How?" I can't choose to be enthusiastic. I can't choose to be full of zeal and never lacking in fervour. We all have days, don't we, when we hear this sort of thing preached and think, "Oh, not spiritual fervour again!" I don't think you can choose to be excited about Jesus. I don't think you can choose to be passionate about the kingdom of God. But I do think there are things you can do that will make it possible to be like that. Here are a couple of things that enable us to never be lacking in zeal, things that equip us to be full of spiritual fervour.

Firstly: Get enough rest. Seriously, it's very hard to keep your spiritual fervour when you're exhausted, as we see with Elijah in 1 Kings 19. Sleep enough, eat enough, and look after yourself physically. It's far easier to be on fire for God if you feel well and rested. And sometimes perhaps our church asks us to do too much, and we can think, "Oh, not again, not another church meeting". Rest enough.

Secondly: Turn the telly off. Telly is the opiate of the people. Karl Marx was wrong; religion isn't the opiate of the people; telly is the opiate of the people. For some people alcohol is the opiate of the people. For some, opium is actually the opiate of the people. But for most people it's TV. It's a way of being dead while being alive. It's a way of not thinking. It's escapism.

I know there are days when you go home at night and all you've got the energy for is to watch an hour's telly. But by and large, turn the blooming thing off. Turn the computer off. Turn the phone off. Spend time alone. Spend time quietly. Think. Go for a walk. Sit in the garden. You cannot maintain your spiritual fervour if your ears are being battered with information all the time. Don't watch the news ten times a day. Your time is precious. Don't waste it watching the same news bulletin over and over again. Or playing the same computer game over and over again. Or watching the same soap opera. There is more to life. In particular, you can choose to have a living relationship with God, and you can't really pray properly while watching the telly.

I know most of us can't spend hours in prayer and fasting before God every day, but if we indulge in a lifestyle of constant entertainment we can waste most of the time we could be praying. And, if that's been your lifestyle, you can't suddenly turn to prayer for hours each day, but you can learn to be quiet. You can listen to your own mind rather than somebody else's. You can settle yourself, so that you can pray, and you can begin to hear God.

So as well as not being too physically tired, don't be too mentally tired by being continually battered by machines. Take time to be quiet with God. Consider:

Psalm 131
My heart is not proud, O Lord. My eyes are not haughty. I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quietened by soul. Like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, both now and for evermore.

When we stop chasing all the worldly things we want, and stop demanding answers from God (that we're probably not smart enough to understand, anyway) and just come back to spending time with our heavenly Father, and trusting Him, we can rediscover the peace of God. And in that state of peace, we can know God's presence and His favour, and we can hear God speak.

If we will make time for God, and still ourselves, and seek His kingdom first, He comes and makes us the kind of people that actually we want to be.