‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Revelations 2:2-4
This was part of the messages to the seven churches included in John’s vision while on the isle of Patmos. This was the message to the Ephesians church. It sounds like it will be a positive thing, God is aware of their works for Him. They have toiled and endured without growing weary. They have been working in His name. They don’t stand for false teachers, so they must be versed in His Word. Yet despite all the positive, what He has against them, is “they lost their first love – Him.”
Maybe they got into a work’s mentality trying to show God that through their actions, He should love them. Maybe they were so task oriented that they became driven by all the tasks and needs around the,. At some point it stopped being about service unto the Lord and just turned into labor. They became so focused on what needed to be done for the Kingdom, that they stopped focusing on the God of the Kingdom.
I’ve been there before. It took me a long time to break the religious mentality that I had to work for God’s love. At first, I didn’t even realize that was the insecurity behind my drive for excellence. It was so deeply rooted in my beliefs that He really had to call me out to open my eyes to the deceptive lifestyle I was living. Even after breaking that religious spirit off my life, I have still at times become so focused on the needs around me that I lost sight of God. I was overwhelmed with the needs of what people were facing. My cup was empty, and I had nothing good to give. Yes, I was still doing the right things in God’s name, but my focus was on the working for God, not the God of the works. My focus was no longer on allowing God to love me, and loving God in return.
Over the years, I have quickly learned how to tell when I am sliding back in to that negative behavior. I start seeing things as harder. I focus on what is lacking or wrong. I find myself complaining a lot. It sounds an awful lot like the Israelites as they left Egypt. They started focusing on what they didn’t have and quickly started saying they should have stayed as slaves. They were not focused on God their Deliverer. When I turn my attention away from God, my first love, my attention turns to me and the circumstances surrounding me. I know I am trying to serve others from an empty cup.
God is not just about us enduring until death or Christ’s return. He wants us to walk in fellowship with Him. That is what He created us for. That is why He redeemed us through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. He wants to empower us to accomplish what He created us for. He wants to empower our testimony. He never meant for us to accomplish anything without Him.
In fact, Numbers 14, shows what happens when we do. It tells about the 12 spies that came back from the promise land, two had a positive report and stood in faith that regardless of the circumstances, God was with them and they would prevail. The other ten gave a bad report, and grumbled and complained, causing all the congregation to side with them. They saw the circumstances without the empowerment of God and talked themselves out of the blessing. The ten spies with the bad report died of plagues. The people then realized their sin, and tried to do it on their own. They were defeated.
I can tell that I am trying to do things in my own strength, because even when my actions are successful; my attitude outlook, and emotions are defeated. I get really grumpy and negative. People who know me even a little can tell something is off. When my children were little, they were quick to tell me “it was time for me to go spend some time with God”. Despite my daily habits, I knew it was time for me to stop going through the motions and really get into His presence. I needed to repent and get my cup refilled because I was attempting to share with others from an empty cup.
I don’t want to make it through life without maintaining the loving relationship with God. I know my dependence on Him and don’t ever want to lose it. She when I feel like things I usually love to be part of are becoming more of a task or a burden than enjoyment. I know it’s time to stop and fill me cup. When I find myself getting grumpy or negative, I know it is time to stop and take time to get alone with God. You would be amazed what a few hours alone with Him can do for your outlook. I want to stay connected with my First Love, regardless what I am doing or what I am enduring. Intimacy with Him is the goal.
Prayer – Lord, I love You, too! Thank you for always drawing me back to relationship wiht You when I get focused on serving and pouring out. I know You never want my cup to be empty, but to serve from the overflow. You are my First Love, my First Priority. I want to accomplish everything you have placed before me, but I don’t want to do anything without You. My desire is to always stay connected with my First Love and to always serve from the overflow.