“Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;” Romans 12:11
If you are like me, you are probably thinking that this verse should be fairly easy to apply to our lives, right? Initially these were some of my thoughts; stay motivated, remove the laziness and apathy that so easily creeps in, discipline ourselves, be enthusiastic, and just do what we are supposed to do. While serving the Lord, of course. Maybe we have even tried more meditation, Bible reading, memorization or prayer time. Yes, all good things, but what is our motivation and goal? Is it to know Jesus or just to do good things for Him because we think we need to?
I am super excited to share with you what the Lord has been teaching me as I have been studying and thinking about this verse. I was challenged to the core because of the depth that was held in each of these words. But before we jump in, there are a couple foundational things that will help us understand this verse. Have you chosen to truly follow Jesus no matter the cost? If so, let’s allow Him to deepen our understanding of what this means in our everyday life. The cost of serving Jesus may seem like a high price as it requires daily death to our flesh so that the fullness and power of Christ may dwell in us. “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matthew 10:38) This is not a nice suggestion but a requirement.
Paul said, “I die daily”. Every day we choose who will reign on the throne of our heart. As Christians, we have no other response but “yes, Lord”. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) We are not our own, but merely a vessel in which the Holy Spirit dwells and by “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3)
So what about you? Be honest, now is not the time to give the typical Christians answer. Who is actually ruling your life? Is your life completely, in every area, dependent upon Jesus Christ? There are only two options: either Jesus Christ is reigning as King or you are still choosing to satisfy your flesh, which means the enemy has successfully taken your gaze off of Christ and is ruling your life. I believe that most of us would say that Jesus Christ is the ultimate authority in our life which is a very nice sounding thought.
Let’s look beyond good thoughts and examine what we truly believe. What we actually believe about God in the depths of our heart will determine our actions. In God’s grace and mercy He has given us the option to daily choose His life. Are you willing to fully surrender and submit to whatever He may ask of you? Can you truly say, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
You cannot expect to be passionate and zealous about the Father’s business and His Kingdom if you have not completely allowed your flesh to be crucified so that Jesus Christ can reign as King on the throne of your heart. Yes, it’s a daily, moment by moment, putting the flesh to death and allowing the life of Jesus to live in us. Friends, the rest of this post is a waste of time if you are not fully committed to saying “yes” to Jesus in every moment, circumstance, or situation. It is your decision. However He is SO beyond worthy of our entire life, we would be foolish to turn our back even in the smallest ways to whatever He is asking of us.
Imagine that you are traveling on an endless frontier. You have been on this journey for a while and maybe you have gotten victory in some small areas and you are feeling pretty good. Now seems like a good time to pitch your tent, right? No, and if your soul is not completely engaged in the battle around you, the default mode is your flesh. It will take over if we do not stand up against it. Where do you turn when you are at your weakest point? This must be the cry of our soul. No, we will not give in to the subtle attacks of the enemy that lure us away from Jesus Christ, pull up those tent stakes and press forward in the strength of our King.
If that is the cry of your heart, then join me and let’s see what the Lord has for us in this verse. It’s really great!
The word “not” means, “God forbid or may it never be said of us”. Whoa! That’s a pretty strong statement. Slothful means one who is lazy, apathetic, or lethargic. The enemy will use this tactic in many different forms. Uh, Paul, I was just going to take a quick break here. I need to “rest”, that was a really tough battle and this seems like a really good place to pitch my tent.
Sometimes, we feel tired or unmotivated to do anything. Many times this is not just a feeling but a direct attack from the enemy to distract us from whatever the Lord has set before us to do. Laziness towards a specific action is caused when one’s heart isn’t fully engaged or is uninterested in what is going on. Would our actions say that we are uninterested, lukewarm, indifferent, halfhearted, or unmoved about the Father’s business, those things that move the heart of God? Jesus said, “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49) This is why we are here, to do the work that the Father has sent us to do! “Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” (Luke 5:19)
How are we supposed to do this business? Well, Jesus only did what the Father was doing and spoke what He heard the Father saying. He was fully dependent upon the Father and His will. Friends, this goes beyond just highly esteeming Jesus Christ and His Word, because we all definitely can do that. This takes action, this requires being fully, wholeheartedly consumed with the Father and His will. This is not about us or our dreams. That is way too small of a goal to live for, and I hate to break it to you, but Jesus did not die so that we could live the comfortable American dream. “Wait a second. This is not what I signed up for.” Well, do not forget that if you have given your life to Jesus, your life is not your own.
So, what is hindering us from being fully given to the cross of Jesus Christ on a daily basis? This is not a one-time decision. The battle takes place in our mind. Every single thought that crosses our minds, we choose to believe or reject it. So what are you choosing to believe? Who are you giving the authority to control your thought life? If we are not continually and consciously placing Jesus as King, daily submitting to His will, then the enemy will turn our gaze off of Jesus. We will instead focus on ourselves. Anything, even “good” things, that turn our focus off of Jesus Christ will cause us to be lazy about His work and business. Because whatever the eye of our heart is focused on will consume our energy and passion.
Being Fervent in spirit is a continual action. It is the idea of boiling with an intense zeal and passion for what is good. It is not something that is part-time, halfway or something that we choose to do only when we feel like it. In other words, it is not being lazy or apathetic. Think of it this way: if the heat on the stove decided to turn on and off whenever it felt like it, it would be very hard to get the water to not only boil but continue to constantly remain boiling. Imagine that the Holy Spirit is the heat source. He is constant; He is not going anywhere. He said in Hebrews 13:5, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” Now, if you are the water, the only way for you to remain constantly boiling (fervent, passionate, and enthusiastic) is by always staying on the heat source, remaining constantly connected. The instant you decide that you can do it on your own, or maybe you want to take a break from the heat when the battle is hard, intense and you are tired, you are disconnected from the heat source.
Don’t run from the very thing that is giving you the strength and passion to be zealous about the Father’s business. Water cannot boil by itself, but if it remains on the heat source, the constant heat will cause the water to continuously boil. This is how we are to live in the Spirit, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” We cannot passionately be about the Father’s business and His will if we are not allowing the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;” (2 Corinthians 4:7)
Now, here is the part that changes everything! Although it may not seem like it, this ties back to the foundation that we laid in the beginning. That is serving the Lord. I know, it probably sounds a little cliché, but let’s find out what this actually means (I was slightly surprised). Serving means to be a slave, giving up one’s self, being fully submitted to the Master, giving Him the power and authority, being completely obedient to His requests. Whoa, that nice little sounding phrase is a lot deeper than I imagined. The Lord means “to whom a person belongs, having the power and right to decide”. “For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Corinthians 4:5)
What is the answer of a slave to his master? It’s always “Yes”! Slaves are fully submitted to serve and obey their master, with no questions asked. If we have truly taken up our cross, we are dead to our flesh and desires. We do not have the right to decide, because we have made Him our King and ultimate authority. This is our reasonable service, but this verse is exhorting us to so much more! Not only are we to be a living sacrifice, but we are to be passionate about it!
Friends, let’s shift our perspective of “how much do I have to give up and surrender?” to “how much can I give to Him?” It is truly a honor and privilege to serve the King of all kings. Do not take this calling that we have in Christ Jesus, lightly; He is SO worthy!
When we are passionate about someone or something, it totally consumes our thoughts, actions and attitudes. “For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.” (Colossians 1:29)
Take a moment and seriously reflect on your life. Is Jesus Christ absolutely everything, your beating heart passion or are you still distracted by maybe even the smallest cares of this world? We are wasting our time if we are doing good things without the power of Jesus. Paul clearly explains what it looks like to serve the Lord; let’s not forget where our power, strength and passion come from. It is Jesus Christ alone! Rise up and let’s be about our Father’s business!