HIS HOLINESS POPE SHENOUDA III
: Holy Zeal
: H.H. Pope Shenouda III
: Mrs Glynis Younan - London
: The First - May 1990
: J.C. Center, Heliopolis
: Dar El Tebaa El Kawmia, Cairo.
Legal Deposit No.
: COEPA 1997
H.H. Pope Shenouda III, 117th Pope of
Alexandria and the See of St. Mark
CHAPTER ONE: Holy zeal and how it works
Zeal is a fire that burns
He prays and weeps and becomes depressed
Wrestling with God
Encouraging the weak
Going along with them step by step
Partnership with God
CHAPTER TWO: Motives of holy zeal
Love of God and his Kingdom
Love of people and compassion for them
The example of the apostle Paul
Don't stand by and watch
The value of the individual soul
The importance of saving souls
Obstacles to zeal
CHAPTER THREE: The necessary conditions of holy zeal
Zeal based on knowledge
Accompanied by a good lifestyle
Constructive not destructive
A strong and courageous zeal
A fruitful and active zeal
CHAPTER FOUR: Examples of holy zeal
The prophet Moses
The boy David
The prophet Elijah
The prophet Isaiah
The twelve disciples
St. Paul the apostle
Archdeacon Habib Girgis
Some of the Desert fathers
This is a collection of lectures given in various meetings and
conferences on the ministry during the sixties and seventies.
We present them to you so that they might be included in the
courses for those who are preparing for ministry, but they are
also suitable for use in meetings of deacons and those already
committed to serving, besides making good presents for them at
various religious festivals and other such occasions.
This book makes a useful sequel to the book 'Discipleship'
which we have recently published. We are also hoping to
publish, God willing, other books on the ministry, to make a
series which would be nice for you to follow in sequence.
The book which is before you speaks about the nature of holy
zeal, and about its incentives and necessary attributes, drawing
examples from the Bible and the lives of the saints. It
distinguishes between the true zeal, which is holy, and that
which is false and wrong, and it also contains a number of other
topics on the ministry and service to God.
POPE SHENOUDA III
HOLY ZEAL AND HOW IT WORKS
Zeal is a fire that burns
He prays and weeps and becomes depressed
Wrestling with Good
Encouraging the weak
Going along with them step by step
Partnership with God
Zeal Is A Fire That Burns :
Holy zeal is a fire burning in the heart of a believer which
impels him, with great enthusiasm, to strive his hardest for
the purpose of saving others and building the Kingdom .
Just as it was said about our Lord and Master, that He:
" desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of
the truth. ", (1 Tim. 2:4) so too, the person who is aglow with
holy zeal wants everybody to be saved. He not only wants it,
but works for it with all his might and all his feelings, without
letting up, like David the prophet, who said:
" Surely I will not go into the chamber of my house,
Or go up to the comfort of my bed;
I will not give sleep to my eyes
Or slumber to my eyelids,
Until I find a place for the Lord,
A dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob. ".
Thus someone whom holy zeal has set ablaze, never lets up
or rests, until he finds a place for the Lord in the heart of
everyone, so that by all possible means he might save some.
(1 Cor. 9:22).
This zeal is a fire in the heart of a person who is aglow with the
Spirit, whose heart is kindled with love of God, love of people
and love of the Kingdom. So, full of fervour he works earnestly
to fulfil his holy desires, to save others and spread the Kingdom.
What a wonderful thing it was that when God wanted to
send His disciples out to minister, the Spirit descended
upon them like tongues of fire. This was how He kindled
them for service, so that their words in preaching the gospel
became words of fire, as if they were flaming arrows, setting
hearts ablaze and stirring consciences, and not returning empty.
(Isiah 55:11). A speech of the apostle Peter's on the day of
Pentecost led three thousand to faith (Acts 2:41). It was by
this burning spirit and this holy zeal, that the Kingdom of God
came with power.
It is that fire about which our Lord Jesus Christ said: "I
came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were
already kindled!" (Luke 12:49).
This was the fiery action which began on the day of Pentecost
and continued, and it was strengthened by this, that the saintly
apostles stood before the full force of the Jews and the Romans,
bearing witness to their faith, " with all confidence, no one
forbidding him ". (Acts 28:31), "and great grace was upon
them all" (Acts 4:31-33).
How beautiful are the words of the Psalm: "Who makes
His angels spirits, His ministers a flames of fire". (Ps 104:4).
If you are a fire that burns, then you can be a useful servant of
God's, for the Bible says to those who serve, "fervent in spirit,
serving the Lord" (Rom. 12:11) because our Lord God himself
was called "a consuming fire". (Deut. .4:24).
The word of God was also in the heart of the prophet Jeremiah
"like a fire", (Jer. 20:9) and he could not remain still or keep
silent despite all the trouble that befell him. The Lord said to
Jeremiah: "I will make My words in your mouth a fire"
(Jer. 5:14 ). And Jeremiah cried out:
" Oh, my soul, my soul!
I am pained in my very heart!
My heart makes a noise in me,
I cannot hold my peace". (Jer. 4:19).
Then there was David the prophet who said: "Because zeal for
Your house has eaten me up, and the reproaches of those who
reproach t you have fallen on me". (Ps. 69:9).
"It is as though the insult, O Lord, which is directed to You, or
Your church, or Your people, by wrongdoers, falls upon me
personally", is what David means. When Goliath insulted the
army of the living God, (1 Sam. 17:26) David actually felt this,
and he did not rest until he had removed that dishonour.
Zeal is the state of a heart that is fervent, ablaze with love
of God, which wants God's love to reach every heart. A
person with such a heart loves God and wants all people to
love Him too.
The heart of such a person burns for the glory of God and for
spreading His word. It wishes the Kingdom of God to spread
until it embraces all people and all places. It wants to see faith
entering every heart, so that no one loses his share in the
Someone who possesses zeal is a person kindled by fire. His
speech is like a flame in its enthusiasm, and his prayers are
like fire in their impact. His service to God is like fire in its
effectiveness and far-reaching extent.
By his zeal he kindles hearts, sets feelings ablaze, strengthens
the will, and impels his listeners towards repentance and the
Kingdom, by arousing their conscience .
In contrast, we have those who speak in a feeble, half-hearted
way which convinces no one, which yields no fruit, and which
shows none of the fervour of the Spirit.
An example of this lukewarm and unproductive word is the
rebuke given by Eli the priest to his sons. He said to them:
"Why do you do such things? For I hear evil dealings from all
the people. No, my sons; For it is not a good report that I hear.
You make the Lord's people transgress". (1 Sam. 2 : 23-24).
Such words lacking seriousness, firmness or vigour, had no
effect on them, and the Bible goes on to say that Eli's sons "did
not listen to their father's rebuke". (1 Sam. 2:25). Thus they
exposed their father to the wrath of God.
Another example is Lot's warning to his relatives in Sodom.
In his way of life among them, there was neither force nor
strength to give his words effect. He had previously seen their
evil ways, but had lacked that holy zeal for the commandments
of God to do anything about it. He had even given them his
daughters as wives and become related to them through
marriage. Therefore, when he said to them: "Hurry and get out
of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!",
they did not listen, in fact the Bible goes on to say: "But to his
sons-in-law he seemed to be joking". (Gen. 19:14).
On the other hand, there is the example of the apostle Paul
who, according to the Bible, in spite of standing accused before
the governor Felix, "he reasoned about righteousness, self-
control and the judgement to come", and Felix was afraid. (Acts
24:25). The same kind of situation occurred when he spoke
before King Agrippa, and that unbelieving king was unable to
resist the force of Paul's words. Then Agrippa said to Paul, "
You almost persuade me to become a Christian." (Acts
Zeal is an effective force in which there is an earnestness
and solicitude for others, there is nothing feeble or lax
The Bible says: " Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord
deceitfully" (Jer. 48:10). Thus the servants of God have always
been characterised by zeal, working as hard as they can, with all
their might, and going to every length. I hope to describe this in
a section of its own later, under the necessary qualifications of
The Lord said to His disciples: " Follow me, and I will make
you fishers of men". (Matt. 4:19).
What a fisherman is supposed to do is to search for the places
where the fish are, and in which it is possible to make a catch.
Then he has to lay the bait and cast the net and patiently stick at
his task, as St Peter said to the Lord Jesus Christ: "Master, we
have toiled all night..." (Luke 5:5). So there is labour and
effort involved in the matter, but it ends in joy when the net is
filled with fish.
The apostle Paul was so zealous that he used to go on
preaching until after midnight. (Acts 20:7). There is the
well-known story of Eutychus who went to sleep as Paul talked
on and on, and fell out of the window. (Acts 20:9).
Our Lord Jesus Christ used to preach all day to the people till
the sun went down (Luke 9:12). So we too, then, ought to use
all our energy and make every effort for the salvation of others.
As the apostle said of his own ministry, "In weariness and toil,
in sleeplessness, often in hunger and thirst, in fasting often, in
cold and nakedness". (2 Cor. 11:27)
The servant of God who is aflame with zeal, is not content only
to labour, but rather:
He prays and weeps and becomes depressed:
He prays and says "Your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Your Kingdom come..." May You, O Lord, rule every heart.
May You rule the peoples and the nations and over those lands
where unbelief is widespread, where they have begun to lose all
sense of the existence of God. May You become the Lord of
everyone who does not yet know You and know Your love for
mankind and Your wondrous salvation.
One might find an individual whose heart has been set ablaze by
zeal, but who, on feeling that he has nothing to embark on and
no direction in which to channel his zeal into productive
activity, can only stand before God and weep.
He might, for example, stand before a map of Asia and weep for
the hundreds of millions who do not know God: a thousand
million Communists in China do not know God, and likewise
some five hundred million in India, and more than two million in
Japan... and there are so many who still worship Brahma and
Buldah and Confucius! Indeed, where is the Kingdom of God
represented in this continent in which our Lord Jesus Christ was
When, O Lord, will what the psalm speaks about come to
pass: " The earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness, The
world and those who dwell therein." (Ps. 24-1).
And what can we say about the Red Indians, and about the
primitive tribes in central and southern Africa?
And if such a person is unmoved by the plight of these distant
foreigners, then his heart might well burn for those who are
Christians only in name who lead a life of permissiveness and
materialism, who have no links with God or the Church, and
who do not lead a spiritual life!
And what about those Christians who change their religion and
live as atheists ... ?! How and when can they all return to God?!
At this point, holy zeal takes possession of their hearts, like the
prophet Jeremiah when he said: "Oh, that my head were
waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep
day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people".
He wept day and night for those whom sin had killed, whom
Satan had led astray, who had chosen another road and became
liable to destruction.
We see how the prophet David was overwhelmed by depression
and tears for the sinners who had gone down the slippery slope
to corruption, when he said to the Lord, in his zeal: "My zeal
wears me out, for my enemies ignore Your words". " Rivers of
water run down from my eyes, Because men do not keep Your
law .". (Ps. 119:136).
Let us also remember here the prophet Samuel when he
grieved for Saul. When the Lord rejected Saul: " And it
grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the Lord all night". (1
Sam. 15:11) "Samuel mourned for Saul, and the Lord
regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel".
(1 Sam. 15:35).
We recall here, too, the striving of the Father Confessors for
The apostle Paul says about this: "Obey those who rule over
you and be submissive for they watch out for your souls. as
those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and
not with grief..." (Heb. 13:17).
This is how a Father Confessor is in his zeal for the salvation of
his children. He weeps for the sinner, grieves for him, fasts for
him and prays long mataniyas (prostrations in prayer) for him.
And he humbles himself for the sake of that person's salvation.
He prays for each one of his children: "Lord have mercy on so
and so. O Lord, forgive him and look kindly upon him. O Lord,
help so and so, and save him from such and such a sin. Do not
let him perish, O Lord, or be lost... O Lord, O Lord..."
Throughout day and night, he always feels sadness and pain in
his heart for his spiritual children. He wishes he could say as
the Lord said to his Father: "While I was with them, I kept
them in Your name, Those whom You gave Me I have kept
them and none of them is lost..." (John 17:12).
At this point we might recall Nehemiah's zeal and how
much it accomplished.
When Nehemiah heard from some of his brothers that the wall
of Jerusalem had been breached, and its gates burned with fire,
and that its people were in trouble and disgrace, he showed his
zeal for the Lord saying: "When I heard these things, I sat down
and wept. and mourned for many days. I was fasting and
praying before the God of heaven. Then I said Now these are
Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by
Your great power." (Neh. 1:4-10).
But Nehemiah was not content just with praying and
lamenting, he wanted to do something.
So he decided to speak to the king on that matter. Since
Nehemiah was a cupbearer for the king and held a sensitive
position, his depression could not go unnoticed. When the king
asked him why he was unhappy, he answered: "Why should my
face not be sad when the city the place of my fathers' tombs,
lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire?" and he
continued: "If it pleases the king and if your servant has found
favour in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the
city of my fathers' tombs that I can rebuild it". (Neh. 2:3-5).
Thus Nehemiah's zeal was not just a passive reaction, it was
a positive, productive and active one. So he travelled and
gathered his people and organised the work of rebuilding. Then
he said his famous phrase: "Come and let us rebuild the wall of
Jerusalem, that we may no longer be in reproach".
In the course of the rebuilding, Nehemiah endured many
troubles and insults from his enemies, but he resisted strongly
and his workers were with him. "with one hand they worked at
construction and with the other held the weapon." (Neh. 4:17)
until the rebuilding of the wall was completed in 52 days (Neh.
6 : 15), after which Nehemiah devoted himself to spiritual
reforms and leading the people to repentance. (Nehemiah
Chapters 8 - 10).
In fact the zeal of the heart can lead a person to depression and
to weeping for the sake of sinners, just as it can also lead him to
mission work in bringing people to faith and repentance. When
St. Paul entered Athens it was said of him that: "his spirit was
provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over
to idols". (Acts 17:16). Thus he used to speak to whomever
he met in the market place every day, and entered into
discussions with the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. He
spoke at the Areopagus as well as in the Jewish synagogues.
Apollos, who was also aglow with the Spirit, did the same:
"He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and being
fervent in spirit and taught accurately the things of the Lord...
he vigorously refuted the Jews publicity, showing from the
Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ". (Acts 18:25-28).
Another aspect of zeal is that of wrestling with God.
Wrestling With God:
An example of this rather strange situation is that in which the
prophet Moses found himself when God told him that He would
destroy His people if they worshipped the golden calf. So when
Moses put all his fervour into interceding for them and asking
God to forgive them their sins, they were not destroyed. His
fervour reached such a point that he said: "Lord, why should
Your wrath burn hot against Your people..? Yet now, if You
will forgive their sin - but if not, I pray, blot me out of the
book which You have written". (Ex. 32:11 & 32).
What Moses meant was: 1 do not wish to enter the Kingdom of
heaven alone. Either You forgive them, or 1 perish with them if
they die, and You wipe out my name from the book which You
have written ... !! Just see the extent of Moses' love and zeal.
This is why God said to him, before punishing the people: "Now
therefore let Me alone so that My wrath may burn hot against
them and I may consume them. And I will make you a great
nation". (Ex. 32:10).
I can't help being amazed at the words, "Leave me alone"
which the Lord said to Moses, almost as if Moses were
clutching hold of Him and not letting Him move..!
Are You saying to him, O Lord, "Leave Me alone?!" Yet who
can hold onto You? Who can restrain You, when You are the
Almighty God?! 'It was Moses' love for his people and his zeal
for their salvation which caught hold of the Lord, and prevented
Him from destroying them. Look at what Moses said to Him.
"Turn from Your fierce wrath; and relent from this harm to
and Your people. Remember Your servants Abraham, Isaac..."
(Ex. 32:12-13). "Why should the Egyptians speak, and say: He
brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains
and to consume them the face of the earth?" (Ex. 32:12).
This, then, is wrestling with God, which involves
supplication, intercession, eloquence, conviction, love for
others and a holding fast to God to 'prevent' Him from
When I was a little child who didn't understand very much, I
imagined that Jacob, the father of fathers, was the only one who
wrestled with God and said to Him: "I will not let You go unless
You bless me". (Gen. 32:26). But here we have Moses saying
the same thing to Him, "I will not let You go... I will not let
Your anger burn against Your people. I will not let You
destroy them, I will not let You go until You pardon them and
"You must pardon, You must forgive and if You do not wish to
forgive them then wipe my name from the book in which
This is the zeal of a heart that does not want anyone to
perish, and "who desires all men to be saved and to come to a
knowledge of the truth". (1 Tim. 2:4). This is the zeal of one
who wrestles with God for the salvation of all, even those who
worshipped the golden calf, and said: "This is your god, O
Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!" (Ex. 32:4).
This zeal of Moses' reminds me of something St Paul said: "I
have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I
could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my
brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (Rom. 9:2-3).
What he means is: if, through my being cut off from Christ, they
could be united with Him, then I would rather be thus deprived
so that they could be one with Him!! What greater love, in the
field of ministry, can there be than this?! And what zeal for
sacrificing oneself for the sake of others is more profound than
this? It shows real love and compassion for them.
Those children of God who possess zeal have to wrestle with
God on behalf of the Church and for the sake of the salvation of
every soul. They cry aloud to God saying: "Rise up, O Lord
God, and let all Your enemies be scattered... and let all
those who hate Your holy name flee from Your sight".
As for your people, though, may they by Your blessing, in
thousands upon thousands and ten thousands come to do Your
"Help, Lord, for the godly are no more; the faithful have
vanished from among men". (Ps. 12:1). Rise up and act, for
You are the hope of him who has no hope, and the support of
him who has no support. Come and help us Lord, for "we've
worked hard all night and haven't caught anything". (Luke
5:5). You are our strength and You are our support, without
You we can do nothing. (John 15:5).
One of the spiritual ways in which holy zeal acts is to encourage
sinners, so that they are not overcome by despair, and do not
How beautiful and profound are the words of St. Paul.
"_comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with
all". (1 Thess. 5:14).
The most dangerous weapon which Satan uses is to make the
sinful person feel that it is no use, that sin has taken complete
control of him, and that he has no way out!
And through this despair, Satan leads him to resignation and to
remaining as he is in his wrongful situation, without a way of
repenting or becoming saved.
The person who is full of zeal, however, for the salvation of
souls, opens before sinners the door of hope, and gives them
a push towards it. He blows on the faltering wick, just in case
there is enough life in it to burn again. He binds up the bruised
reed in case it might stand upright again, and he says to
everyone: 'Do not be afraid. God will never leave you. God's
divine help will work along with you. There are many solutions
to your problem. God is able to solve it'. In this way he gives
that person a push of encouragement just as the two angels did
to Lot to make him leave Sodom. (Gen. 19:15-16). We
remember, then, the words of the apostle:
"Therefore, strengthen the hands which hang down, and the
feeble knees!" (Heb. 12:12). And to help you in this, use all
possible love, compassion and patience... and take as your
example those whose situation was worse than yours and whom
God was able to save.
It is also by holy zeal that those engaged in ministry are
stimulated and strongly encouraged. Thus our Lord Jesus
Christ used to encourage His disciples by saying to them: " let
not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid". (John
14:27). "I am with you always, even to the end of the age".
(Matt. 28:20). "...they will deliver you up to the councils and
scourge you in their synagogues... But when they deliver you
up, do not worry about how and what you should speak . For it
will be given to you in that hour what you should speak for it
is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks
in you". (Matt. 10:17-20). "But the very hairs of your head
are all numbered". (Matt. 10:30).
Through such encouragement as this, they were filled with
zeal and served fearlessly.
See how God encouraged Jeremiah in the Old Testament, when
He said to him: "Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with
you to deliver you... I have put My words in your mouth... I
have made you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar and a
bronze wall to stand against the whole land... They will fight
against you but they shall not prevail against you, for I am
with you, says the Lord ` to deliver you'". (Jer. 1:8-19).
In much the same way, the Lord encouraged Paul: "Do not be
afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent. For I am with
you, and no one will attack to hurt you". (Acts 18:9-10).
The Lord also gave the same kind of encouragement to Moses
when the latter made an excuse that he was not eloquent. The
Lord said to him: "Now therefore go; and I will be with your
mouth and teach you what shall say... take this rod in your
hand with which you shall do the signs ". (Ex. 4:10-17).
Even the strongest people need encouragement at times, as
happened to the prophet Elijah, when he fled from Jezebel.
(1 Kings 19).
If the heat of zeal grows cool, some encouragement can
If the prophets like Jeremiah, Moses, Elijah, the apostle Paul
and the other apostles needed encouragement, as we have just
shown, then how much more do sinners who have fallen need
If you come across a sinner who seems unable to repent
because he has come to enjoy and even like sin, say to him:
"You will not always find that you love to sin, for the grace of
God will act within you and save you from wanting to do
wrong. And there will come a time when you will hate it and
despise it. God will not let the Devil fight you forever without
mercy. God will definitely stop him before he goes too far. So
do not be afraid".
" A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at
your right hand; But it shall not come near you. Only with
your eyes shall you look, And see the reward of the wicked.".
There are some individuals who live a life of righteousness, but
yet fear that they will not be able to follow that path to continue
it to the end. And there are those who are surrounded by
temptation and who fear that they do not have the capacity to
resist, or hold out against it... To both these types explain the
action of God's grace and the Holy Spirit. And tell them that
God will never leave a human being all on his own, even if
temptation or trials beset him for a time. God's grace will surely
reach out to him and save him.
Encourage them with the words of Jeremiah, when the enemies
surrounded the city: "Don't be afraid... Those who are with us
are more than those who are with them". (2 Kin. 6:16).
In this way, sinners will not become afraid, but will stand firm.
And besides encouraging sinners, one must also go along with
them step by step.
Going Along With Them Step By Step:
Being strongly zealous does not mean imposing a life of
perfection on others, as if people were capable of behaving
This is what the Scribes and Pharisees tried to do, and our Lord
Jesus Christ rebuked them because "For they bind heavy
burdens hard to bear and lay them on men's shoulders, but
they, themselves, will not move them with one of their fingers".
(Matt. 23:4). By doing this they were shutting the Kingdom of
heaven in men's faces. They, themselves did not enter, nor
would they let those who were trying to enter go in.
Zeal does not mean finding fault with others for not
behaving according to some ideal, exemplary standard, but
rather it means helping them to keep on aspiring to it.
It means giving strength to the faint-hearted, hope to the
despairing, and confidence to whomever imagines that the life
of righteousness is beyond him. It means taking every person's
hand and raising him to the level at which we should like to see
him. That involves taking away his fears and demonstrating to
him that the spiritual life is easy and possible...
This only comes by patiently going along step by step with
the beginner and the penitent.
There are numerous examples of this in the Bible: such as what
the apostles said at the first holy assembly, which they called in
Jerusalem, about receiving the Gentiles into the faith. This is
what our saintly forefathers said in their compassion, kindness
and wisdom: "we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles
who are turning to God". (Acts 15:19). "But that we write to
them, to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual
immorality, from things strangled and from blood..." (Acts
15:20). Thus the apostles did not put before the Gentiles lots of
commandments that would make their way difficult.
This is why St. Paul also said to the people of Corinth: "And I
brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as
to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you milk, and not with
solid food, for until now you were not able to receive it".
(1 Cor. 3:1-2).
Holy zeal does not mean trying to make the beginner travel the
whole spiritual road in one go; for that is impossible in practical
term. But rather it means taking him by the hand and going
along with him step by step until he arrives on the right path.
Then the more enjoyment he finds in a developing spiritual life,
the more he will long to progress and bring it to fulfilment. This
will not come by controlling him or ordering him in various ways,
but will come through natural unfolding. Our forefather Jacob
spoke well when he said of his tender flocks that were nursing
their young: "If they are driven hard all ... will die". (Gen.
Even our Lord Jesus said to His disciples, "I still have many
things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now". (John
16:12). Thus He went on to tell them everything, only at its
right time, when they were able to understand and take it in.
The principle which the Lord used was "when the time had fully
come". (Gal. 4:4).
So zeal does not mean sternness in leadership and giving
guidance. Nor does it mean that those who have knowledge
should pride themselves over those who are weak and
incapable. And it certainly does not mean that you ask the
beginner to reach the summit straightaway, otherwise you will
give him a thorough telling off in the name of holy zeal. Every
human being has his own level, "as God has dealt to each one a
measure of faith ". (Rom. 12:3). So we do not demand that
everyone be on the same level in regard to zeal, but that each
one should reach his potential according to his gifts and
Perhaps he is unable to manage it at the present time, but
may well be able to do so at a later date.
Therefore, do not check anyone's aspirations. Just encourage
everyone and be prepared to go along with one who is young in
faith step by step until he matures, and with the one who is
weak, until he gets strong... without thinking yourself superior,
or priding yourself like a Pharisee. Be sympathetic and
encouraging rather than obstructive and disparaging. Do all you
can to build up the weak person, not tear him down.
Along with encouraging those who have done wrong, and going
along with them step by step, you need to put before you a
spiritual principle which is important in understanding this point,
always aiming at making it easier for people to live
according to God's Commandments by raising the people
to higher standards, not by being lax and over-tolerant and
diluting the Commandments to bring them down to man's
level of sin.
We say in the liturgy of the divine Mass, "facilitate for us the
way to godliness". Just as a successful teacher makes it easier
for his pupils to understand his particular branch of learning, so
the one who facilitates the way for others to carry out God's
Commandments, without being over-indulgent or too
permissive or allowing them to break His laws, is also
successful in his ministry. Therefore let your zeal be mixed with
wisdom, and remember what the Bible says: "he who wins
souls is wise". (Prov. 11:30).
But let us move on now to another point concerning how zeal
works, which is how it acts along with God .
Partnership With God:
No one can save another person except by means of God
himself, For motivating hearts and awakening consciences is
part of the activity of that very God. For it was God who said:
"Let there be light" and there was light, (Gen. 1:3) and who
said: "for without Me you can do nothing". (John 15:5).
Thus any action on behalf of saving souls can only be done
in partnership with God, which is why the apostle Paul said
about himself and his colleague Apollos: "we are God's fellow-
workers; you are God's field, you are God's building" (1 Cor.
3:9). The individual himself, must have already made contact
with God, in order to bring others to Him.
Let us take iron and magnetism as an example.
A magnet can attract iron, and when the iron becomes
magnetised it can, in turn, attract another piece of iron towards
it. And if they should meet a third piece of iron, that will be
attracted to them too. So a piece of iron, that is in contact with
a magnet, can itself attract another piece. But if it is not in
contact with the magnet, then it cannot do that. Even a piece of
iron that weighs a ton cannot attract a tiny nail unless that huge
mass is magnetised. Yet a magnetised nail has the power to
attract; even though it is small.
Another example is that of an electric light and an electric
You can find electric lights which are very beautiful, very
powerful and of quite an exquisite type, which emit a light that
gives people great joy to see. But in actual fact, such lights can
only give light as long as they are connected to an electric
current. If they are cut off from the electricity supply then they
cease to work; their usefulness, beauty and attractive shape are
So too will all your zeal be in vain if you are far away from
God, who is the source of power.
Thus, in spite of the disciples' zeal in spreading the Kingdom of
God, the Lord said to them: "...tarry in the city (Jerusalem)
until you are endued with power from on high". (Luke 24:49).
And He went on to say, "But you shall receive power when the
Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall witnesses to
Me..." (Acts 1:8). And that is how it was. The apostles only
began their ministry after the Holy Spirit had descended on
Do you think that the apostles' zeal would have been enough to
make their ministry successful, without the Holy Spirit coming
No, it definitely would not have been, for ministry depends
entirely on partnership with God, who acts in us, with us and
through us. "Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders
labour in vain". (Ps. 127:1). It was Paul who "I planted the
seed, Apollos watered it, but God gave the increase". (1 Cor.
Paul commented on this matter, saying: "So then neither he who
plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God, who gives the
increase". (1 Cor. 3:7).
So have a close look at your zeal then, and ask yourself if it
is working with God?
If you lose that link with God, you will not be able to connect
anyone to Him, however zealous you might be, because
"...whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken
away from him". (Mark 4:25).
So we must love God in order to make others love Him. And
we must obey His commands so that we will be able to explain
to others, in practical terms, how His directions should be
Truly what humility God shows, that He takes us as
partners in His activity. Yet how lazy and idle we are in
God is able to save the whole world without us. But out of His
loving humility He took us as His partners; we who are weak
and sinful! So how can we ignore this grace of His and be so
sluggish and idle in working for Him? And why don't we show
such fiery zeal, like Him?!
This is really strange. But what is more baffling is that we
sometimes even obstruct the growth of His Kingdom, which
we do by our negativity, our struggles against each other in the
ministry, by our lukewarm attitude and by our taking the keys
to the Kingdom and not entering, and not letting those who
want to enter do so, and by our human rivalries, which are all so
remote from the true spirit of zeal and service!!
MOTIVES OF HOLY ZEAL
Love of God and His Kingdom
Love of People and Compassion for them
The example of the apostle Paul
Don't stand by and watch
The value of the individual soul
The importance of saving souls
Obstacles to zeal
There are many things which motivate holy zeal, some of which
are concerned with God, and some with man, while others are
concerned with the activity itself and with the individual's soul.
Love Of God And His Kingdom:
Whoever loves God, wants everyone to love Him. His heart
becomes kindled with zeal when he finds people far away from
God and those who love him. He wants everyone and
everything to be God's. "The earth is the Lord's, and all its
fullness the world and those who dwell therein". (Ps. 24:1).
Whoever loves God wants the Kingdom of God to spread,
and for God to enter every heart and every home in every city.
So he cries out day and night from deep within his heart, "Thy
Kingdom come", and cannot bear it if there is anyone resisting
God or fighting against His Kingdom. Thus he works with all
his might to attract everyone to God's Kingdom.
Whoever loves God, naturally loves God's children. He
wants them all to be saved, so that none goes astray or perishes.
Every soul that he meets is precious to him, because it is one of
God's children who are, after all, created in the image and
likeness of God.
Whoever loves God, finds pleasure in bringing joy to God's
heart. But how might he do that? The Bible says, "There is
joy of the angels of God over one sinner who repents"
So if you wish to bring joy to the heart of God in the presence
of His heavenly angels, try to lead someone to repentance. God
says: "Let us eat and be merry. For this my son was dead and
is alive again; he was lost and is found". (Luke 15:23-24).
Anyone who loves God, likewise obeys His commandments.
And God's command says: "Seek first the Kingdom of God and
His righteousness". (Matt. 6:33). And what else? It says, "Do
not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which
endures to everlasting life". (John 6:27). Therefore, we must
seek the Kingdom of God with all our strength and feelings, and
must offer to the children of God the everlasting food that they
need for eternal life.
Love Of People And Compassion For Them:
Your deep concern for people springs from your love for
them, and your desire for their salvation.
So let them feel your love. Be friendly to them and make them
love you, then they will come to love the holy life which you
lead and they will want to be spiritual like you; for it is your
spirituality which attracts them to you and which will attract
them to God. Trust that love will have a strong and great
Our Lord Jesus showed His love to tax-collectors, and would
sometimes eat with them, while the Pharisees looked down on
them. But in the end it was Christ's love which was victorious,
and which won them over.
As a consequence of your love for others, you will feel
concerned about their eternal fate. There are certain verses
in the Holy Bible which can only strike terror into a man who is
trying to serve God, because his love for his brothers makes him
fear for them, lest they should come to a grievous end on the
last day, as our Lord said: "Depart from Me, you cursed, into
the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels".
Wretched indeed will be those who will enter the everlasting fire
to join Satan and the rest of the devils, in that place which the
Book of Revelation referred to as, "in the lake which burns
with fire and brimstone which is the second death".
(Rev. 21 . 8).
This is where "the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable,
murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters and all
liars" will be found. (Rev. 21:8).
If we were to imagine some of our brothers and sisters, friends
and acquaintances, or any human being for that matter, having
such a fate, how terrible it would be. This is the fate which our
Lord spoke of when he said: "There will be wailing and
gnashing of teeth". (Matt. 13:50).
"So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come
forth, separate the wicked from among the just and cast them
into the furnace of fire...", "as the tares are gathered and
burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age".
(Matt. 13:49, 50, 40).
How difficult it is for us to come to terms with what our Lord
said, that at the end He might say: "I never knew you. Away
from Me, you who practice lawlessness!"(Matt. 7:21-23). This
is what He will say on the Last Day to those who did not do the
will of the Father who is in heaven. Our Lord also said to the
foolish virgins: "I tell you the truth, I don't know you."
The more we bear in mind the verses relating to eternity,
the more we are likely to fear for our brothers. There are
the verses concerning everlasting torment, the outer darkness,
and the rich man being tortured in that eternal fire, crying out to
Lazarus for a drop of water to cool his mouth. (Luke 16:24).
It is then that we get concerned, and fear for those who might
perish, and be barred from the presence of God and His angels
to be thrown into eternal torment, without hope and without
any prospect of release...
So the question is not just that of zeal for the Kingdom of
God, this zeal also carries within it love of God, love for
people and deep concern for their eternal fate.
It is a love that strives for the salvation of those souls which are
threatened by eternal destruction. As St. Peter the Apostle said:
" receiving the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Of this salvation the prophets... searched diligently, and
prophesied of the grace that would come to you".
(1 Peter 1:9-10).
The Example Of The Apostle Paul:
Out of his love and concern for others, Paul said: "Who is
weak, and 1 am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I
do not burn with indignation?" (2 Cor.11:29) by which he
meant that if anyone was ill, it was as if he himself were ill too,
in sympathy with that person. And if somebody stumbled and
fell in his spiritual life, Paul would be deeply concerned for him,
so that such person, for whom Christ died, might be saved from
becoming spiritually languid and instead; regaining his original
St. Paul used to apply all ways and means in order to bring
others to salvation. And he said concerning this: "For though
I am free from all men, and I have make myself a servant to
all, that I might win the more. To the Jews, I became as a
Jew that I might win the Jews. To those who are without
law, as without law (not being without law toward God but
under the law toward Christ), that I might win those who are
without law... I have become all things to all men, that I
might by all means save some". (1 Cor. 9:19-22).
It was a fight on behalf of other people, in which the apostle
sought all appropriate means in order to bring them to salvation.
The important thing was that they were saved, by whatever way
it happened to be. As St. Jude said: "Be merciful to those in
doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others
show mercy, mixed with fear - hating even the clothing stained
by corrupted flesh". (Jude v. 22-23).
Don't Stand By And Watch:
We cannot stand by and watch the world perish!
We must do something practical to save it, as long as we are
able... You can't see a fire burning a house and stand by and
watch. You can't see a blind man fall into a ditch and say, as
Cain did: "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen. 4:9). Look at
what the apostle James said: "Therefor to him who knows to
do good and doesn't do it, to him it is sin". (James 4:17).
If you know what to do, do it. And if you don't know, then ask
those who do, or hand over the particular task to those who
know. Don't ever be totally passive, for being passive is
incompatible with being loving and being zealous... To be
passive would be as if you did not care about people's
The Value Of The Individual Soul:
The person who is kindled with holy zeal for the salvation
of others, has come to appreciate the value of the human
soul - any soul...
He feels the value of the individual soul for which Christ died,
just as the good shepherd searches after one lost sheep, until he
finds it and bears it safely home on his shoulders rejoicing.
An example of this is the way our Lord strove to save the
woman from Samaria.
He travelled a long distance for her sake, even though He was
tired, hungry and thirsty, so that the Bible said of Him: " Jesus
therefore being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well.
It was about the sixth hour". (John 4:6).
One of His disciples could well have asked Him, "Why are we
going to all this trouble?! She's only a sinful and worthless
woman!" But the Lord would have replied: "But she is My
daughter, and I have come to call sinners, not the righteous, to
When His disciples called Him to eat, He said to them: "I have
food to eat which you do not know... My food is to do the will
of Him who sent Me..." (John 4:32, 34).
"My food is this soul: by its salvation I am nourished. By
saving it my appetite and thirst are satisfied, and I find rest
It was because of His preoccupation with saving this woman
that the Lord Jesus was able to ignore food, though He was
hungry, and ignore drinking, though He was thirsty. And that is
why He cared nothing about His personal comfort despite being
tired and exhausted. The only thing that was in His mind was
how to save that woman, and how to save the Samaritans.
This is true zeal for saving souls.
Christianity does not just focus its concern on whole groups
of people, but is concerned also for each individual soul.
Love does not allow the individual to wander off and get lost in
the midst of a great crowd of people. In Christianity, every
person feels that God cares specially for him, and that the
Church also cares for him in the same way.
Our Lord Jesus used to work in the midst of large crowds, as
for example, when He spoke to all the people in the sermon on
the mount. And also when He performed the miracle of the five
loaves and two fish, there was a crowd of some five thousand
listening to Him.
Yet our Lord Jesus, in the midst of the crowd, showed His
concern for Zacchaeus. Though the crowd was pressing in on
him, our Lord turned to Zacchaeus, paid him special attention,
called him by name and entered his home. And our Lord said:
"Today salvation has come to this house, because this man,
too, is a son of Abraham". Our Lord justified his attention to
Zacchaeus by saying: "the Son of Man has came to seek and to
save that which was lost". (Luke 19:10).
Are you like Him: do you seek to save that which might
otherwise have perished?
The Importance Of Saving Souls:
Whoever realises the importance of continuing Jesus' work of
saving people will find his heart fired with zeal for this great
undertaking, about which we remember St. Peter when he said:
"receiving the end of your faith, the salvation of your
souls". (1 Peter 1:9).
The apostle goes on to say that this was the salvation for which
the prophets "searched intently and with the greatest care". (1
Peter 1:10). And St. Paul says: "How shall we escape if we
neglect so a great a salvation?" (Heb. 2:3).
Our Lord considered that whoever exerted himself in this
sphere was working with Him. For He said: "He who does not
gather with Me scatters". (Matt. 12:30).
Do you gather with Christ, or scatter? Do you gather these lost
souls and bear them home upon your shoulders joyfully, in
order to bring them together into the Kingdom? God wants
those who will gather like Christ, because the harvest is great,
but the workers few. Thus the Lord commanded us to make
this request part of our prayers, by saying:
"Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labours
into His harvest ". (Matt. 9:38).
Are you one of these workers? Are you trying hard to prepare
a place for the Lord in the heart of everyone, bearing in your
mind that the world has many people serving its materialistic
and worldly values, and who in fact rival each other in its
service, while those who serve the Lord by doing His work, are
few in number? And even if there appears on occasions to be
many, it may well be that they are not actually of very good
The salvation of souls is more important to God than the
act of creation: for what would the use of the world and all its
creatures be if it went to hell?! We may perhaps recall that the
act of creation cost God nothing but the issuing of an order, like
His words, for example, "Let there be light" and there was
light. (Gen. 1:3). But the act of salvation cost Him the
incarnation, the release of His essential being, the pains of the
cross and death, and all that the act of atonement and
Therefore, the Lord's resting after saving the world from sin and
death, was more important than His resting after the process of
creation. Sunday was more important than Saturday, and so it
became the Lord's day.
The act of saving a soul is more important than a miracle of
raising a dead body to life. For the act of saving a soul, is in
fact a form of raising from the dead, but here it is a raising to
life of a lifeless spirit, which is of more importance than bringing
a dead body back to life. Didn't the father say on the return of
the prodigal son, "For this my son was dead and is alive
again; he was lost and is found". (Luke 15:24). And the
apostle St. James said concerning this: "he who turns a sinner
from the error of his way will save a soul from death and
cover a multitude of sins". (James 5:20).
The Devil does his utmost to lead souls to death, using every
kind of trick and temptation, and every snare, to catch them.
But then we stand on the opposite side ready to save souls from
death. And we are working with God in this situation, as St.
Paul said. (1 Cor. 3:9).
Because this is the work of God, his angels and saints, it is
of special importance. It is the work of the apostles, the
pastors and the teachers, and of all the ranks of the clergy. And
it is also the work of all those who minister in the Lord's
Vineyard, and of the souls of the righteous in their
intercessions. All are working for the sake of the Kingdom of
God, to make it spread, and to save every soul. It is actually an
activity which every Christian is called upon to do according to
his abilities. St. James the apostle said: "Therefore to him
who knows the good and does not do it, to him it is sin".
(James 4:17). So do whatever you can for the Kingdom,
trusting that God will work with you. If you do not try, then
this will be counted a fault against you...
Perhaps an important aspect of this work is the reward
which is promised in return. Look at our forefathers the
apostles, for instance, to whom our Lord said: "When the Son
of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed
Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of
Israel". (Matt. 19:28).
If you say, however, that this only applies to the apostles,
because they were of a very high rank, then let me tell you
about Daniel's prophecy about those who work to guide and
help sinners. It was prophesied that: "Those who are wise
shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those
who turned many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and
They will shine like stars... what a great glory! This is how we
find the Lord, in the beginning of the Book of Revelation, when
John described Him as being in the midst of the seven lamp
stands, which represent the seven churches, holding in His right
hand the seven stars which are the angels of the seven
churches.(Rev. 1:13, 16, 20).
Another important aspect of the salvation of souls is that it
is a cause of joy to the Lord.
In the story of the lost sheep, we see that on finding it the Lord,
"He lays it on his shoulders rejoicing". (Luke 15:5). And in
the story of the prodigal son, when he returned, his father
slaughtered the fatted calf and told his servants to prepare a
feast, "So they began to be merry". (Luke 15:24). And he said
to the other brother, "Let us eat and be merry. For this my son
was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found".
Then in the parable of the lost coin, the Bible tells us that when
the widow found it, she didn't just rejoice on her own, but called
her friends and neighbours saying: "Rejoice with me; for I have
found the piece which I lost". (Luke 15:9).
So if you feel that you have saddened God in the past by
your sins, try now to make Him happy by your repentance
and by trying to save others.
If there is joy in heaven "over one sinner who repents", (Luke
15 : 10) then how much more rejoicing there will be over those
who bring many others to righteousness. Wouldn't it be a
wonderful thing if you were to please God and bring joy to the
hearts of his angels, by working to save souls? And at the same
time you would be making up to God for those years which the
locust ate away from your life and that of others. (Joel 1:4).
Just think, our forefather Abraham held a party for three angels
(Gen. 18), but you can give a cause for celebration to all the
angels of heaven by your holy zeal participating in the work of
saving others, guiding them and rescuing them from sin or
ignorance, or from unbelief or permissiveness.
Obstacles To Zeal:
There are various obstacles which some people put in the way
of service to God, which prevents them from being aflame with
holy zeal. Ironically, these obstacles might well be clothed in
spiritual garb, so that the person's conscience feels at ease about
it, whilst in fact he is alienated from the action of holy zeal. So
what are these obstacles?
Some might justify that their concern for the
salvation of their own soul would let them too preoccupied
to be concerned for the salvation of others.
However, to save your soul, you should have love for others,
and concern for their soul salvation. So how can you be saved
if you don't love others and do your best to save their soul ?
I don't mean by this that you should think of yourself more
highly than you ought (Rom. 12:3) and set yourself up as a
preacher or teacher to one and all, when you don't have enough
knowledge and experience! But think of yourself with sober
judgement according to your possibilities and talents.
If there is anyone whom you find you are unable to guide,
then pray for him.
Praying for the salvation of other people is something which
everyone can do, and requires no special talents or abilities! So
strive with God in this matter, and also put yourself along with
those who need to be ministered to and who need to be prayed
I would also add that there is a difference between the monk
who shuts himself away in a life of seclusion, silence and
worship, and a person who lives in the world, and who is aware
of what people need and who cannot close his heart before
them. (1 John 3:17).
Others might give as an excuse that being zealous
would make them lose their peaceable and humble nature,
as if being peaceable and modest meant that a person had to be
immobile and inactive, or cool and never grow hot! Did St.
Paul lose his meek and mild temper when he became furious to
see the city of Athens full of idols? (Acts 17:16). He acted and
behaved in accordance with holy zeal, yet at the same time he
retained his gentle character.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom we learn how to be humble
and gentle, (Matt. 11:29) was acting under the influence of holy
zeal when he twisted together a rope and purged the temple.
He reproached the people, drove out the animals and
overturned the tables of the money changers. And He said to
them: "My house will be called a house of prayer", but you are
making it a den of robbers. (Matt. 21:12).
Leading a spiritual life doesn't mean leading a passive life,
for the spiritual life is a positive force in which one's virtues
are brought to maturity and perfection, without any
conflict or contradiction between them.
A person can be humble and gentle-mannered, yet at the same
time be zealous, courageous and determined. He uses each of
these virtues at the right moment and in such a way that it does
not conflict with his other virtues. It is just like a father who
gives his son love at one time, and patronises him at another,
without feeling any contradiction.
We might cite the prophet David as an example of someone
who showed both zeal and a mild, peaceable nature.
David was undoubtedly meek and gentle, for it says in the
psalm: " Lord, remember David and his afflictions how he
swore to the Lord". Even so, it says in the same psalm, that
David made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob: "I will not go
into the chamber of my house or go up to the comfort of my
bed - I will not give sleep to my eyes, or slumber to my
eyelids, until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for
the Mighty God of Jacob". (Ps. 132:1-3). So here we have the
depth of holy zeal conforming with a meek and humble manner.
We could mention the prophet Moses as another example of
zeal and meekness combined.
As far as having a gentle temper is concerned, Moses was said
to be "_ a very humble man, more humble than all men who
were on the face of the earth". (Num. 12:3). And yet Moses,
this mild and humble man, blazed with zealous wrath when he
saw the people worshipping the golden calf. And he burned
that calf, smashed it to pieces and scattered its ashes and
rebuked Aaron the chief priest. (Ex. 32:19-20).
Other people might give an excuse that they haven't
been called to this form of serving God. But in reply to this,
1 would say that for a full consecration of one's life to God's
service, one undoubtedly needs a vocation and a clear call, like
becoming a priest, for example. For the apostle said: "No man
takes this honour to himself; but he who is called by God, just
as Aaron was". (Heb. 5:4).
Another example of this is being a prophet or apostle.
There are some individuals whom the Lord calls clearly to serve
him, as He did with the prophets Moses (Exodus 3), Isaiah
(Isaiah 6), Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 1) and Samuel (1 Sam. 3:10) and
as the Lord did in the case of the twelve disciples (Matthew 10).
There is another kind of person, however, who may not
have had such a clear call, but who finds himself truly
aflame with love for serving God which he cannot resist.
And this inner fire is a divine call through the action of
God's grace within that person. The Lord will have stirred
him from within.
This is, of course, providing that the aims of that person's
actions are healthy, that his means are spiritual, and that in his
service to God he is not acting independently from the Church.
In the case of such a person, even if he makes a mistake in his
method or means of doing something, the Lord will restore this
error somewhere along the way, and will send him someone to
teach him on how to make his aims correct and avoid being self-
Holy zeal, then, is part of the action of divine grace within
the heart; so zeal in itself does not require a call; it is rather
a holy feeling which should be in everyone's heart.
The form of action which this zeal takes may, on some
occasions, require a call of some kind. But whoever lives under
the guidance of a spiritual father can be guided in his actions by
this father. Thus both his zeal and his activity will be under
guidance and supervision.
There are situations when a call might be considered
equivalent to a command, or to be an obligation of
If you are walking along and come across someone who is
drowning, or in a burning building, or who is blind, do you have
to be told to go and guide the blind, or save the drowning, or
contact the fire brigade ... ?!
No, not at all. For the heart that burns with love, burns with
zeal to save, and the word of call here is merely a formality.
The call that is in the heart is above such formalities.
Here we might recall the example of the Good Samaritan.
(Luke 10). Did the Samaritan make an excuse that he hadn't
received a call to act as he did, or that it wasn't his official job
to help, such as the priest's or the Levite's?! Or when he saw
the wounded man, did he take "pity on him and bandage his
wounds?" (Luke 10:33-34) This is how it is then in many kinds
of ministering. And we might go on to mention at this point.
Others might say that spiritual work is not their
concern but the responsibility of the various ranks of the
Of course they are right, it is the responsibility of the clergy, but
the priests cannot do it all on their own. They must have
everyone helping and cooperating with them. Just as it is also
true that the procedure of shifting off the responsibility onto
someone's hand means that one is ignoring one's personal
responsibility, which should rise spontaneously from love and
concern lest others should perish. Does the responsibility of
others excuse you from acting out of love, whenever it is in
your capacity to do so?!
So be concerned about your brother's well being. And do all
you can to win souls for the Lord. Beware of repeating Cain
when he said, "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen. 4:9). For
you are your brother's keeper. You protect him by love and
caring. You protect him by your heart and speech, by your
efforts and by your prayers, and by getting into any trouble for
his sake. Do not leave one of your brothers go astray, if it is
within your power to save him. Because God will call us to
account for the souls of our brothers on the Last Day.
Especially those who found no one to stand beside them, whom
we pray for in the midnight absolution, when we say:
"Remember, O Lord, the feeble and rejected, and those who
have no one to remember them".
THE NECESSARY CONDITIONS OF HOLY
Zeal based on knowledge
Accompanied by a good lifestyle
Constructive not destructive
A strong and courageous zeal
A fruitful and active zeal
Not all zeal is holy zeal, there are false kinds of zeal, such as
that which is not based on knowledge, that which is not
religious, that which is unfruitful, that which is destructive, and
that which is abusive. So we must mention what the necessary
conditions of holy zeal are.
Zeal Based On Knowledge:
The apostle Paul spoke critically of this wrong type of zeal,
which the Israelites showed. "For I bear them witness that
they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge".
So there is false zeal, then. But what is it like? What are its
causes and how can it be recognised?
Perhaps one of the most important examples of this false type of
The zeal of Saul of Tarsus when he persecuted the
Speaking about himself, he said that "as for zeal" he was guilty
of "persecuting the church". (Phil. 3:6). And he also said:
"although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor and an
insolent man, but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly
in unbelief". (1 Tim. 1:13). He had been persecuting
Christianity out of a good intention, but in ignorance of the
right faith. Thus he said to the Jews: "taught according to the
strictness of our fathers' law and was zealed toward God as
you all are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding
and delivering into prison both men and women". (Acts 22:3-
Another example of zeal being used for the wrong purpose is:
The zeal of the Jews and their leaders against the
twelve disciples and the apostle Paul.
The Bible tells how, "the high priest rose up and all those who
were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they
were filled with indignation. and laid their hands on the
apostles and put them in the common prison". (Acts 5:17).
It also says, "when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled
with envy and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the
things spoken by Paul". (Acts 13:45),
When Paul and Silas began preaching the gospel at Jason's
house in Thessalonika, the Book of Acts says: "But the Jews
who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the
evil men from the market-place, and gathering a mob set all
the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason and
sought to bring them out to the people". And they said of Paul
and Silas "These who have turned the world upside down have
come here too. Jason has Harbord them, and These are all
acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is
another king - Jesus.' and they troubled the crowd and the
rulers of the city when they heard these things". (Acts 17:5-8).
So here we find a zeal that is not based on knowledge, but is
channelled into false accusations, stirring up unrest,
resisting the faith and trying to harm others...
Yet it is an enthusiasm with a religious motive behind it; and
those who are under its influence imagine that they are doing
what is holy, while they are really going against the truth and
using false means and lies. Perhaps another good example of
this is what our Lord Jesus said to His disciples:
" a time is coming that whoever kills, you will think
that he offers God service" (John 16:2).
Into this category also comes the whole history of Jewish
persecution of Christianity (and also the Roman), and other
forms of persecution over the centuries. It was of this that our
Lord spoke when He said: "they will hand you over to the local
councils and flog you in their synagogues. On My account you
will be brought before governors and kings" "All men will hate
you because of Me...". (Matt. 10:17, 18, 22). There is also
the example of :
The vow which the Jews made to fast until they had
What happened was that more than forty of the Jews made a
conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath, "they would
neither nor drink till they had killed Paul". (Acts 23:12). This
is obviously a wrong vow to make, arising from a bad kind of
Some of the apostles and prophets even made the mistake of
being over-enthusiastic in the wrong way, and we might
mention here, as an example:
The apostle Peter's zeal in cutting off the ear of the
high priest's servant.
During Christ's arrest, Peter was overcome by fervour out of his
manly honour and love for his master, and so he, "stretched out
his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high
priest, and cut off his ear. 'Put your sword back in its place',
The Lord Jesus said to him, "for all who take the sword will
perish by the sword". (Matt. 26:51). Although Peter's impulse
here was well-intended, his method was wrong .
The zeal of Moses was originally like this wrong kind
At the beginning of his time, before God had trained him in how
to combine gentleness and firmness, it happened that after
Moses had grown up: "he went out his brethren and looked at
their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one
of his brethren. So he looked this way and that, and when he
saw no one he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand".
(Ex. 2:12). His zeal was well-intended, for it was the defence
of the oppressed, but his method was wrong because he used
violence and killed.
7. Another example of zeal being used wrongly is
that of the apostles James and John
who, when one of the Samarian villages refused to accept the
Lord, said: "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come
down from heaven to consume them?" (Luke 9:52-54). But
the Lord rebuked them saying: "You do not know what manner
of spirit you are of, for the Son of Man did not come to destroy
men's lives, but to save them". (Luke 9:56). The zeal of James
and John was inspired by love and respect for their good
teacher, their Lord and Master. But it was mistaken in its
method and for seeking revenge.
Then there is the case of Joshua's zeal for his teacher
It was known that Eldad and Medad were prophesying in the
camp. But Joshua became jealous and flared up in indignation
on behalf of Moses, his teacher. Yet when he asked Moses if he
could have permission to stop the two from carrying on, his
teacher corrected him saying: "Are you zealous for my sake?
Oh that that all the Lord's people were prophets and that the
Lord would put His Spirit upon them!" (Num. 11:29).
Let us always remember the words of the apostle to the people
of Galatia: "It is in a good cause to be zealous, in a good thing
always". (Gal. 4:18).
Another characteristic of holy zeal is that it must be:
Accompanied By A Good Lifestyle:
Holy zeal will never have a good impression on other people
unless it is accompanied by a good lifestyle in those who are
zealous, so that they may become for others a good example
and standard for them to emulate.
This is why we find that the apostle Paul was aglow with zeal
to save souls. Yet at the same time he said to the Corinthians:
"Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have
sent Timothy to you... who will remind you of my way of life in
Christ ..." (1 Cor. 4:16-17). So Paul commissioned his disciple
Timothy whom he had trained to follow his lifestyle, saying to
him: "But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of
life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance".
(2 Tim. 3:10).
It is a fact that what we, very often see, has a much greater
effect on our spirituality than what we hear.
What people see of your life and model of behaviour has a
bigger impact on them than what they hear of your sermons and
advice. And if the will of God, which you defend so fervently,
is not put into practice in your life, then it is in vain and will
make all your zeal in its defence quite useless!
We must love God in order to make others love him. We
must present them with a way of life, not just instruction. We
must present the will of God in a practical lifestyle and not just
in theoretical teaching. God must first clothe our hearts, and
then we can influence the hearts of others.
Beware of being only signposts on the spiritual path.
Anyone who travels on the desert road from Cairo to
Alexandria sees signposts on the way directing him to
Alexandria, and telling him how many kilometres remain. These
signposts only lead him to the city without actually bringing him
into the city. So don't be like this, just pointing people in the
direction of a life with God, but without actually living that life
Don't be like the bells which call people to come to church,
but which never enter the church themselves.
Don't just stand along the road pointing people to the right
direction, which they should follow in order to reach God, but
actually travel that road yourself, walking or running towards
God. Then let whoever wishes to walk with you or run, in
order to reach God, do so. Don't be content just to be a
The Scribes and Chief Priests were also signposts on the
road. After all, they led the Magi to Bethlehem where the
Messiah was to be born. They examined their Scriptures and
said: "for this is what the prophet has written". (Matt. 2:5-6).
And so the Magi went to Bethlehem, saw the Messiah and knelt
down to worship Him and offered Him gifts. But the Scribes
who had directed them didn't go themselves, and didn't see
Christ or offer Him presents ... !
We want people who have reached God and made contact
with Him themselves in order that they can bring others to
We want people who have seen Him, and touched Him and
experienced Him; who have loved Him and known for
themselves the delight of living with Him, so that they can say
to others: "Taste and see that the Lord is good". (Psalm 34:8).
Or at least people who have had the experience that the woman
from Samaria had when she saw Christ and spoke with Him,
and who then said to the people, "Come, see..." (John 4:29).
If you have not tasted the food from heaven, how can you
describe it to others?!
If your heart is empty of God, how can you call others to love
Him? If your eyes are dry, how can you talk to them about
tears? And how can you explain the life of victory if you
are still fallen in the state of sin? How will your words have
any power to convince your fellow? So listen then, to what our
Lord said: "... whoever does and teaches these commands he
shall be called great in the Kingdom of heaven". (Matt. 5:19).
The Lord put practice before teaching. And in the same way
Paul wrote to his pupil Timothy telling him: "take heed to
yourself and to the doctrine continue in them. for in doing this
, you will save both yourself and those who hear you". So here
we see Paul instructing his disciple to "watch his life" before
concerning himself with doctrine... (1 Tim. 4:16).
Acquire the fruits of the Spirit, and then people will taste
your fruit and like it.
Instead of speaking to them about "love, joy and peace" and the
other fruits of the Spirit, (Gal. 5:22) let them see those fruits in
their lives. Present them with Christianity - by your example -
as a life of joy and peace...
A stumbling block which sometimes happens is that some
people who are seeking to serve the Lord imagine that having a
spiritual life means being serious all the time and going round
with a subdued expression. They neither laugh nor smile, and
they speak with intensity and determination. But by doing so
they cause an obstacle to those who see them, who then say to
themselves: "If we travel the road to God, will we turn out
like that too?!"
Does our life with God mean that we should live in constant
gloom, raising before us a banner saying, "a sad face is good
for the heart". (Eccles. 7:3). And is that the correct
interpretation of this verse?!
But if they see you as a righteous and holy person, who is at the
same time happy, rejoicing "in the Lord always" (Phil. 4:4) with
a peaceful heart, speaking with others with a smiling face rather
than a gloomy one; then they will feel encouraged and begin to
like what they see of the spiritual life, and not fear it.
Purity of lifestyle makes zeal bear fruit.
Another aspect of the necessary conditions of holy zeal, which
also springs from a good lifestyle, is that zeal is:
Constructive Not Destructive:
Some people imagine that holy zeal is a kind of revolution
aimed at setting everything right, and that this revolution
must be accompanied by noise, unrest, insults and
destruction ... !
In reality this is fervour without being godly, because it is
devoid of any spirituality or divine wisdom. The apostle James
condemns such zeal, which he refers to as 'envy' saying: "But if
you have bitter envy and self seeking in your hearts, do not
boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend
from above but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy
and self seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing will be
there". (James 3:14-16).
Being ambitious for improvements and setting everything
right is something desirable; but it is not good if it involves
ending up with disorder. It must be done only by wisdom and
spirituality and in a positive way. St James describes this
wisdom and spirituality thus: "But the wisdom that comes from
heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate,
submissive, full of mercy and good fruit... Peacemakers who
sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness".
Therefore Christianity condemns fervour that is destructive
Being zealous for the truth does not mean that you insult
sinners or bombard them with rebukes or hurt them, because it
is perfectly possible to defend the Truth in a constructive and
positive way. For we are not speaking merely about zeal, but
about holy zeal. And that which is holy cannot be compatible
with a destructive or abusive manner.
Holy zeal is that which rescues the sinner from his sin, not
that which crushes him.
To save is better than to condemn. Building up the soul by
virtue, is better than crushing it by hurtful criticism, insulting its
reputation and tearing its feelings to shreds, or using any other
means of insulting or humiliating someone, under the name of
Holy zeal isn't shouting or making noise or fuss, and it isn't
just speaking, but it is a positive and beneficial way of acting on
behalf of what is good and on behalf of others, whilst adhering
to holy methods. It is a spreading of the Truth in a just way, in
which no mistake is made; with no fuss, no quarrelling or
It is like the flame that cooks well, not the flame that burns
It is not a raging tempest which sweeps away whatever is in its
path roughly and mercilessly. Neither is it a 'bitter envy', as
James described it. Anyone who serves the Lord, who could be
described as having zeal, is "eager to do what is good".
Likewise, zeal is unassuming, it does not puff itself up or
think too highly of itself.
It feels the pains of sinners, and sets about trying to save them,
with love, gentleness and humility. As Paul said to the leaders
of Ephesus: "Remember that for three years I never stopped
warning each of you night and day with tears". (Acts 20:31).
So Paul warned them with tears, not with arrogance, pride or
Zeal strives for the sake of others, not to crush them. This is
what our Lord Jesus Christ did, who said that He had come not
to condemn the world, but to save the world. (John 3:17). He
also said: "the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives,
but to save them". (Luke 9:56). Therefore, holy zeal is a
merciful, delivering zeal, whose aim is to save.
It is a zeal which goes out to meet, to convince and to follow
up, which removes obstacles and solves problems.
Instead of blaming sinners for not following the right path to
walk, it makes it easier for them by helping them to walk along
the way and love it and by strengthening their determination and
Another aspect of the qualities of holy zeal is that it is:
A Strong And Courageous Zeal:
Some people may like modesty and humility and aspire to these
qualities, but unfortunately they sometimes think that humility
and mild tempered conflict with strength and courage!
This is a fatal mistake. All these Christian virtues are
represented in the mature character, nothing is lacking. Our
Lord was both gentle and humble; besides being strong and
bold. What a beautiful thing David said about holy zeal: "I will
speak of Your testimonies also before kings and will not be
ashamed". (Ps. 119:46).
Holy zeal is a fire, and fire has power and heat.
The words of a server who is characterised by zeal are like a
word of fire, "that goes forth from My mouth: it shall not
return to Me void". (Is. 55:11). But what is more, the word of
God "is living and powerful, and Sharper than any two- edged
sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit..."
When that person prays for the sake of God's ministry, his
prayer is a fire that burns, for "fervent prayer of a righteous
man avails much". (James 5:16). Such prayer is able to stand
before God, struggling and overcoming... and to take from Him
a strength which fires the ministry and gives it success.
When the zealous server rebukes, he is like a fire; and when he
gives advice, he is also like a fire. And if he deals with some
matter, then he does so with strength and God's grace, without
becoming slack or indifferent. He is a person whose heart,
thoughts, expressions and feelings are ablaze. And his action
has powerful results.
Zeal isn't just following a routine or doing a duty, it is
strength. It is a feeling, an emotion, an enthusiasm, an ardour
and a courage that transcends all obstacles. It is a constant and
productive activity. This strength which belongs to zeal appears
in numerous affairs such as: a strength in convincing others
and influencing them, and a strength in defending the faith
and Truth, and a strength in action.
If someone with this type of fervour enters the service of God,
then everyone feels that a great energy has entered the ministry,
and that every branch of it has begun to be motivated and
heated, and that it is bearing abundant fruits. Such people have
derived strength from the Spirit, which has then become a
characteristic of theirs which accompanies them at all times and
in all places.
It is amazing that the people of the world may well have
courage when it comes to the thoughtless or irresponsible
things they do, yet the children of God quite often tend to
feel embarrassed about their righteousness.
It is as if 'humility' were a seal on their lips!! They don't have
strength to defend their principles or beliefs, or their spiritual
way of life. It is as if one of them were ashamed of having a
spiritual dimension to his life.
Look at how the Bible describes the holy angels: "Bless the
Lord, you His angels, Who excel in strength, who do His
word..." (Ps. 103:20).
It reminds me of the strength with which St. Paul spoke about
righteousness, self-restraint and judgement, a matter that scared
governor Felix .
Paul was filled with the Spirit, and was thus filled with strength,
that strength of the Spirit about which it was said: "But you
shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you".
Another of the necessary characteristics of holy zeal is that it
A Fruitful And Active Zeal:
Zeal is a positive activity, not just words... and any positive
activity must have its fruit in the Kingdom of God. The Bible
has asked us to be fruitful, when it said: "every tree which does
not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire".
If holy zeal possesses someone's heart, then it drives him
strongly towards saving himself and saving others. I hope that
you will have this zeal, and may you also have, along with it,
love for others and the will to strive to bring them into the
If you don't have the zeal that drives you to act to save
others, then you will be a barren and fruitless tree.
Would you like going to God without having borne any spiritual
fruit, without having even won a single soul for Christ?! Would
you be content to be a barren, fruitless tree?!
If the vine has only one bunch of grapes upon it, then it single
grape, then it, too, still has a blessing! (Is. 65:8). And what
about you?! Perhaps you will be able to stand up in the
Kingdom of God and say: "Here am I, and the children whom
the Lord has given me". (Is. 8:18).
So be fruitful in your life. As long as there is life in a tree, then
fruit will come naturally. Be productive, not passive. Ask
yourself every day if you are making any new contribution to
the Kingdom, and increasing its yield? And whether you have
been able to communicate the word of God to anyone else?
The most blessed days in your life are those which bear
fruit for Christ.
Some of the most amazing days have been those in the lives of
the saints which were thus blessed and on such days, the
Kingdom of God grew. The words of the Bible "With the Lord,
a day is as a thousand years", (2 Peter 3:8) apply to such
The generation in which we live might well cry out and pray
saying: O Lord, we did not deserve to live in the generation
which saw you in the flesh and saw how you worked. Nor
would we have been worthy to live in the lifetime of, for
example, St. Paul, either. But yet it is a cherished prayer that
we make: 'Please give us just one day in the life of Paul, or
one day in the life of Peter or Stephen'.
The apostle Peter was able, on one single day, to bring 3,000
people to the faith. (Acts 2:41).
And because of St.Stephen, "the word of God spread, and the
number of disciples in multiplied greatly in Jerusalem..."
Paul used to win people for Christ in every situation. (1
Cor. 9:22). He used to work in every field, with everybody,
with the Jews, the Greeks, with those not under the law etc.,
with the skill of someone experienced in saving souls. How
many souls there will be following St. Paul in the Kingdom!
Who can tell? And how great will be his yield in the Kingdom
of God? One thing is certain; he was definitely no ordinary
servant of Christ.
It is to Paul, and people like him, that the Bible refers when it
says: "I said, You are 'gods'. And all of you are children of
the Most High". (Ps. 82:6).
Paul was in fact higher than these.
Look at the giants in the Kingdom of God, and earnestly desire
to follow their road. Ask yourself every day: "What have I
done for the Kingdom of God? Am I faithful in my service
and in developing all the talents which God has given me? And
have I responded to all those souls whom God wanted me to
serve? And on the last day, shall I hear his tender voice saying
to me: "Well done, good and faithful servant! you were
faithful over a few things; I will make you ruler over many
things. Enter into the joy of your lord!" (Matt. 25:21).
I always marvel at that clever servant who said to his master:
"Master, your mina has earned ten minas". (Luke 19:16).
This is the zeal that is real and fruitful in the Kingdom of God.
In taking this as a standard for comparison, we might perhaps
ask ourselves what we have done for our generation? For that
is what has been entrusted to us, and for which we are
responsible before God and before the next generations..! What
practical use has our zeal been to save it?! Has it contributed to
the saving of the church? Or have we taken a look and found
our lives barren, worthless and unproductive?!
What have we done for a generation of widely spread
permissiveness, materialism and abandoning of the faith; in
which it has become a duty for all the children of God to be
shining lights on a dark mountain?
Has the church stood up to guide the world, or has it shaped
some of its children to conform themselves to the world?! Have
we given anything to the world in which we live, or have we
just adjusted to its evil ways? Have we acted in such a way that
we have taught the world our spiritual standards, or have we
adopted the ways and means and deceptions of the world?!
Has the world, as a result of our zeal, become spiritual, or has
the 'spiritual' taken on the form of the people of the world?!
What have we done for the Lord? Can we say to God as our
Lord Jesus did: "I have glorified You on the earth. I have
finished the work You have given Me to do". (John 17:4). In
our visits and comings and goings to any house, can we deliver
a report to God, in which we can say: "Today salvation has
come to this house..." (Luke 19:9).
Look at John the Baptist, and what he did for his
generation: In a very short time he was able "to make ready
a people prepared for the Lord", (Luke 1:17) and to lead whole
masses of the people from Jerusalem and all Judea and all the
region of the Jordan, to the baptism of repentance 'confessing
their sins'. (Matt. 3:5-6). He was able to deliver the bride to the
bridegroom and stand and wait full of joy. (John 3:29). This is
the wonderful fruit of a burning zeal.
If these saints are a lesson for us, then Nature is too:
I once stood in one of the monasteries, before a huge camphor
tree, which was about 20 metres high, and which bore tens of
thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of seeds, and I
pondered on one of its seeds and how very small it was. Yet
that minute seed was capable of such immense growth and
could itself yield thousands of seeds! I felt my insignificance
before this camphor tree, and in fact before just one of its
branches and even before one of its tiny seeds.
The lesson we learn from the camphor tree we can also learn
from the palm.
A date pit has a tremendous capacity for growth, and to reach a
great height and to produce a vast amount of dates, thousands
of them... I sit and calculate the number of years in the life of a
palm tree, and the total amount of fruit which it can produce in
its lifetime, and then I feel how small I am before it, .. Perhaps
this same idea occurred to David when he said: "The righteous
shall flourish like a palm tree". (Ps. 92:12).
Nevertheless, the Bible says that man is Nature's master,
the priest of Nature and God's successor on the earth, that he
was the one to whom God gave authority over the plants, the
animals and birds. Yet has man ever been able to put forth fruit
like the palm tree, or flourish like the lilies of the field? Has he
ever been as productive in his work as even one date pit?!
Supposing in one of your meetings, each person were to bring
with him ten others in his zeal for the Kingdom of God, just
think how many there would then be in the Kingdom if numbers
went on multiplying like that!
So may you be zealous for the Kingdom and may your zeal
bear fruit in breadth and depth... May it be broad in terms of
the number of those it gathers and in its far-reaching extent.
And may it be deep in terms of its quality, its spirit and its
connection with God.
EXAMPLES OF HOLY ZEAL
The prophet Moses
The boy David
The prophet Elijah
The prophet Isaiah
The twelve disciples
St Paul the apostle
10. St Stephen
11. St Marc
12. St Athanasius
13. Archdeacon Habib Girgis
14. Some of the Father monks
If we wish to give some examples of holy zeal, then our first
example must be God Himself, whether in His eternal nature or
His incarnation. Then we will take the angels and the saints of
the Old and New Testaments, along with some examples from
the history of the church.
In many places we read that God is a "zealous God" and a
jealous God. It comes in the Book of Exodus: "For you shall
worship no other god, for the Lord, Whose name is Jealous, is
a jealous God". (Ex. 34:14). And in the Book of
Deuteronomy: "the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a
jealous God". (Deut. 4:24). And in the Book of Joshua it is
said that "He is a holy God; He is a jealous God". (Joshua
24:19). And in Nehemiah it says: "The Lord is a jealous and
avenging God". (Neh. 1:2). The Sovereign Lord speaks about
His divine zeal saying: "I will be zealous for My holy name".
The zeal of the Lord is shown in how He punished evil, whether
it issued from His people or from the Gentiles. Concerning the
people of Jerusalem who had defiled His sanctuary, He says: "_
Thus shall My anger be spent, and I will cause My fury to rest
upon them The Lord have spoken in My zeal". (Ezek. 5:13).
He also spoke of His zeal and the fire of His anger in God's
sweeping attack on Israel. (Ezek. 38:19).
As for the Gentiles, though, the Bible says: "therefore thus says
what the Lord God: Surely I have spoken in My burning
jealousy against the rest of the nations, and against all Edom,
who gave My land to themselves as a possession..." (Ezek.
36:5) and He says that it is because "I am very angry with the
nations..." (Zech. 1:14).
It is said of the zeal of the Lord in striking down the
wicked: "Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to
deliver them in the day of the Lord's wrath. But the whole land
shall be devoured by the fire of His jealousy ". (Zeph. 1:18).
On the other hand, in His zeal He saves His people: He says:
"Now I will bring back the captives of Jacob and have mercy
on whole house of Israel, and I will be jealous for My holy
name". (Ezek. 39:25) and also: "This is what the Lord
Almighty says: I am very zealous for Jerusalem and Zion, ... I
will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be
rebuilt". (Zech. 1:14 -16). "For out of Jerusalem will come
a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The
zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this". (Is. 37:32).
So people used to cry out to the Lord's zeal to save them,
saying: "Look down from heaven and see from Your habitation,
holy and glorious. Where are Your zeal and Your strength."
(Is. 63:15) the prophet Joel calling for a fast and for self-
abasement and repentance, and for the priests to weep before
the Lord. "Then the Lord will be zealous for His land and pity
His people". (Joel 2:18).
It was, after all, the zeal of the Lord to save His people, that
was the reason for the incarnation. Thus in the Book of
Isaiah we find: "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is
given, and the government will be upon His shoulders. And His
name will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His
government and peace there will be no end... The zeal of the
Lord of hosts will perform this." (Is. 9:6-7).
We find this zeal to save, this zeal for holiness and the
Kingdom in the incarnation of our Lord.
This zeal of the Lord's is clearly seen in His cleansing of the
temple, when: " He found in the temple those who sold oxen
and sheep and doves, and money changers doing business.
When He made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of
the temple , with the sheep and oxen; and poured out the
changers' money and overturned the tables. He said to those
who sold doves, 'take things away! Do not make My Father's
house a house of merchandise!" (John 2:14-16). St John
goes on to comment on the cleansing of the temple saying: "His
disciples remembered that it is written, zeal for Your house
shall consume Me". (Ps. 69:9).
It was out of His zeal to save others that our Lord Jesus
gave Himself for them.
His was a practical and active zeal in the very deepest meaning
of the word. It wasn't just a desire to save, He carried their
sins, paid the price for them on the cross and died for them. It
was a zeal in which there was love and self-sacrifice. It wasn't
merely spending something external, the Lord Jesus spent
Himself and gave His life. Therefore, He gives us the supreme
example of practical zeal in action.
In His period of ministry on earth the Lord Christ had a
zeal which was full of love.
For the sake of others, "Jesus went about all the cities and
villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of
the Kingdom and healing every sickness and every disease".
And "When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with
compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered,
like sheep having no shepherd". (Matt. 9:35-36). And St Peter
said of Christ that "He went around doing good and healing..."
(Acts 10:38). And God, out of His zeal to save mankind,
charged His angels to be servants in this salvation.
It was about the angels that St. Paul said: "Are they not all
ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will
inherit salvation?" (Heb. 1:14).
Perhaps one of the most impressive examples related in the
Bible about the zeal of the angels, is what it tells us about the
zeal of the Seraphim to serve and save mankind, even though
they are chiefly angels of praise. When they heard the prophet
Isaiah say "Woe to me!" and ".. I am undone! Because I am a
man of unclean lips..." (Is. 6:5) they lost no time at all, and
without even waiting for an instruction or call, hastened to help
as quickly and enthusiastically as possible. And then Isaiah said:
"Then one of the seraphim flew to me having in his hand a
live coal , which he had taken with tongs from the altar. He
touched my mouth with it and said, 'Behold, this has touched
your lips'; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged".
Notice here the word 'flew', which denotes speed, and the
words 'live coal' which denotes heat. Both speed and heat are
attributes of zeal.
We lack the time to talk about the work of the angels in saving
people, whether it is the way that they spread the gospel or
perform their ministry, or the way that they encamp around
those who fear the Lord and deliver them (Ps. 34:7), or carry
God's messages to His servants... but it is to the angels that the
psalm refers when it says: "you mighty ones who do His
bidding, who obey His word". (Ps. 103:20). Another example
of the ministry of the angels was when they saved the priest
Satan was standing on the right of Joshua the high priest, in
order to accuse him, and Joshua was wearing dirty clothes. The
angel of the Lord entered and said to Satan: "The Lord rebuke
you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you!
Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?" (Zech. 3:2).
Then they took off Joshua's dirty garments and clothed him in
rich clothes. And the angel of the Lord charged him to behave
in accordance with the way of God. (Zech. 3:3-7).
Then there is the example of the zeal of the two angels who
saved Lot from the fire of Sodom.
It was said that the two angels said to Lot: "Do you have
anyone else here - sons-in-law, your sons, your daughters,
and whomever you have in the city - take them out of this
place. For we will destroy this place... When the morning
dawned, the angels urged Lot.. when he lingered, the man took
hold of his hand, his wife's hand and the hands of his two
daughters and set him outside the city..." (Gen. 19:12-16).
The Prophet Moses:
Moses was so zealous for the Kingdom of God that he became
a champion of the faith in his era. Because of his zeal, he left
his position as prince in the Pharaoh's place to lead his people to
worship God, which is why ".. he refused to be called the son
of Pharaoh's daughter. Choosing rather to be suffer affliction
with the people of God... esteeming the reproach of Christ
greater riches than the treasures in Egypt..." (Heb. 11:24-26).
Another example of his zeal is what happened when the
people worshipped the golden calf. Moses took a very
resolute stand with the sinful people. When he approached the
camp and set eyes on the calf and the dancing, the Bible says:
"his anger became hot and he cast the tablets out of his hands,
and broke them at the foot of the mountain. Then he took the
calf which they had made, burned it in the fire; then he
ground it to powder, and he scattered it on the water and
made the children of Israel drink it". (Ex. 32:19-20). Then
Moses rebuked Aaron the high priest, and ordered the people to
be struck down, and about 3,000 men died that day. (Ex.
Just as Moses's zeal made him take an uncompromising
stand with the people on that occasion, it could easily make
him ready to intercede for them before God, on another
When the Lord wanted to destroy them because of this sin of
theirs, Moses stood up to intercede saying: " Lord.. why does
Your wrath burn hot against Your people.. Turn from Your
fierce wrath; and relent from this harm to Your people.
Remember Abraham, Isaac and Israel Your servants..."
(Ex. 32:11-12). What is more, he went on to say: "... If You
will forgive their sin - but if not, blot me out of Your book
which You have written". (Ex. 32:32).
Moses' zeal was two-fold: it possessed strictness and
compassion. It was capable of disciplining, and yet also
capable of interceding when it wanted the people to be saved
not destroyed. And if their salvation meant that they needed to
be beaten, then Moses did not shrink from doing what was
necessary: "For what son is not disciplined by his father?"
(Heb.12:7). Undoubtedly examples like this of Moses' zeal are
among the rare examples of a two-fold zeal.
Phinehas was one of the Lord's priests, and the grandson of
Aaron the high priest. It happened, after Balaam had met
Balak, that the people began to commit adultery with the
daughters of Moab, so that a man even committed the very act
of fornication with a woman right before the eyes of Moses and
the whole people, while they were weeping at the entrance of
the Tabernacle of Meeting! This so inflamed Phinehas with
holy zeal that he went into the Tabernacle after the man and
woman and killed them both, and the camp was purified by the
shedding of their blood.
Phinehas had done that without anyone having called him
to do it. And God commanded Phinehas's zeal and stopped the
plague which he had sent upon them because of their adultery,
which had killed some 24,000 of the people. "The Lord said to
Moses, Phinehas son of Eleazor, the son of Aaron, the priest,
has turned My anger away from the Israelites; for he was as
zealous as I am for My honour among them, so that in My
zeal I did not put an end to them". (Num. 25:6-11).
The Boy David:
We spoke in the first chapter about the zeal of King David who
said to the Lord: "zeal for Your house consumes me". (Ps.
69:9). David, whose heart was filled with holy zeal, prepared
everything for building a house for the Lord. (1 Chronicles. 29).
Yet although this was indeed the case, David's zeal could also
make him depressed and weep because of the sins of those who
had abandoned the law of the Lord. (Psalm 119).
But I want to speak here about David's zeal when he was a
boy, when he fought Goliath. I mention this example because
David was a young boy, not a man of war, and he was not
responsible for returning Goliath's insult. What is more, David
was even rebuked by his brother Eliab for asking about Goliath,
for the latter was a giant of a man who struck fear into the
whole army. (1 Samuel 17:24). No one at all would have
blamed the boy David for not volunteering to fight against
Goliath, so we can imagine how surprised King Saul must have
been when David said to him: "your servant will go and fight
him". (1 Sam. 17:32). And the king answered him saying: "you
are not able to go against this Philistine and fight with him;
for you are but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth".
(1 Sam. 17:33).
Nevertheless, David's zeal had called him, and he wanted to
remove the insult made against the army of the Living God . (1
The whole army had heard Goliath's insult but without daring to
do anything about it. Furthermore, "When the Israelites saw
the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid". (1 Sam.
17:24). Only David was not afraid. His zeal made him rely
not on himself but on God.
It was a zeal that trusted the action of God, without stopping to
show off itself or its work.
It was a zeal which said to the enemy of God: "You come to me
with a sword, with a spear and with javelin, but I come to you
in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of
Israel... This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand... for
the battle is the Lord's and He will give you into our hands".
(1 Sam. 17:45-47).
It was a zeal which did not wait to be called upon to act.
For its call came from its burning heart within, which could not
stand silent and speechless, and which couldn't stand unmoving
and immobile. Events drove him forward even though there was
the risk of danger. And this is how Phinehas behaved too.
There were others who were bigger and older than David, but
none would dare act like him as his heart was much bigger than
In his heart there was zeal, a lighted fire, along with faith and
freedom from fear. With this inner treasure he went forward,
and God worked in him and with him.
The Prophet Elijah:
Elijah was that powerful prophet who said to the Lord: "I have
been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites
have rejected Your covenant, broken down Your altars, and put
Your prophets to death by the sword". (1 Kings 19:14).
Elijah's zeal made him confront the King and reproach
him, just as it also caused him various troubles and
The worship of idols was widespread in his era, because of King
Ahab and his wife Queen Jezebel, at whose table some 450
prophets of Baal and 450 prophets of Asherah used to eat.
(1 Kings 18:19).
Elijah's zeal urged him to pray that a difficult situation of
some kind would occur through which people's consciences
could be awakened.
Thus, the holy Bible says about him: "And he prayed earnestly
that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three
years and six months". (James 5:17).
In his zeal and strength of faith he said: "... there shall not be
dew nor rain these years except at my word". (1 Kin. 17:1).
This is how the famine came about which lasted for years, so
that when Elijah met King Ahab, the latter said to him: "Is that
you, O troubler of Israel?" (1 Kin. 18:17). To which Elijah,
with all the boldness of his zeal, replied: "I have not troubled
Israel, but you and your father's house have, in that you have
forsaken the commandment of the Lord and have followed the
Baals". (1 Kin. 18:18). It all ended up with the return of the
rain, and the slaying of the prophets of Baal and Asherah.
This zeal of Elijah's was a strong, bold and resolute zeal which
purged the earth from paganism.
It exposed Elijah, however, to various troubles, such as having
to confront the king who wanted to kill him. And it was
because of this king that the prophets of the Lord had hidden in
the caves. They had been helped in this by Obadiah, who was a
good man and a palace official, who also feared the king.
(1 Kin. 18).
Elijah was also exposed to the anger of Jezebel, who was more
powerful and cruel than Ahab. It was Jezebel who, when she
heard what Elijah had done, sent him a warning that she would
kill him, so that he was forced to flee for his life. (1 Kin. 19:1).
The Lord, however, did not allow her to carry out her threat.
The Prophet Isaiah:
The zeal of Isaiah was like the words in the psalm: "My heart is
steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast..." (Ps. 57:7).
It was Isaiah who on hearing the voice of the Sovereign Lord
say: "Whom shall I send? And who will go for Us?", replied
straightaway: "Here am I. Send me." (Is. 6:8).
Some people might understand the concept of humility to mean
excusing oneself and avoiding getting involved in ministering to
others, but zeal actually puts itself forward for such service with
Zeal offers itself for service. That is not showing a lack of
humility, for it knows that it will be used by the action of God
working through it, as it denies itself completely. Just as when
David went forward to fight Goliath, saying: "This day the Lord
will deliver you into my hand, for the battle is the Lord's, and
He will give you into our hands".(1 Sam. 17:46-47).
8. The Twelve Disciples:
Due to the zeal of our forefathers the apostles, the church
was founded and spread over the whole world. The voices
of those who originally had no voice and nothing to say, ended
up by reaching the farthest corners of the inhabited world.
Through their determination, which never flagged, their work
which knew no respite, and their amazing forbearance, they
were able to say, when others tried to oppose them: "... we
cannot help speaking" (Acts 4:20) and "we must obey God
rather than men!" (Acts 5:29).
This was how they spoke the word of God: "with great
boldness". (Acts 4:29).
So "And daily in the temple and in every house, they did not
cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ". (Acts
5:42). "And the Lord added to their number daily those who
were being saved", (Acts 2:47) and "... more and more men
and women believed in the Lord and were added to their
number". (Acts 5:14).
Out of their zeal, the apostles bore beatings, insults and
imprisonment. And when they were imprisoned, flogged
and released, "So, they departed from the presence of the
council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer
for His Name". (Acts 5:41). And when they were brought
before the assembly, the chief priest said to them: "Did we not
strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you
have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine and intend bring this
Man's blood on us". (Acts 5:28).
And when they were expelled from Jerusalem following the
martyrdom of Stephen, the Bible says of them: "Those who
were scattered went everywhere preaching the word ".
They were like pieces of coal ignited by the Holy Spirit on the
Day of Pentecost, and whose sparks flew in all directions to the
ends of the earth, and set the whole world on fire.
Thus they carried out the Lord's command when He had said to
them: "... you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in
all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth". (Acts
They bore witness to Christ and thus obtained the crowns
of martyrdom and witnessing.
They had absolutely no fear of death, and their difficulties,
sufferings, trials and prison; neither troubled them nor deflected
them from their purpose. The important thing was that they
witnessed for the Lord, and let whatever would be, take its
Besides the twelve with their zeal, we must put the name of the
St. Paul The Apostle:
His was one of the most outstanding human examples of holy
zeal, if not the most outstanding.
When he was converted to Christianity, an amazing energy
of fervour and power entered him, so that he was able to
testify to the Lord in Jerusalem and in the country of Judea, in
Cyprus and in Asia Minor, before going on to Greece and Italy.
It was Paul who founded the Church of Rome, in addition to
which he wrote fourteen epistles, which were important in
laying the basis of the Christian faith and in its spread. Some of
these epistles were written while he was in prison.
What zeal was this, that a person proclaimed the good news
of Christ even when in prison! And what a lovely thing he
said about Onesimus, that he "my son, whom I have begotten
was in chains". (Phil. 10).
From prison, Paul wrote to Ephesus, telling the people there:
"Therefore the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to have a
walk worthy of the calling which you were called ". (Eph. 4:1).
Even while he was a prisoner in jail, Paul was concerned for the
salvation of others.
Furthermore, his concern for the salvation of others, surpassed
his concern for himself. Thus in his amazing love for his
compatriots he was able to say that very moving phrase, which
is so full of zeal and love... "For I could wish that I myself
were accursed and from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen
according to the flesh". (Rom. 9:3).
So Paul's zeal was based on a deep love which made him want
to save everyone, and which made him fear lest anyone should
fall. He said to the Corinthians: "For I am jealous for you with
godly jealousy. For I betrothed you to one husband, that may
present you as a chaste virgin to Christ,. But I fear lest
somehow as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so
your minds may be corrupted from simplicity that is in
Christ". (2 Cor. 11:2-3).
Out of his zeal for the Kingdom, Paul was constantly
travelling, and enduring hardships in order to spread the
He said about his ministry: "three times I was shipwrecked, a
night and a day I have been in the deep, in journeys often. in
perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own
countrymen, in perils of Gentiles; in perils in the city, in perils
in the wilderness, in perils in the sea...in weariness and toil,
in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst; in fasting often, in
cold and nakedness. Besides the other things..." (2 Cor. 11:25-
27). And what else could there be? He says: "Besides the
other things, what comes upon me daily; my deep concern
for all the churches". (2 Cor. 11:28).
This is really zeal, and before this we can only stand and marvel,
when we are getting more used to seeing a young man fought
with vain glory just because he teaches a chapter in a Scripture
class or delivers a sermon in church! How trivial such things
seem to be in comparison to the zeal showed by St. Paul!
Besides his preaching in various new fields, St. Paul was also
concerned for the existing churches, that they should be
organised, visited and cared for, even while he was in prison.
How great were the sufferings which St. Paul endured
because of his zeal for the Kingdom! He described them with
the words: "in labours more abundant, in stripes above
measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. from the
Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times
I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned..." (2 Cor. 11:23-25).
And concerning his problems, and those of his colleagues in the
ministry, he said: But in all things we commanded ourselves as
ministers of God: in much patience; in tribulation, in needs, in
distresses; in stripes, in imprisonments, in labors, in
sleeplessness, in fasting; ..as unknown, and yet we known; as
dying, and behold we live... as sorrowful, yet always
rejoicing..." (2 Cor. 6:4-10).
In the ministry of the apostle Paul and his fellow workers,
zeal was never in any way separated from the cross.
For this reason when Paul describes his life and theirs in the
ministry he says: "We are hard pressed on every side, yet not
crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not
forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. always carrying
about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of
Jesus also may be manifested in our body". (2 Cor. 4:8-10).
This, then, was their situation, in case some of you imagined
that the life of St. Paul was just the glory of being a saint and
Or in case others imagined that zeal was just an enthusiasm
or fervour which assumed the right to order and forbid, or
criticise and rebuke!!
It is easy to forget that whoever lives a life of holy zeal, and
strives for the Kingdom, must take up his cross every day and
follow the Lord.
We spoke in the first chapter about Paul's zeal, and in the third,
about the fruits of this zeal, and what we have just said here
about it is still not enough to do it justice.
Stephen's zeal was the natural fruit of his gifts and
He was chosen to be a deacon from amongst those who were
full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom'. And it was said that he
was 'a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit' and of 'God's
grace and power', and that he 'did great wonders and signs
among the people'. (Acts 6:3-8).
Stephen began his work with vigour. So what were the results
of his zeal? The results were thus:
"the word of God spread. and the number of disciples
multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the
priests were obedient to the faith". (Acts 6:7).
Those who opposed him could not endure Stephen's zeal and
work, so a group of members of the synagogue of the Freedmen
(as it was called) and the Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria, as
well as those from Cilicea rose up to challenge him in debate:
"and they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit
by which he spoke". (Acts 6:10).
But since they were unable to stand up against Stephen's zeal
with all its gifts, they conspired against him and accused him of
blasphemy and handed him over to the Sanhedrin to be stoned.
During his trial and stoning, Stephen's zeal did not desert
him. He continued to expound the faith and rebuke the
leaders of the Jews for their hardness of heart.
This was Stephen, then, who was neither an apostle, nor a
bishop, but simply a deacon. He was, however, a deacon who
was full of zeal and who acted with tremendous strength,
through the Holy Spirit within him.
His zeal bore fruits which his enemies could not endure. He
had a boldness too, which they could not bear either. So they
became furious with him, and blocked their ears to his words,
and attacked him with one fell swoop, taking him out of the city
and stoning him. (Acts 7:54-7). Thus Stephen became the first
Stephen's was a brief ministry, but a fruitful and powerful
Let us go on now to another example of zeal, that of St. Mark,
from whose powerful ministry we have all benefited.
Mark's zeal yielded much fruit in spite of the many
obstacles he faced. He began from nothing, yet he triumphed
over all difficulties.
St. Mark came to Egypt, to a land where there was no church,
no believing population, no Christianity, and no facilities. In
fact there were the Pharaonic forms of worship under the
leadership of the god Ra, the Greek under the god Zeus and the
Roman worship under the god Jupiter. In addition to these
there was Judaism, which occupied two districts of Alexandria,
along with various other eastern forms of religion. Then there
were the books of philosophy with which the famous library of
Alexandria was stacked. All these different forms of belief were
supported by the authority of the Roman state with all its
The zeal of St. Mark, though, was mightier than all this
St. Mark had no material resources at all to help him, and
actually entered Egypt with torn shoes from so much walking
on foot. But on finding no believers there he embarked on
making them a believing people.
With his zeal for the Kingdom of God, St. Mark was able to
spread Christianity in Egypt and Libya. Moreover; he helped
Paul in preaching to Rome and other countries in Europe.
Mark also founded the first theological school in Alexandria,
which prepared those who were to become leaders of the faith
to go throughout the east. He also wrote the gospel which
bears his name, and which has been a basic source for the faith
throughout the world.
St. Mark's zeal was effective enough to preach to and
convert Egypt, yet it went further than Egypt. The faith
spread into many different places at Mark's hands. And he
made many journeys to spread the Kingdom in other lands. He
was obliged to appoint a bishop to assist him and fill in his place
during his travels. That man was Anianus, the first of the
successors of St. Mark to the See of Alexandria.
Naturally it proved impossible for the enemies of the faith
to put up with St. Mark's zeal, and his spreading of the
faith. So St. Mark received at their hands, the crown of
martyrdom in the year 68 AD, but not before leaving us a
firmly-rooted faith in the protecting shadow of which we remain
It remains for St. Mark's descendants to trace the effects of his
zeal, and follow in his footsteps.
So don't let anyone say: 'I'm ready to serve, but I don't
have any means or resources!'
St. Mark served without having any. He began from nothing at
all, and even that 'nothing' was surrounded by opposition. He
had only his zeal. And this was true for the rest of the apostles.
Their way was neither easy nor prepared for them, and was
usually fought with difficulties, since they ministered in pagan
countries with the Jews against them, and confronted by the
Roman Empire, as well.
They laboured and we entered their labour. (John 4:38).
Just as Christ laboured before, and the apostles entered into his
labour. The result of all this continued hard work over
consecutive ages is the constant growth of the church.
So there are really two results of zeal: one is that it establishes
the Kingdom, and the other, that it makes it grow.
What St. Jerome said of Athanasius and his struggle against
Arius and Arianism, and how he had been able to change the
course of history, was certainly true: "If it had not been for
Athanasius, a time would have come when almost the whole
world would have become Arian!"
The Arian problem started some time before Athanasius. And it
was on account of this that Pope Alexandros (the 19th
Patriarch) had convened a local council which was attended by
100 bishops from the capital and 5 of the western cities. And at
the time when the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea was held
in the year 325, Athanasius was still a young man and a
deacon. This young deacon, though, felt that the
responsibility of combating Arianism lay on his shoulders,
and this feeling of responsibility was the source of his zeal.
In the council there were 318 bishops representing the churches
of the entire Christian world, and among them there were also
patriarchs and church leaders. But Athanasius the deacon, felt
that the whole Christian faith had somehow been entrusted to
his keeping and depended on his somehow finding a solution to
the problem. So he stood up to defend it, most enthusiastically,
and refuted every argument of Arius with much stronger
theological proofs. Thus he was able to create the articles of
the Christian creed.
When Athanasius became patriarch he continued his
opposition to the Arians and wrote a book against them
entitled, 'Contra Arianos' (against the Arians). The book is
in four parts, and deals with all the verses which the Arians
relied upon to support their arguments, and it gives the correct
interpretation of these verses whilst refuting the incorrect Arian
understanding. Athanasius also wrote many other books in
defence of the Nicene creed.
Because of his zeal, Athanasius was exposed to much
opposition and persecution. The enemies of the faith made
bitter accusations against him and conspired against him before
the Emperor, so that he was exiled from his seat four times. His
zeal, however, never left him when he was in exile, but
wherever he was banished he set about spreading the correct
faith, expounding the doctrine and refuting Arianism and
convening councils to oppose it. It ended up with his return to
his seat and resuming his struggle, only to be exiled again.
Athanasius spent 45 years on the seat of St. Mark, engaged
in constant struggle. Out of his zeal for the faith, his name
became a byword for the faith, so much so that anyone who
wanted to prove that he was of the true faith would say: 'I
follow the faith of Athanasius'. The fervour of this saint never
flagged for one day. In fact the force of Arianism only kindled
his zeal further, until the faith was laid on the correct
His zeal began when he was very young, and while he was
still a young deacon, he wrote two important books: one on
the incarnation of the Word and another entitled 'A refutation of
the pagans'. Both books became important reference texts,
from which all succeeding generations derived benefit, and this
is true even till today...
Athanasius was not content just to refute Arianism, he
pursued every form of heresy, and as a result of this he wrote
his epistles about the Holy Spirit, in which he explained the true
faith concerning this Person of the divine Trinity. The zeal,
faith and holy struggle of Athanasius became proverbial, so that
when St. Hilary, Bishop of Boetia, became famous for his
defence of the faith, they called him the Athanasius of the west.
So, we wonder when we see those who look slightly upon
many points of the creed and in spite of this they claim to
be the sons of Athanasius.
Archdeacon Habib Girgis:
Habib Girgis lived during a dark period of history, in which
there were no preachers or teachers of theology. And even
lgomanus Philotheus Ibrahim, who was the only light remaining
in those days, and whose health did not allow him to finish his
mission, had passed on from our world. Habib Girgis was the
first student to join the new Theological College, in the year
1893. And at that time it had no teacher of religion!!
In his deep zeal, Habib Girgis felt that the Theological
College was his responsibility, so he began to study and to
teach his colleagues even while he was a student.
He graduated to take charge over the teaching in the college
and began to give lessons in theology and preaching. He went
on to write various spiritual books, such as, 'The Seven
Sacraments of the Church', and 'The orthodox rock', and a book
about St. Mark. He also took on the preparation of teachers of
At that time the college building was not very good, and
Habib Girgis felt that it was also his responsibility to
provide another building for it. So, full of zeal, he began to
call for this to be done, and went around the country collecting
donations, until he was able to buy some land with adequate
space around it upon which a study centre and a dormitory were
built and an institution for teachers. A library was also founded
there, and the Church of the Virgin was built, which became the
church for the students of the college before it became open to
In those days, there were no schools for church instruction,
so Habib Girgis felt again that it was his responsibility to
take care of setting up Sunday Schools. He encouraged
many people to help and participate in that field, with the result
that religious education began to forge its way, under a great
wave of enthusiasm, to reach the children of the villages. And
thousands became teachers.
Habib Girgis himself was the Deputy Director of the Supreme
Council for Sunday School teachers; its Director being, in those
days, His Holiness Pope Yuannis the 19th.
There were no programs or courses for religious instruction
in the schools either, until Habib Girgis felt it's his special
task to write text books to be used for all stages of teaching.
He set out two series for that purpose: one of them was called
'Christian principles' and the other 'The most precious treasure'.
The religious instruction they provided lacked nothing
concerning information and knowledge, and those course books
were amply illustrated. He also issued the journal "AI-Karma"
which circulated for 17 years like a teacher moving from house
to house at a high standard. It was the first paper to bring us a
translation of the sayings of the saintly Fathers.
Habib Girgis took upon himself all of this, though none of
which was officially included in his normal duties. It was
his zeal which drove him forward in all these fields, this zeal of
his which began when he was a student and continued while he
was a teacher, until he became the Dean of the Theological
College in the year 1918.
Through his zeal he was able to provide the church with
thousands of preachers and teachers of religion, and hundreds
of graduates, who went on to be consecrated as priests in all
parts of the country.
Habib Girgis' zeal was an example of zeal represented in a
deeply positive activity.
It never happened that he criticized the weak, or those who had
gone astray in his era. But if he ever found a shortcoming or
defect, he sought to remedy it, without condemning anyone. In
all respects he was a skilful builder. He dug the foundation and
laid the bases of two constructions: one of them, the
Theological College, and the other, the Sunday Schools. And
then he worked hard until both rose up and could accommodate
the children of God. This, then, was the zeal of Habib Girgis: a
constructive, effective and positive zeal.
Some Of The Desert Fathers:
We see that this holy zeal possessed even the saintly desert
Fathers who practised a life of solitude and prayer in the desert
and the desert caves.
One might perhaps argue that they had no need of it since it was
not the nature of their rank or calling to strive to save the souls
of sinners in the cities, and especially not the women who had
fallen into prostitution. Nevertheless; their holy zeal was far
stronger than to let any obstacle like this hinder them. It took
them to places where they had never been before. Nor did they
worry about 'losing' their face, if they did go to such places.
Their whole concern was focused on saving a soul for whom
Christ had died, however fallen or degraded it might be.
Perhaps in this area we can give three of the most famous
examples of holy zeal in history.
The saving of Taiis, the fallen woman
Taiis grew up in Alexandria and was very beautiful. But her
wicked mother caused her downfall by embroiling her in a life
of sin. So Taiis lived the life of a prostitute in Alexandria, and
hundreds fell to her charms. Her reputation spread everywhere
until her story reached the desert of Shihit.
St. Pisarion's heart was filled with holy zeal, not only for
the sake of saving the soul of Taiis, but also for saving those
who might fall because of her.
So the saint went disguised in plain clothes to Alexandria, to the
place where Taiis worked and was able to bring her to
repentance. She burned all her seductive clothes and
adornments in the main square, before all the crowd, and the
saint led her away to a home for Virgins where she led a life of
repentance, which saved her soul and removed her sin.
God told the news of the salvation of Taiis' soul, to St. Paul the
Modest, who told it to his spiritual holy father St. (Anba)
Antonius the Great.
The example of the saving of St. Ba'isa after she had
Ba'isa came from a devout and wealthy family in Menouf. Her
father left her a huge fortune which she began to distribute to
the poor and needy, and to the monasteries and monks too, until
she used up all her fortune. She was on the point of taking up
the solitary life of the desert, when Satan became envious of her
godliness, and contrived a snare with great cunning and deceit
to trap her, at a time when she was weak and unguarded... The
surprising thing is that he was successful, and Ba'isa fell, and
somehow ended up in a brothel !
At this point, zeal took hold of the old desert Fathers in
Shihit, who were sad to see the downfall of this saintly
woman. And so they chose St. John the Short One, to go
and save her.
So he went to where she worked as a prostitute, and recited to
her the words of the psalm: "Yea though 1 walk through the
valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are
with me..." (Ps. 23:4). And the saint was able to lead her to
repentance and take her away from that place of sin in order to
go to the desert. Her repentance was truly sincere, and God
decided to take her soul that very night. And St. John the Short
One saw her pure, spotless soul being carried by angels into the
heavens in a column of light.
The church celebrates her anniversary on the 2nd of Misra
(according to the Coptic calendar).
The saving of Mary, the niece of St. Ibrahim the
Saint Ibrahim was born in the city of Raha in Mesopotamia,
where he became a recluse. Then after the death of her parents,
the little girl Mary was put in his custody. He brought her up
with him, until she was grown up and became a recluse too,
living in a solitary cell near his.
This young girl grew in the life of saintliness, until the day came
when the enemy set a trap for her and consequently she fell.
After her downfall, Satan cast her into despair and a sense of
deep shame, so she ran away... and ended up in a brothel. When
St. Ibrahim discovered what had happened, he was overcome
with zeal to save her. And on finding out where she was, he
went to her in disguise, aided by the fervent prayers of St. Mar-
Ephram AI-Suryani. It ended up with Ibrahim rescuing her and
taking her away from that place of degradation so that she
could return to her worship, and a life of contrition and
Towards the end of her life, God honoured her with the gifts of
healing, as a sign that He had accepted her repentance.
- BACK TO MAIN MENU
- HOLY ZEAL
- CHAPTER ONE: HOLY ZEAL AND HOW IT WORKS
- Zeal Is A Fire That Burns :
- Positive Action:
- Wrestling With God:
- Encouraging Weak:
- Going Along With Them Step By Step:
- Partnership With God:
- CHAPTER TWO: MOTIVES OF HOLY ZEAL
- Love Of God And His Kingdom:
- Love Of People And Compassion For Them:
- The Example Of The Apostle Paul:
- Don't Stand By And Watch:
- The Value Of The Individual Soul:
- The Importance Of Saving Souls:
- Obstacles To Zeal:
- CHAPTER THREE: THE NECESSARY CONDITIONS OF HOLY ZEAL
- 1. Zeal Based On Knowledge:
- 2. Accompanied By A Good Lifestyle:
- 3. Constructive Not Destructive:
- 4. A Strong And Courageous Zeal:
- 5. A Fruitful And Active Zeal:
- CHAPTER FOUR: EXAMPLES OF HOLY ZEAL
- 1. God Himself:
- 2. The Angels:
- 3. The Prophet Moses:
- 4. Phinehas:
- 5. The Boy David:
- 6. The Prophet Elijah:
- 7. The Prophet Isaiah:
- 8. The Twelve Disciples:
- 9. St. Paul The Apostle:
- 10. St. Stephen:
- 11. St. Mark:
- 12. St. Athanasius:
- 13. Archdeacon Habib Girgis:
- 14. Some Of The Desert Fathers: