“They zealously affect you, but not well…But it is a good thing to be zealously affected in a good thing.” (Galatians 4:17-18)
“You know, there’s just an energy about you that’s really catching!” A young woman who sometimes provides personal tutoring at the Apple store said this to me recently. I was completely taken up with the things she was showing me that would help me in my latest project of putting together some of my writings in book form. I had already shared my goal—and my testimony—with her, so she knows I am a Christian. (As it turns out, so is she.) I suppose the fact that my enthusiasm did not benefit from youth had something to do with her observation, though she was nice enough not to say so.
Someone has said, “Nothing ever happened until someone got excited.” This may not be an ironclad truism, but it is true that enthusiasm often does accompany success. There is just something about an individual who is truly caught up in an endeavor that has the ability to sweep the rest of us up into their project; and the first you know, everyone is following the leader, as it were. But there is a catch to all this enthusiasm: zeal is only a good thing if it is expended on a worthy endeavor (v.18).
Zeal is consuming and easily spent, therefore, it is important that we use it wisely. Paul told the churches of Galatia that the legalists among them displayed an impressive zeal that had affected all of them; but he added, “Not well.” It was not a good thing. There is an unenlightened enthusiasm (Rom. 10:2) that only serves to disseminate error or facilitate failure. Peter was excited about initiating a building program for monuments to past saints till God stepped in and reminded everybody who the real Celebrity was (Matt. 17:5). It doesn’t matter how enthusiastic someone is about what he or she may consider to be the will of God or even “Thus saith the Lord.” If it isn’t either one, it’s just wasted energy. Theirs and yours, if you allow them to affect you.
But on the positive side, when God has given you peace through His Word and the witness of the Holy Spirit that what you are doing is His will, not only in general, in particular for you, then… “You go, girl! Break a leg!”