Zeal Without Knowledge

Colonel David Hackworth died of bladder cancer today. He was one of the most decorated veterans in U.S. history and spent the retired portion of his life working as an outspoken advocate forf the American soldier. I respected Colonel Hackworth and being a Vietnam era veteran who lost a brother during the TET offensive, I appreciated his knowledgeable and plain spoken advocacy. The colonel had no truck with BS of any sort.

While reading one of his last columns, A Watershed Event, I found a quote he included by U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, a member of the ill-fated hostage rescue attempt in Iran in 1980, extremely relevant.

I keep a photo of the carnage that night to remind me that we should never confuse enthusiasm with capability. Eight of my comrades lost their lives. Those of us who survived knew grief … we knew failure – but we committed ourselves to a different future.

We should never confuse enthusiasm with capability. That is very reminiscent of Paul’s statement about his Jewish brethren in Romans 10:2.

For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.

It also sheds light on the problem in Acts 19 where demons are zealously challenged by those unprepared to deal with them.

Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them. Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so.

    And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I
    know, and Paul I know; but who are you?”

Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them] so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. Acts19:11-20

The watchword I am taking out of this is match your enthusiasm which adequate preparation for the one with whom we contend is not some misguided, bumbling failure. Failure at rebellion against God, yes, but he has been very successful against those throughout history who thought they could easily control or vanquish him.

There is nothing more dangerous (to himself and to his fellow soldiers) than a Marine right out of boot camp, full of zeal and just enough knowledge to make some serious mistakes. Its corollary is a new or reenergized Christian who is out to change the world for Christ, all full of zeal with very little practical knowledge. One of the great lessons of Church history is the apprenticeship of Paul, a very learned Pharisee, who despite all that knowledge went through a long apprenticeship in the faith before he began the mission for which he had been apprehended by Christ.

There are an increasing number of Christians who believe we are approaching a culminating period of human history and that the war between heaven and hell will reach its zenith. I don’t know if that is true or not, but some sort of approaching nexus point appears to be obvious. What is important and constitutes the point I want to make is how far along are you in your Christian apprenticeship; how prepared are you to meet the challenges that appear to be coming full throttle at us?

Please, read, study and prepare. Put on the full armor of God and be ready in season and out of season so that when you are called to step forward your enthusiasm will be marked with capability. Do your part, and then look to God to his part, meeting every weakness with strength and every failure with forgiveness.

Grace and peace to your day and diligent preparation to your life in Christ.