Be zealous and keep spiritual fervor: Rom. 12:11; Gal. 6:9

We are in Week 16 of our examination of Benedict of Nursia’s rules for Christian formation.  This week we’ll look at Rule 4.38: Be zealous and keep spiritual fervor, which seems particularly apropos given this is the week of Pentecost Sunday.  On this Sunday, we take time to celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and all that means for us as believers, and it can be a time for us to reflect and remember the joy of encountering the power of the Holy Spirit for the first time. But if I am being honest, that’s not where I live on a daily basis.  For every mountain top experience, there’s a corresponding valley, and it can feel like the valleys are a lot deeper and wider than the mountains.  So, how do we maintain spiritual fervor in our lives?

In both of the passages cited with this rule, Paul juxtaposes what we are to avoid with what we are to embrace. We are warned to avoid spiritual lethargy and are encouraged to instead continually stoke the flame of spiritual fervor.  But again, how does that work?  It may seem odd, but I think a little science lesson can be instructive for us.  Newton’s First Law of Motion states, “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”  We commonly refer to this tendency as inertia, and we observe it every day.  For example, consider for a moment a tractor trailer on an interstate.  What takes more energy: getting that large truck up to 70 mph or maintaining that truck’s speed once it has gotten there?  The law of inertia tells us that when the truck is at rest, it wants to stay at rest, and when the truck is in motion, it wants to stay in motion.  Thus, getting up to speed takes more energy than maintaining speed.

The same holds true for us spiritually.  Because of sin, we are born in a state of spiritual inertia with no tendency to move towards God, and the forces of Satan, hell, and this world are working hard to keep us in place.  Thanks be to God that through the gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, God has applied an unbalanced force upon us sending us on a trajectory towards him.  However, we must be mindful of the fact that the forces that want us to stay at rest remain in place.  It is up to us to keep our foot on the accelerator, unleashing the power of the Holy Spirit to keep up the spiritual momentum in our lives, driving us deeper into our relationship with the Father.  And we keep our foot on the accelerator through the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, service, and gathering together.

Just as it is much harder to get that giant truck up to speed than it is to maintain that speed once attained, so it is for us in our spiritual journey.  This is why it is so important for us to maintain our spiritual fervor.  It is much easier for us to maintain spiritual disciplines than it is to acquire them. And it is those spiritual disciplines that give us the momentum to climb up out of the valley back towards the mountain top.  As we journey forward on this ancient path, let’s encourage one another to keep our collective foot on the gas.


  1. Take a moment to assess your spiritual momentum.  Would you say that you are at a point in your spiritual journey where you are accelerating towards Christ, do you feel as if you’re losing your momentum?
  2. Think of a time when you might have had a “mountain top experience” with God.  What precipitated that experience?  What spiritual habits did you maintain at that time?  
  3. If you are in a place where you feel as if you have lost your spiritual momentum, what’s different?  What are some actions you can take to rekindle the power of the Holy Spirit in your life?