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  • JR Dickey

The Appeal of Zeal

The zealotry God looks for in our lives is not wide-eyed, out of control fanaticism fueled by unrighteous indignation. His zeal is the ‘real deal’ (pardon the play on words). And it is blatantly obvious to the world around. To the rebellious, it’s frightening; to the child of God (both lost or found) it’s awesomely appealing. It’s not ‘worked up’ by some ‘holy cheerleader’; it’s manifested by a heart that’s entirely wrapped up in God.

I’m reminded of a man who knocked on my front door one morning. Upon answering it, we found him meekly poised, asking to come in and to speak with us. At first, I didn’t recognize him, but he quickly explained that he resided just a few doors down the street.

“Oh, of course. Come in.” I replied.

“You know, I should have been here sooner, but… well, let me explain.”

His demeanor made it clear that whatever he had to say was terribly important. As a consequence, we listened somewhat apprehensive.

“You see, about nine months ago, we moved in down the street. I’d gotten a great job with the [sporting goods company] and my wife and two daughters were excited about being here.”

“But after only a few months, we found out that [his wife] was terminally ill with cancer. In only a couple of months, she died.”

“As you can imagine, I was devastated, but even more so were my daughters. The older one became so bitter and rebellious that she got involved with a gang and started using drugs and… well…”

“Anyway, the younger one just recoiled. She isolated herself and became the brunt of every cruel joke at school. She seemed to hate herself more and more and …”

“I retreated to my work. It became my hiding place from grief. I had no faith to speak of but only a broken… no, a shattered heart that I felt I had to protect.”

“Well, I didn’t see it coming. One day, I came home and found my older daughter with a man much older than her. When I surprised them at my entry, she just erupted at me and they left the house in haste. Later she called and said that she was going to marry this guy whether I liked it or not and … well, goodbye.”

“I freaked. She was so young and was making a huge mistake. I knew she had been distraught, but I never expected this.”

“A few days later, she went to the police and claimed that I had sexually abused her. Of course, this was completely untrue and I later found out that her new acquaintance had put her up to it.”

“Anyway, the authorities believed her and took away my other little girl to ‘protect her’. Shortly afterward, the [local newspaper] printed the story such that I looked very guilty.”

“I remember that!” I said. “That was you?”

“Yes. But it didn’t stop there. In a couple of days, I was let go from my job because the company didn’t want the bad publicity. Then, after I spent all I had in a legal dispute over the girls, I fell behind on the mortgage and the bank gave notice of foreclosure.”

“Wow. Just snow-balled, huh?”

“Yeah. But then, this guy who had taken my older daughter came back to the house while I was out. He must have had her key. Well, I came in and found him literally destroying the place with a pick axe. He’d chopped up the furniture, the walls, the TV, even the last pictures I had of [his wife and kids]. I honestly couldn’t believe my eyes.”

“He threatened me with the ax and laughed hideously. He mocked that my daughter was his now and that if I knew what was good for her, I’d vacate the house immediately. I later found out he wanted to use it as a place to make and sell drugs. Then he left, breaking several more windows on the way.”

My mouth was agape listening to this incredible tale.

“So…I’d lost it all. My dear wife, my daughters, my job, my house, even the last mementos of happier times. I was broke and really broken. I had nowhere to turn, no friends, no family. So, I pawned some stuff and bought a pistol.”

“I drove out of town headed north and pulled over on the side of the road to just end it. I took the gun and pointed it at my head. It was shaking so hard… “

“But then, the most miraculous thing happened. In the deepest part of this pit, this dark, dark hole I was in,… for some reason, I saw this picture in my mind,… a picture that was so vivid. I couldn’t shake it. And that’s why I’m here.”

“All I could see was the joyful countenance of your little girl. (She was 12 then.) You see, she and [his younger daughter] played together a lot and she was always sharing with her about Jesus. I mean it was natural, so natural. And she was obviously really in love with Christ. She just wanted to help my little one and she really did.”

“But, at the time, I’d rejected it. At least, I thought so. I was too strong and too ‘sane’ for that nonsense – or so I thought. But there in my car, with this gun to my head, I realized I was wrong. Her shining face seemed to say, ‘Come home. God loves you and He will help.’”

“So, I put the gun down and drove back into town. I saw [the church on the north side of town] and pulled in. To my relief, the pastor was there, and I sat down and talked with him for a long time.”

“There and then, I gave my heart to Jesus Christ and was born again. And I just can’t tell you how that changed me!”

“And the next day, the very next day, the authorities contacted me and said that [his older daughter] confessed that her accusation was a lie and that they were returning her as well as my younger girl into my care. Shortly afterward, the paper printed a great article. Then, I even got my job back with a raise. My house is still mine and it’s fixed back up.”

“And we’re all totally in love with Jesus! He’s given us new hope and a real faith, more real than anything I see with my eyes! Your little girl’s faith…how thankful I am for that now.”

Yes, zealous Christians are the only ones who make a difference in this world. They are the real salt and light Jesus spoke of. They bear the fruit of the Spirit in abundance. May we all forsake the rags of timidity, the lies of worldly conformity and a spiritually tepid lifestyle.

While the world is vilifying ‘religious extremism’ let us not confuse this with the passionate zeal we need to have for our God. We must be extreme! -- extreme in love, extreme in forgiveness, extreme in sharing and sacrifice, extreme in faith and trust, extreme in the pursuit of our Father’s desire!

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