"It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way." -Proverbs 19:2The words immediately struck me, causing me to pause and ponder the two extremes implicated in the verse. The first is the one explicitly stated: those who are passionate, but lacking knowledge. I think passion is a beautiful thing. Especially in today's world, when we are all too often entrapped in apathy, it is beautiful to watch someone fighting for what they believe in, taking a stand for their convictions. However, it is entirely possible (in fact, it's quite common) for people to be passionate about things that are not founded on truth; they don't have the correct knowledge as a foundation for their passion.
Take Westboro Baptist church, for example. They claim to be passionate about God. But anyone who has read the Bible all the way through can see that their hateful words and actions completely go against everything that God stands for.
Or take someone who has just been introduced to faith in Christ. Many new believers are absolutely on fire for God, and it is a wonderful thing to see. But if they do not start seeking out the truths of God, and if other Christians do not gather around them, building up their knowledge about God and His truth, they may have a lot of misconceptions about God--misconceptions that may be compounded when they try to share their faith with others.
But there is another extreme that this verse brought to mind, most likely because this is the extreme towards which I tend to lean. Rather than being someone full of zeal without knowledge, there are those who are full of knowledge, with little zeal.
I've grown up in the church my entire life. Read the Bible through, several times. And a lot of other books about God, too. Listened to a lot of sermons, a lot of Christian music. I've stored up a lot of knowledge about God over the years. And with all of that knowledge, with all of those beautiful promises that I'm aware of, you would think I would have more passion. You would think that I would be busting down people's walls to tell them how incredible my God is, that I would be pouring the love of my Savior over every person I met.
But unfortunately, what happens is, as we accumulate more and more knowledge, we start to take our knowledge for granted. God spoke the universe into existence? That's nice. Jesus died for our sins so we could be reconnected with a God who's radically in love with us? Yeah, I've heard. The Holy Spirit lives inside us, the same Spirit that lived in Jesus, a Spirit that gives us the same power and authority He had? That's cool.
Really? Really? Instead of recognizing what incredible promises we have been given, these truths are stored away in our brains as abstract concepts. We assent to His truth on an intellectual level, but we do not claim it in our daily lives.
Whether we lack knowledge, zeal, or both, it is detrimental to our spiritual health. And as such, it is also detrimental to the health of the body of Christ. Lack knowledge? Get into the Word. Get around strong Christians, mentors who really know God (not just know about Him) who can help lead you deeper into the knowledge and experience of Him. Lack passion? Spend time with God. Read your Bible, sing songs to Him, pray, listen. And ask. Ask for a renewal, an awakening, a revival. Ask for more. Get around other believers who are seeking more, who can encourage you, sharpen you.
I'm saying all this, but the truth is, there is no secret formula. There is no easy answer, no five-step program. But there is a God who always fulfills His promises. And He has promised:
"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." -Jeremiah 29:13