Let us not allow slackness to spoil our work and let us keep the fires of the spirit burning, as we do our work for God. (Romans 12:11)
Verse 11 says that the exercise of grace affects the way we act. This is one place where a other translations can be helpful. The King James Version says, “Not slothful in business.” The New American Standard says, “Not lagging behind in diligence.” However, the New International Version is probably the closest to the intent when it says, “Never be lacking in zeal.” You see, what Paul is talking about is the enthusiasm and intensity with which we live our lives. We can walk around with our heads hanging down, or we can walk with our heads held high! Oh, not arrogantly and pridefully, but rather with confidence and joy. Knowing that our Lord reigns! One of the marks of a Christian is that he has an enthusiasm for life. A Christian may be down, but he should never be defeated. Just how zealous we are to be is indicated by the next phrase, “keep your spiritual fervor.” The word used here means “to boil.” We must keep our spirits at the boiling point. That’s how we will find ourselves “serving the Lord.” I like what the New English Bible says, “With unlagging energy, in ardor of spirit, serve the Lord.” We should be excited about our relationship with the living God. Serving the Lord is exciting business. The idea that too much enthusiasm is wrong is just plain baloney. A fervent spirit is contagious.
Also, with so much at stake, a Christian can never be lazy or lukewarm, indifferent or apathetic. When you see a need, you are moved to meet that need. You call the “ministers” to take care of it, you go and meet that need!
You can’t live an isolated life. You must mesh your life as closely as possible with other believers. No snobbery. No privileges. All together, sharing the same ideas (the Apostles doctrine), the same friends (fellowship), the same practices (breaking of bread), and the same religious habits (public prayers).
Several years ago I listened to a young couple talk about the passage that says if you have two coats, to give to him who has none. Well, they had recently realized that they were now over the median income of the other church members, so they were a two-coat family now, and that gave them the responsibility of caring for the others.
They also remembered that while the husband was in college, they were the ones with no-coat; and many times believers would slip them money or put a bag of groceries in the back door. They had increased their giving within the church, but were also looking for folks who needed their help.
Others have reached out to my wife and me with assistance during our times of difficulty. People have left groceries for us as well. During a time of very serious financial need, we received several thousand dollars from different brothers and sisters.
Patrice and I in turn have reached out to help other families with groceries, or money or simply a shoulder on which to cry. Sometimes our service was something as simple as letting a college student use one of our cars for a trip home or providing leftover carpeting to cover the floor of a single mother’s bathroom. Our rule has always been that if we see a need, then the Lord must want us to do something about it. The funny thing is that we never consider whether we can afford it. Our Brothers need is all that matters, and somehow our Father has always provided the means.
We had provided the deposit for a single mom to move into a bigger apartment, that was more suitable for her young son. We never once ask her to return the funds, but when she was able, she did indeed return them. We also provided babysitting with it needed.
Look, we are not “Rockefellers.” We have limited means, as well. We simply read Romans 12:13 which The Living Bible paraphrases as: “When God’s children are in need, you be the one to help them out.” My wife and I take this quite literally! It doesn’t say to call the Pastor or the Elders of the church. It makes no mention of calling the ministry team. It calls for you to help them. In Charles Swindoll’s book, For those that Hurt, his number one recommendation is to get your eyes off your own problems and begin to help others out of their problems.
Sharing in the family of God is a sure sign that your faith is authentic, and the Grace is active in your life. I love it when we can get so comfortable with each other that we can think, “Hey, this sweater doesn’t fit me very well any more, I think Scott could use it.” It is not about who is richer and who is poorer as we use the word charity these days: it is charity in its old usage—just pure love in the Body!
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome