The wonderful zeal

Do you have great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of an objective – you should have!

Its something we aspire to for all ages of our church without exception, the only hesitation is that we must take care to heed the warnings of Proverbs 19:2. One translation speaks of it, “Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” (ESV) another, but my favourite is the CEV “Willingness and stupidity don’t go well together. If you are too eager, you will miss the road.”

Either way, zeal without knowledge is the road to ruin!

Zeal in context

The word used for zeal (desire, passion, tenacity etc) has implications and they are something that concerns you. It is not the action itself, but what does, or doesn’t go with it.  Jesus is the prime example of zeal (John 2:17) but in stark contrast is Paul’s testimony (Phil 3:6). Paul himself begins to challenge our approach in Galatians 4:17-18, ‘It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good’.

Matthew Henry who can sometimes (to me at least) have much to say about everything, leaps zealously upon this verse; “It is good to be zealous always in a good thing; not for a time only, or now and then, like a heat of an ague fiti, but like the heat of the body, constant.” Zeal has its perfect place, based on knowledge.

Zeal without knowledge

To my embarrassment, I have much experience of zeal without a good understanding, wisdom or knowledge over the years. My early evangelistic endeavours were sometimes littered with tactics that seemed like an unwitting fulfilment of ‘by all means, save some’. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) I invited people to pray the prayer of salvation and ‘give Jesus a go’, others I attempted to herd into the Kingdom by telling the stories of Revelation, and of scorpions that could sting man, but death had been taken away!

In my zeal, I had mixed up theology, scripture and imagination!  My justification? He who wins souls is wise! (Proverbs 11:30) The zeal was misplaced and didn’t last long!

Even for those who consider themselves apostles or prophets, the birthplace for authentic, sustainable, humble and non-judgmental zeal is Spirit-Inspired and Scripture-centred.

My mistake was that I didn’t understand that zeal without knowledge is not merely useless, but positively dangerous. Of itself, it doesn’t achieve the purposes of God and it just saps the life out of you.

Without asking yourself the questions of “why I am doing the things I am doing”, and “who I am doing them for?” and then probing and understanding the biblical answers, you can quickly find yourself running ahead of God, disillusioned, despairing and weary.

God can often appear slow to us, but it He is in charge, and it is His timetable we work to. There are no shortcuts. Zeal is good, but it needs to be accompanied by a good companion. Such a worthy companion would be the total commitment to obey God’s word and ensure it does not venture outside of the parameters of Biblical revelation.

The way forward

I sat for a while pondering about zeal, accompanied by godly vision, insight or commitment. As I did, I realised that actually, the birthplace for authentic, sustainable, humble and non-judgmental zeal is Spirit-Inspired and Scripture-centred. That is, a zeal that will continue, despite hardship, external pressures and prolonged periods of time and unfruitfulness comes from an intimate relationship with God, His Word and being rooted deeply in the local Church.

We need to let that intimacy be the thing that produces and sustains our zeal. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, this is the only way to keep walking in due diligence, with zeal gripping our hearts. It doesn’t come easily, and can easily fade. That’s why we need to share our vision with each other, encourage one another, and remind each other of the good things that the Lord has shown us.

  1. ague – malaria or another illness involving fever and shivering.  (back)

Read These Next

of sermons, poems & essays…

There is nothing predictable about prophetic exhortation, warning or admonition – prophets throughout history are poets, painters, story-tellers, dancers and can seem to be troublemakers!

If we likened the life of the church (and indeed society)to an artist’s paint-strewn canvas, it is full of colour, texture, vibrancy and the prophet’s job is to look into all the distractions that the Church sees and see the purpose of God, His redirections, encouragement and His warnings. Sometimes, stark warnings.

There is nothing predictable about what God is doing. Jeremiah is told to go and look at the potter’s wheel, see the work in progress. It starts as one thing, finishes surprisingly as another. Amos is asked to look at a basket of fruit and as he looks God reveals some bad news for Israel.

His omnipotence means He can do what He says He will do. 

Time and time again, God speaks to His people, reveals Himself. As the people of God, we walk not by sight but by faith, but our eyes are wide open.

“In these last days”, says the mysterious writer in his sermon to the persecuted Church, “God has revealed Himself in Christ. (Hebrews 1:1)  Previously, at various times and in astonishing ways, God spoke through the prophets, but now God was speaking directly through His Son.  You would expect it all to end there as if the painting was complete, framed, exhibited – but in the darkness of a world with all it’s heartache, frustration, pain and discouragement, God lights up the sky with revelation. The prophetic ministry still speaks.

The Lion has roared, who can but prophesy?

The prophetic chit-chat has become a roar of transforming, challenging, glorious revelation; Christ Himself is the message booming from every heart in the Church. The message can be stifled, but encouragingly, renewal and revival breaks the gagging orders and amplifies the voice of those who have been intimidated to keep themselves whispering. The Holy Spirit evokes boldness in the heart of the believer, and boldness has a voice!

Expect God to speak to you. It may be in a way that you never imagined or expected. In the same way that you might tilt your head to hear a faint voice, you need to incline yourself to hear, see or know God’s voice and leading. Don’t exasperate your own heart – don’t hold back in your pursuit of hearing the inaudible, seeing the unseeable! Look and see! It wasn’t until Moses chose to look further at the bush that was on fire but not being burned that God spoke to him.

Don’t despise prophecy. Let the fire of God rage in your heart in response to what He says to you. It will transform lives. Don’t tire of sermons, poems & essays that speak of God’s staggering provision, and His promise of a breakthrough in the face of adversity. His omnipotence means He can do what He says He will do.

God is doing more than you think. Take a closer look.



    Read These Next

    Contend for it.

    As a prophet, I want to lay a benchmark for others stepping out in authentic prophetic ministry that, at the heart of their ministry, is a major emphasis on the gospel.

    The reason being, as Paul says, “The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”.  (Rom 1:16) We can so quickly forget the gospel, forget it’s encouragements, challenges, warnings, its call and it’s invincible power.

    Let the gospel move people forward.

    Prophetic ministry urges us onwards, and unlike Lot’s encounter with Sodom and Gomorrah where he is instructed not to look back, we find our great comfort by doing just that.

    We look back to the life-transforming, liberating, inspiring message of the Cross.

    We look back to the life-transforming, liberating, inspiring message of the Cross. That’s where the gospel comes into its own.

    The Gospel is a multi-ministry platform in which God gives us everything we need – it is central to the ministry of Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers. Every ministry presses through with one authentic and genuine message; the FREE message of the gospel.

    The overwhelming aspiration of the Church at this time appears to be for revival, and while few agree with what that means in practical terms, the thunder of the message that will be heard in that storm and deluge of grace, forgiveness, restoration and reconciliation will be the gospel.

        Simply put, the gospel tells us that it’s not what we do, but what has been done for us in Christ that reconciles us to God.

    Simply put, the gospel tells us that it’s not what we do, but what has been done for us in Christ that reconciles us to God. We don’t earn it, deserve it, qualify for it or have a claim for it based on merit or our actions.

    It is remarkable. God chose us, in Christ, before the foundation of the world to be holy and righteous before Him. (Eph 1:4) Christ imputes His righteousness, holiness and His character (fruit of the Spirit) to us, our guilt is removed, we are free of shame even though we remember our words, deeds and thoughts.

    We simply cannot do ANYTHING to incite God to love us more than He does, and because our sin is removed as far as the East is from the West, we can’t disappoint Him that He then loves us less.

    Yes, but people need to repent, come back to God, turn away from their sin. They need to know that God is a Holy God that will judge the nations? True, but that is what the gospel so wonderfully does. The Gospel gives us the power to live our lives, it enables us to want to repent and please God with our lives, to honour Him and follow the leading of His Spirit.

      God’s secret weapon! He has placed the gospel in the hands of every member of the Church! The good news about Jesus Christ!

    The parable of the prodigal son is a powerful picture of grace, but the gospel is even greater than the parable, it is the fullest expression of reconciliation, acceptance, intimacy and sonship and it is worth contending for.

    Have a conviction about the Gospel.

    The Ephesian 4 ministries are not exclusive in this remarkable message of grace, kindness and mercy to all mankind. God has placed the gospel in the hands of every member of the Church! The wonder of the gospel is that it is our daily bread, we want to encourage ourselves and each other every day with it. Feed on it, live it, breathe it and share it. 


    We’ve started to drop that word from our encouragement to each other. It’s time to put that word into our action plans, our discipleship our encouragement to one another and in our prayers.

    • Healing? Not seeing much happening? Keep praying faithfully, it’s worth contending for.
    • Leading people to Christ? Keep praying faithfully, it’s worth contending for.
    • Reconciliation? Keep praying faithfully, it’s worth contending for.

    The list could easily go on. The message I wanted to share with you is that the gospel is such wonderful news on every level that it is worth contending for. Revisit it, dwell on it, love it and treasure it. It is God’s glorious gift for you.

    Personally, I love the gospel, and because of that, I’m contending for an unprecedented move of God that will be what people call revival, but more, much more.

      Read These Next

      Guest post: Paul Cain

      It was a stirring moment to be able to visit Garland in July with my associate, Dan Reise. The Lord has been doing so much for me in the last few years, and this certainly was a great blessing. 

      So many memories flooded my mind during the short visit.  The Santa Fe railroad depot train station, relocated three times, is just a few feet from the house where I was born in 1929, and although the town has changed so much, there was plenty to still bring back the past. Life is full of change, transformation, pain, laughter, tears and happiness. The one thing about my visit was that things seemed smaller than when I was a child.

      The same feeling can come to us when we consider the vision, plan and purpose of God that gripped our hearts as we set out in pursuit of God in our early days and that now, years later may appear to have diminished. The way that we do that is to keep those things that God gives us ever before us in prayer.  It is also useful to keep reminding not just ourselves of the promises of God over our lives, but also to stir others around us of the wonderful things that God has set before them. If God has called us to love God with all our heart, soul and mind and then also to love our neighbour as ourselves, then this surely will also mean encouraging each other too.

      I am thankful for all the encouragement of the many friends on social media, email and those who invite me to their homes with their wonderful hospitality, food and friendship.

      Looking back to my visit to Garland, remembering family and the events of the revival that would come some years later I realise that something has not changed for me; the overwhelming conviction that God is going to do something unprecedented in the last days. Those days are here, the Lord’s return is imminent and will come quicker than we expected. I’m convinced more than ever about my Stadiums vision, but it is not just a vision for America – it’s a global vision. The prophet Habakkuk says it best, “The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Hab 2:14).

      The Lord has been with me since 1929, and Garland speaks volumes to me of the faithfulness of God. He’s a God who loves to be trusted, delights in showing mercy, grace, kindness. He’s a God that has never got anymore glorious, powerful or more knowledgeable (but my understanding of Him has), so come what may, I am in good, strong hands. And so are you.

      Garland in 1929 was such a long time ago, but God has remained faithful, and that is but a token of His insurmountable glory.  Let God reawaken the vision that He placed in your heart and hold on in faith, God’s timing is perfect.

      And yes, I do believe revival is coming – but I do think it will be sooner than you think, and far bigger and different than you imagine. Exciting days indeed!

      Paul Cain Ministries
      Post Office Box 1177 – Santa Maria, CA 93456 – 1177 USA | Email

        Read These Next

        Disruptive prophets

        Prophets are disruptive. It’s in the job description!

        King Ahab couldn’t believe the audacity of Elijah as suddenly found him, exclaiming, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?”

        Elijah, unflustered, had the full measure of Ahab, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals. Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” (1 Kings 18:1-19)

        Well, we know how that would turn out.  Prophets can look disruptive, but under closer scrutiny you can see there are other issues going on – they have come to issue a ‘product recall’ to the church. Such ‘recalls’ may be a call to repentance.

        The prophetic call to repentance produces hope, joy and most importantly, worship.

        Repentance isn’t something to be ashamed of, repentance is always a call to turn from one direction or another and wholeheartedly to God. Even the word, “wholeheartedly” has a challenge to it. A call to repentance that results in foot-dragging, reluctant and questionable obedience will not make the mark. The prophet is looking for what we might call, “a scripture-honouring, Christ-exalting and God-glorifying, wholehearted return to God.” Such a repentance produces hope, joy and most importantly, worship.

        Prophets can feel a sense of frustration because they see things differently, but their input must be done in humility, gentleness, and accountability in such a way that God is honoured and glorified.

        Repentance brings life, lifts shame and guilt from the shoulders of believers. In contrast, the evil one, never encourages repentance – a change of direction to trusting in Christ alone. But he does urge you to consider yourself of no use to God or the Church. Prophets are different.

        Their disruption comes because God cares, and wants them to share His love, intervention, wisdom and guidance to walking in the direction He is leading and certainly, they don’t minister in the church because they have nothing else to do. They are aware that God has more for the Church.

        The Church is always a family on a mission, called to establish new frontiers, to reach the unreached – spreading the good news of the gospel, healing the sick and reaching the poor. Prophets are used by God to affirm and remind the church of the promise that God extends to them.

        Even when things are going well, prophets may turn up to cheer the Church on, but they are not just church members that have a disposition towards a more positive attitude than others. They have Spirit-inspired revelation of what God is doing, saying and willing about various activities of the Church. They are not guessing – they really do hear from God, sometimes in a way that would astonish you.

        Are you feeling comfortable? Maybe a prophet is trying to get in touch with you!

          Read These Next

          Encountering the unexpected

          Expect and prepare for the unexpected!  What a ludicrous idea! To even begin, you must have some idea of what the unexpected will be, but then it wouldn’t be unexpected!

          The problem is you don’t know if this unexpected event will be good or bad! Perhaps it would be helpful in life if, as in the movies, there was an accompanying sound track. There would be soft music playing gently in the background of life interspersed by the occasional moments where the theme tune from Jaws suddenly alerts you to danger! Maybe not, that would be stressful!

          We encounter the unexpected with God often and as you do so it produces a variety of emotions; thankfulness, gratitude, hope, courage, and most of all faith. Those encounters happen not when we plan for them or create environments for them. Consider  Mary as the archangel appears saying, “Fear not!”, and Peter and John going to the Temple to pray when they are asked to give money to a disabled man. The unexpected happens and takes them all by surprise. True, Peter and John were not surprised that God healed the man, but they had no idea the event would happen until it did.

          The Bible is full of surprises, but nearly all of them initiated by God, and totally unexpected. There is something important for us to learn here.

          In another scenario, Jesus is walking in front of his disciples leading the way to a small town that they had never visited before. It’s never mentioned in the Bible either before or after. It might as well be your town, street or your life.

          Jesus is walking and the background music is Gustav Holst’s “Mars, bringer of war”!

          He is followed by a great crowd. It’s a crowd filled with people with all sorts of agenda’s, somewhere in there you will find someone like yourself. They have seen miracles close up, healings that were simply astonishing, and heard speeches from Jesus that were so profound and which seemed to penetrate the heart. Excitement is in the air. Jesus is walking and the background music is Gustav Holst’s “Mars, bringer of war”!

          Meanwhile, a short distance away, heading straight towards Jesus, although the crowd is not aware of it, another large crowd are on the move. The atmosphere is different – sorrow, anguish, pain, depression and wailing. It’s a different background sound, and it’s in a minor key. A widow is following after the funeral procession of her only son. Hope is lost. Nothing makes sense. Heartache is like cancer of the bones. Her world has fallen to pieces.

          And then it happens. Unexpected. Unimaginable. Who would have thought it?

          Jesus comes through the gates of the town as the Widow is departing the town, through the same gate. A clash is inevitable and it happens, and this is the outcome; when Jesus saw her, He had compassion on her.

          You feel the need to rush through the story, but how many times have you gone through those gates of life with grief, pain, sadness and hopelessness only to encounter the living Christ, who looks on you in your helplessness and has compassion on you.

          And it doesn’t stop there. He makes a difference. This was entirely Jesus’ initiative, the Widow didn’t orchestrate this opportunity, or this moment of last hope, God did. It’s an explosive moment of kindness, grace, encouragement and the miraculous – but it was unexpected. It’s the calling card of God. The entire narrative has Hebrew 11 written all over it in capital letters.

          Nobody had heard of Nain. In all your academic excellence, diploma or degree, you hadn’t either until you read those few verses in Luke, but God knew all about that woman, that town, her only son and her heartache.

          The story suddenly changes pace, the background music changes to one of anticipation, expectation and hope. Jesus reaches out a hand, touches the dead boy and commands him to live, and then when all the excitement is at fever pitch, tells them to give the boy something to eat. Jesus knows about the appetites of young boys!

          When things look impossible, don’t believe it!

          And so the story ends, everyone is on their way home. The disciples are moving on with yet more stories, more to think about, Meanwhile in Nain the day ends in a different way than it begun, with praise, thanksgiving and hearts bursting with adoration.

          The story of Nain is for you. Your encounter with the unexpected is around every corner of your life. The God we serve, is not just omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and immutable, but He also is among many other things, kind and lovely.

          You can’t prepare for the unexpected but you can expect that God will do something unexpected for you, and that it will be a Romans 8 dynamic.

          He knows about you and like the Widow of Nain, He has noticed you.

          He’s noticed you in your pursuit of Him, your struggles, your wavering love and commitment, your sacrifice and diligence. Nothing passes by His penetrating gaze. You can’t prepare for the unexpected but you can expect that God will do something unexpected for you, and that it will be a Romans 8 thing. Look it up.

          The story of Nain is much bigger than it seems, and it is in Scripture for a reason. On the way to Nain, nobody knew that Jesus was going to raise a widow’s son. On the way out of Nain nobody knew that the Son of God was on His way to come and raise the widow’s son, with mere words.

          You never know. All things are possible.

          And when things look impossible, well, don’t believe it!

            Read These Next