Scripture Reading: Proverbs 19 …
"Zeal" is a word that we do not use a lot today. In its place we use words like "passion" or "commitment" or "devotion" … words that express a strong desire leading to a strong action. You know when someone is doing something "half-heartedly." Coaches often tell athletes that they need to put their HEART into it! And so it is with LIFE!! Half-hearted devotion is not devotion at all, and service without passion may get the job done, but the fruit will be less than desired because you are just going through the motions.
Is that you? Are you going through life without ZEAL?! As Solomon writes his proverbs, he continually speaks about fools and wisdom. Fools have no wisdom. They don't listen to instruction and they speak of things they don't know. Fools are very often zealous, but they have a different problem: they have no knowledge to guide their zeal. "It is not good to have zeal without knowledge" (19:2). Solomon adds, " … nor to be hasty and miss the way.” Some people appear to have knowledge, but no zeal; while others have zeal with no knowledge. Wisdom requires a zeal that is derived from knowledge.
As you live your life each day you need wisdom from God that begins, as we have seen, with true knowledge of God. There are many in our world today who have a religious zeal based on lies and false information about God. That is true in every false religion, and sadly, it is even true in the church at times and in what some call “Christianity.” We know God is our Creator. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and it is in His Word that we find the knowledge that leads to zeal for God and His kingdom. Without God's wisdom our spirits remain dead, "without hope and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:12). So Solomon says, "He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who cherishes understanding prospers" (19:8). Without wisdom your soul IS dead and will remain dead!
But where can you find wisdom? How do you know that the Bible is God's Word and not the Koran or some other "holy book"? Muslims certainly have a zeal for Allah, so how do we sort all of the false information from the true? Can we ever be sure? Remember what Solomon says in verse 2: "It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and MISS the WAY!" Many of Solomon's proverbs are practical things about life. "Wealth brings many friends" (19:4). These aren't REAL friends, but that's what it looks like to those who don't know God. Solomon's advice about the importance of listening (verse 20), the importance of discipline and instruction (verses 16-18), and the consequences of laziness (verses 15 and 24) offer wisdom for daily living.
Yet the key to understanding all of the proverbs is in knowing Solomon's God … the God of his fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. There is really only one way to KNOW that the Bible is true and that the knowledge of God revealed in it gives wisdom: it all points to Jesus, the Christ, the One who alone is true God and true man. Islam, Judaism and Christianity are the only three religions in the world that teach that there is ONE God. Islam teaches that Jesus was a man, a prophet, but that Mohammed was the last of the prophets, sent from Allah. But how do they know about Jesus? From the Bible!! And the Gospels (which they claim to believe) reveal that Jesus said He was God in the flesh. The Bible teaches in the Gospels that Jesus predicted His death, explained WHY He was going to suffer and die (as a "ransom" for many - for those who would believe in Him) and that He would rise again. The Gospels teach that Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. No one can say they "believe" in Jesus and not know that He IS God in the flesh. No one can say they "believe" in Jesus and not bow before Him in worship as the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Islam is a false religion and the zeal of the Muslims is not based on knowledge. Theirs is like all the other religions of the world that present man with a list of things that WE must do in order to go to "heaven," to paradise, and even then, no one can be sure. True, biblical Christianity is the fulfillment of biblical Judaism. The whole Bible goes together. The New Testament fulfills the Old Testament. Jesus is the promised "Seed" of the woman (Genesis 3:15), and the "Seed" of Abraham (Genesis 12:3). He is the "Ruler" from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10) and the "Son of David" (Luke 1:33). While some who claim to be Christians have had zeal without knowledge in the past, and still do today, those who know God through His Word and who put their faith in Jesus Christ KNOW that we are saved by grace through faith. Jesus said, "The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent" (John 6:29). To "believe" means to confess that Jesus is God, to believe that He suffered God's wrath in your place on the cross, and to trust in His blood as the perfect sacrifice for sin.
"The fear of the LORD leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble" (19:23). Every other religion, all other "knowledge" leads only to more attempts to earn the favor of a "god" that doesn't exist. ONLY those who KNOW God and who have zeal for God that is based on truth find the WAY that leads to life. Jesus said, "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6).
Those with such misguided zeal eventually come to ruin. God will have His way. "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails" (19:21). Jesus said, "My Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:40). Zeal without knowledge leads to DEATH, but serving the Lord, our God, with zeal, with passion, with commitment, with all your heart brings joy, peace and hope to all who confess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord!
"My Father in heaven, Your Word gives me the knowledge I need to live with meaning and purpose every day, focused on my Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. Fill me daily with Your Spirit, that I may serve You with zeal and testify to those around me, in what I say and what I do, that You alone are God, and that true life, eternal life, is found only in You. Help me to listen eagerly to Your instruction and to seek wisdom in Christ, my Savior and my Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen"