As we conclude our Renovate series, today we're learning from Nehemiah all about what happens when our passions fade. After Nehemiah and the Israelites completed the walls of Jerusalem, they were full of joy! Nehemiah 12 tells us that the people celebrated with food, wine and their joy could be heard from far away. However, their faithful celebration is not how the book of Nehemiah ends. In Nehemiah 13, we learn that, after a time away from Jerusalem, Nehemiah returned to the people of God for a visit. Instead of returning to devoted followers of God, he found that the people had lost their passion.
WHEN YOU LOSE YOUR PASSION
Have you ever felt like your passion has been stolen from you? The truth is, the last year and a half took a lot out of us. We tend to forget the great joy we have available to us through God. When Nehemiah returned for his visit to Jerusalem, he was outraged to find that the temple of God was in disrepair, the Sabbath day of the Lord was no longer kept as a holy day of rest, and many Israelite men were marrying women from enemy countries, which God had told them not to do. What happened to the spiritual passion they had years before? Their passion faded with time.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PASSION AND ZEAL
Fading passion is actually quite normal. That's because passion is an intense emotional response, usually due to something new or exciting. Zeal, on the other hand, is commitment energy in the pursuit of something meaningful. Zeal is enthusiasm you experience when you have an important objective to pursue or a greater cause in mind.
For example, you may be zealous for your relationship when you are committed to a spouse in marriage, and therefore want to do everything in your power to make the marriage a successful one. Your zeal may give you the discipline to put your phone away after work and be truly present with your family. Passion may change you for a day, but zeal can change your whole life.
REDISCOVERING YOUR ZEAL
In Romans 12:11, the Apostle Paul writes "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord." The problem Nehemiah faced upon his return to Jerusalem was that the people of God lost their commitment when their passion faded. If you feel passionless today, choose the journey to zeal, which lasts. In order to do so, you'll need to move through 3 stages: The delight stage, the difficulty stage, and the devotion stage.
In the delight stage, everything feels new. Maybe you get a new job, or start dating a new person. However, this stage doesn't last forever, and it usually is followed by the difficulty stage. That's where the passion starts to fade and the things that made you passionate now feel stale. Maybe you start facing challenges is your marriage. To develop zeal, push through the difficulty stage to the devotion stage. That's where you realize that you will have days when you don't feel like doing the work, but you know you're not going to quit because you're committed. This is the stage where you develop discipline and a zeal for God that lasts.
ZEAL THROUGH THE SPIRIT OF GOD
Maybe you're in a difficult place right now, and it feels too hard to keep up zeal in your relationship with God. If that's you, we want to encourage you: Even when you have no passion for God, God always has zeal for you. Our God is so zealous for you that he came to Earth as a man named Jesus. He exemplified what a zealous life of love looks like for all people. He was so zealous for you that he was willing to endure death on a Cross for your sins so you can have new life. So, receive Jesus Christ with open arms! He will empower you by the Spirit of God and the love of Jesus to live a zealous life for His glory.