Zeal Check

Here's how to be more zealous for good works.

Ready for Good Works (2)

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2.11-14

Three problems
Three significant problems confront us as we think about taking up the good works which are the evidence and proof of our salvation.

First, we are not good (Rom. 7.18). We have no ability to gin up good works, just because we might think it’s the sort of thing we Christians should do. We are not naturally inclined to do the works which God has before ordained that we should walk in them (Eph. 2.10). We are naturally selfish, risk-averse, complacent, and otherwise unlikely to have much in the way of zeal for doing good.

Happily, we have the Spirit of God dwelling in us; through Him, and by His power, we are able to overcome all that is not good in us with the good fruit He brings as He forms us into the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 12.21; Gal. 5.22, 23; 2 Cor. 3.12-18). He renews our minds, refurbishes our affections, and resets our priorities as we feed on the Word of God and submit to the Spirit’s teaching and filling.

Second, the people to whom we have been sent by God do not deserve any good that we might do for them. After all, what have they done for us lately?

Happily, as the Spirit works to bear the fruit of goodness in us, we realize that our neighbors don’t have to earn the good works God has prepared for us to do for them. His grace, working in us, can reach them through us, with the result that thanksgiving and praise to God will increase as His grace flows through us to our world (2 Cor. 3.7-15).

Third, any kind of work is, well, work. And work that does not issue in some reward, some payback or paycheck or other personal benefit, typically keeps falling to the bottom of our “to do” list. Doing good works is hard, and that’s just another reason why we need to ready ourselves for doing good. If we ready ourselves, as Paul says we must (Tit. 3.1), the zeal and ability will be there when we need them, to do the good works God has before ordained for us in His Law and all His Word.

So we should start by focusing on our attitude toward doing good – our zeal for this calling.

Keys to being zealous
How do we summon up and maintain a holy zeal for good works – an eagerness, an excitement about, and a constant readiness for doing good for others? Paul suggests three keys to being a person who is zealous for good works.

First, remember that it was a good and gracious work of God that brought you the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ (Tit. 2.11). Take time throughout your day to thank God for your salvation. Recall, as David did in Psalm 18, when you came to the Lord, and how His grace worked powerfully in you then. Remember the joy you have known in knowing Jesus. Sing praises to His Name, and celebrate His goodness to you in prayer.

The more you meditate on the grace of God and the great salvation He has given us through Jesus Christ, the more His grace will saturate, shape, and prepare your soul for doing good works.

Second, work hard at your sanctification (v. 12) – at working out your salvation in fear and trembling. This mean setting aside all worldly lusts and ways and pressing on to live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age. Improve your prayer life. Spend more and better time in God’s Word. Confess your sins and repent of them as the Spirit leads. Step into the yoke with Jesus and let Him lead you through your day, as you grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord.

The more you become like Jesus, the more you will do good like Jesus did.

Finally, keep in mind – and look forward to with joy and anticipation – that Jesus is coming again (v. 13). What a day that will be! The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend in glory, and it will be well with our souls forevermore! Think of how those who have proved their faith in good works will rejoice to hear Jesus say to them, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Think of yourself hearing that, and of the many who might be there with you, hearing the same, because you showed them good works and pointed them to Jesus.

Remember your salvation; work it out daily; and long for the day of your salvation’s consummation at the return of our Lord Jesus. Keep turning these keys into your soul, and the Spirit of God will give you a zeal for good works that will know no end.

Focusing our zeal
We need to focus on cultivating zeal for good works. God wants us to be zealous for good works. Jesus has promised we will do great good works in His Name (Jn. 14.12). The Spirit of God within us is bristling with power to help us do good works at every opportunity.

But unless we are zealous for good works, we won’t be ready when opportunities arise.

To be zealous for good works, we need to learn to hate those works that are evil, including such forms of passive disobedience as complacency, indifference, and neglect (v. 14). Instead of continuing in lawless deeds, we must work hard to understand the good works outlined in God’s Law and all His Word. The more God’s good works appear on the radar screen of our soul, the readier we will be to act on them as His Spirit leads and empowers.

And we must embrace this calling to good works as our special privilege from the Lord (v. 14). We are His “own special people”, and part of what makes us special is our ability to do the kinds of works that point to Jesus and glorify God.

Finally, our zeal for good works will increase as we submit to and accept the teaching and equipping of those who love us and do good to us by teaching us the things of Christ and His Word. We must not be stiff-necked against the clear teaching of God’s Word. Rather, let us learn to feed with delight on all the counsel of God in Scripture, so that by such teaching the Spirit of God can form us increasingly into the image and likeness of Jesus Christ.

We are created in Christ Jesus to do good works. If we are zealous about such works, and working daily to become more zealous, we will fulfill our calling and do good to others as often as we have opportunity.

For reflection
1. Why is it so hard for Christians to be consistent in doing good to others?

2. What are the keys to becoming zealous for good works?

3.  What can you do to sharpen your focus on doing good works? 

Next steps – Preparation, Transformation: For the next two days, what will you do to work at becoming more zealous for good works?

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore