I Want To Be Like Sylvia

Outside our kitchen window a lone spider hangs in the center of her web, waiting for stray flies and small moths to snag themselves in her snare.  She’s the center of her world, sucking all things into her vortex.

That’s a picture of people before Christ saves them.  But the grace of God in Christ turns self-centered sinners into other-focused servants.

Christ “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”  Titus 2.14

Jesus didn’t sacrifice himself only to secure the pardon of our sins, as stupendous as that is.  For the cross also redeems us “from all lawlessness” – our tendency to rebel.

But God’s omnipotent grace doesn’t stop there.  It produces a people who are “zealous for good works” – passionate, fervent, earnest, and ardent to do good for the glory of Jesus.

In The Great Work of the Gospel, John Ensor tells this story:

“Sylvia Anthony’s husband died in 1987.  Before he died, the hospital supervising his care burned a hole in his stomach, making a sick man even sicker.  The hospital awarded him $90,000 for its error.  Being a generous man, he gave over half of it away before he died.  Sylvia used a little of it to bury her husband and the rest to house young unwed mothers needing transitioanal housing.  She opened her home and, when that filled up, rented another.  In two years she had spent almost all of the money, but by then enough other people had joined in to help nurse the work along.  Now called Sylvia’s Haven, it provides housing for several dozen single mothers in transition.  What compels a woman in her sixties, in the midst of her grief, to take the biggest chunk of money she ever saw and spend it on lost, sometimes drug-addicted and almost always rebellious young unwed mothers?”

What compels her is gospel grace making her zealous for good deeds.  I want to be like Sylvia.  I want to be more zealous to do good to others.

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. (RO 12.11)

Let’s pray for grace to be zealous to serve.  Let’s sieze opportunities to do any kind of good we can, be it encouraging a downcast saint, working with our children, serving in the church, reaching out to the needy or giving our money to the kingdom.

Lord Jesus, give me your zeal.  Make me zealous for my Father’s house, as you are, and zealous for good deeds.

photo by De Shark

  • Kristi

    EXCELLENT post, Mark. It makes me want to be like Sylvia too. And it makes me want to be fervent to pray for more and more grace to produce more and more zeal in me.

  • http://www.biblicalservanthood.com NP

    Great Post! I could not agree more!

  • http://racheldulaney.blogspot.com Rachel Dulaney

    This is so encouraging. Thank you!

  • http://www.theblazingcenter.com Mark Altrogge

    Kristi, NP, Rachel,

    Thanks for your encouraging comments.

  • Sarah Coiner

    I’m writing a book about adoption and would like to get in touch with Sylvia

  • http://www.theblazingcenter.com Mark Altrogge

    Hi Sarah,

    The story about Sylvia was in John Ensor’s Book The Great Work of the Gospel – How We Experience God’s Grace. I believe you can contact him at http://www.johnensor.org/ to find out about getting in touch with Sylvia.