The handsome Moldovan couple had been married for 52 years. Upon meeting them you wouldn’t know they had been persecuted for their faith. Despite being raised in then-communist Moldova, both Mikhail and Olga were raised in Christian homes and came to a personal relationship with Christ as children. As a young man serving in the Soviet army, Mikhail faced ridicule and beatings from his comrades because of his faith in Jesus while two of his brothers spent time in prison for their roles as pastors.
Olga’s English was excellent, and during my recent visit to Moldova I was able to talk with her about the old days before the Iron Curtain fell when the church was persecuted. Every day, she said, they lived with the prospect of the KGB coming and taking them away. Every day, she said, they would ask God to bring freedom to Moldova. Olga went on to tell me how excited they were when independence came to Moldova in 1991.
After twenty years of freedom, Olga said she still thanked God for delivering them. Nevertheless, she did say that freedom had one negative effect for the church. She struggled for a moment to find the right English word to express her thoughts, but then it came to her. She said, “we have lost our zeal.” Olga explained that when the church was persecuted they experienced the fire of the Holy Spirit constantly. They had to rely on God when social ostracism, prison, or even death were potential realities. Now, however, a real consequence of freedom was apathy in the church.
Olga’s story stuck with me. I was convicted because I don’t know that I have ever had the same kind of “zeal” as an American Christian that Olga missed in the Moldovan church. I’ve never had to live daily with the prospect of punishment or persecution because of my faith.
In Titus 2:14 we are told that Jesus Christ gave Himself to redeem us and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. The idea behind being “zealous” is to be eager or enthusiastic. As a disciple, being zealous to do good works is the only fitting response to the grace of God that saves. It shouldn’t take a totalitarian regime and an underground church to make us zealous. Zeal for Christ ought to be the normal mindset of the disciple.
Flying home, somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean a question came to my mind. When, I wondered, did the church in America lose her zeal? But then I asked myself, did we ever really have it?
So, are you “zealous” for good works? Are you eager and enthusiastic to live out the life of a disciple? What would it take to drive you to depend daily on God’s grace? Pray for revival in the American church. Pray for a spiritual awakening that will restore that same zeal back to Olga’s church, too.