Fervent is a word that we don’t use very often today. You might hear of someone being a fervent advocate of a certain cause. Or of a fervent desire or a fervent hatred of something. And the word is really not used a whole lot in the New Testament.
There are two different Greek words that are translated “fervent.” One is a combination of out and stretch (extenes) and means “extended, strained, or stretched. It is also translated earnestly or eagerly. The other Greek word (zeo) means “to boil” or “to be hot” like a fever. This word is also translated fervor or zeal. Putting those two concepts together, to be fervent is to stretch yourself beyond what is expected. Rather than being lukewarm, it is the decision to keep stirring and rekindling the fire within you.
This fervent faith expresses itself in three ways in the New Testament: being fervent in spirit, fervent in prayer, and fervent in love. Collectively, they give the picture of a fervent faith on display.
You have to be fervent about being a servant. “Not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Rom. 12:11). Sometimes the Bible puts two things side by side, saying one in a negative and one in a positive to help the reader understand the meaning. Lagging behind in diligence is what the one talent man did; “you wicked, lazy slave” (Matt. 25:26) his master called him. Fervent in spirit is the exact opposite. But notice what is on the other side of that: “serving the Lord.” When was the last time you got excited about doing that? Service was the mission of Jesus. He described it as His “food.” It was the reason the Son of Man came. He was fervent about it.
Apollos was “fervent in spirit” (Acts 18:25). He was eloquent. He was educated. He was probably even named after one of the Greek gods. But what he was fervent about? Speaking out boldly in the synagogue and teaching other people about the Lord. Even after he was corrected (18:27), he didn’t let his fervor grow cold. Be just as fervent about being God’s servant. Make it your passion to extend yourself further.
You have to be fervent even in discouragement. When Peter was imprisoned and awaiting execution by Herod, "prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God” (Acts 12:5). They didn’t file a lawsuit. They didn’t stage a protest. They didn’t form a mob to take Peter by force. They met at Mary’s house to pray about it. If you don’t believe God can, why should He?
“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). Not just the prayer. Not just the prayer of the righteous. But the fervent prayer of the righteous. Do you believe Jesus was a righteous man? Why did His sweat fall as great drops of blood in the garden? Because of the intensity of His prayer; “He was praying very fervently” (Luke 22:44). When we are distressed and discouraged, are we more fervent or less fervent in prayer? Don’t let your prayer life grow cold.
You have to be fervent and keep fervent. “Fervently love one another from the heart” (1 Pet. 1:22). Our salvation puts us in a new relationship with God. It also makes us members of an instant family with brothers and sisters in the Lord. We are to have a sincere love from the heart, a fervent love for our brethren. This is the love that stretches and extends itself. This is a love from the heart. Why did the disciples fervently pray for Peter when he was in prison? Because they loved him. Why did Jesus show Himself a servant when He washed the feet of His disciples? Because the same chapter begins that He “loved them to the end” (John 13:1).
“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8). Keep fervent. Doesn’t that imply that I will be tempted to let my love grow cold? To keep fervent in love is love when people are unloving or unlovable. It is to love when it is not easy. It is to love beyond what is expected. It is to be fervent in love.
The word fervent is used in one more sense in the New Testament. When Peter described the day of judgment, he wrote that the elements will be destroyed and melt with fervent heat (2 Pet. 3:10-12). “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be?” Those with a faith that is fervent: fervent in spirit, fervent in prayer, and fervent in love.