I’m naturally a pretty laid back guy. I can turn on the silly switch from time to time and I can play the disciplinarian when need be, but laid back is my steady. That said, let's jump right in, what do us more laissez-faire personalities do when we encounter an encouragement from the Apostle Paul like this:
Romans 12:11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Does his encouragement suggest that we all be passionate, spit-as-you-talk zealots? I mean, it almost sounds like Paul is telling everyone to be more like him. We are talking about a guy who seems to have been all things bold, passionate, zealous and assertive.
But how does a laid back person or a more reserved person respond to such advice? I think we have to look closer at the exhortation for a moment.
What does it look like to be fervent (a term we don’t use often) in spirit? A spirit is a way of describing that which animates or inspires us. I have a friend who was most school-spirited in high school. He was animated by our school being the absolute best in sports. He lived for being the biggest fan at football games, was the most excited benchwarmer you've ever seen at basketball games and his clothes (or paint on his body) reflected it.
A funny example, I realize, but it illustrates that what a person cares about is going to inspire them and give them spirit.
As God’s people we are to be animated or inspired by his spirit. Our behavior should be guided by what we know of him found in Scripture. So when we read a verse like, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility consider others as more important than yourself,” it should animate us to behave in a certain way.
To be fervent in this way is to always be paying attention to exactly how a verse like that can be applied practically. Lord knows, we can all think of a dozen scenarios a day when we could drop our own ambitions for a moment and pay attention to the concerns of another.
So maybe fervent in spirit doesn’t have to be raising your Bible in the air on a street corner or having the public charisma of Tony Robbins. Maybe it can look like you working diligently at your job, and staying late to finish a task so that someone else won’t have to do it the next day. Maybe it’s not zoning out on social media, but paying real attention to your moment and how you can have a meaningful conversation with someone around you. Maybe it's coaching a youth sports team and helping draw out valuable life lessons that extend beyond the field. There’s endless examples.
So if you’re laid back like me or don’t feel like you are boiling over with charisma, know that being fervent in spirit is more than that. The verse concludes concisely ‘serve the LORD.’ We are to serve the LORD with fervor, always on the look-out for doing what God wants from us based on his Word in a moment or situation, particularly in the very common ones that make up most of our life.