We have all experienced the thrill and excitement of the times when we have, or are, experiencing a tangible experience of God’s blessing, but sometimes the mood music changes and we find ourselves walking with God in times of lethargy, trying to find strength and purpose.
In these moments, we can sometimes feel like our enthusiasm and motivation has been sapped, and it can be hard to stay connected to God when we are feeling so down. What do we do?
It can be the saddest moment of our lives. Those are the moments when we need to remind ourselves that God is always with us, and we still have a close relationship with Him, despite not feeling it. It’s called faith – and God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
We can do this by taking time every day to pray or read the Bible, or simply to be still and aware of God’s presence. It’s not about how much time, but making some time! Doing it is better than thinking about it. Only by truly knowing God can we begin to understand the depth and breadth of His love for us, and it is in these difficult times that we truly begin to appreciate His grace and strength, especially as we come through looking backwards at His unseen help, protection and provision. In prayer, we have nothing to lose, but the expression “You have not because you ask not!” is a great admonition.
But, it might be you face the challenge of Revelation 2:4 where the Ephesus Church had pressed on in hard work, diligence, perseverance and hardship, not for a moment grown weary but one thing for them was amiss, and it was the most important of all, and God was holding it against them. They had abandoned the love they had at first. (ESV)
They had “ἀφῆκας” (left) their first love. Stunned silence, drop the mic.
Before I share five verses that will ignite faith and hope in your heart we need to address the challenge of this verse from Revelation 2:4.
It is not uncommon for us to face many challenges ranging from fatigue, mental health issues, problems with other people, things, the environment, the lack of inclusion in groups, the lack of inspiration, but one issue far outweighs all of the others, and it can be addressed – having left our first love.
Jesus is addressing the Church in Ephesus in Revelation 2:4 and says that despite their great qualities, He had something against them. Imagine the wide-eyed look on their faces at this point!
They had “ἀφῆκας” (left) their first love. Stunned silence, drop the mic.
The Greek word for “left” in Revelation 2:4 is “ἀφῆκας”. It is a form of the verb “ἀφίημι” which means “to leave, forsake, or abandon.” It is a severe expression; in fact, it can be used of divorce, so this word is quite striking.
- You don’t have as much love as you used to. (CEV)
- I have something against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. (KJV)
- I have this against thee, that thou didst leave thy first love. (ASV)
- I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first (ESV)
- I hold this against you, that you do not love as you did at first (JBP)
- I have this against you: You have departed from your first love! (NET)
- I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! (NLT)
It carries the idea of having deserted or deserted something that was once cherished, and for the church in Ephesus suggests they have left their “first love” for God; no longer keeping the same fervour and devotion to God that they had when they first became believers.
By itself this is alarming but the good news is that Jesus is the very one who’s drawing attention to the lack of love and is inviting the church to remember their first love, repent and do the works they did at first. And by doing so, their lamp will be re-lit again. It’s the One who loves them, looking for the love to be reciprocated.
Keep that sense of fervour
It’s possible for believers to become complacent in their faith and to lose sight of the love and devotion that they once had for God. When this happens, it can lead to feelings of spiritual emptiness and a sense of disconnection from God. The message from Jesus to the church in Ephesus who He loves very much, is also a reminder to all Christians to be vigilant and not to lose sight of the love and devotion that they have for God.
To keep the same fervour and love as when we first believed, is an ongoing process that requires effort, dedication and commitment to maintaining a close relationship with God, through prayer, reading the word, and other spiritual fruits and gifts but it’s also important to remember we are not alone in this process, and that the Holy Spirit is there to guide and support us. He understands the struggles and hardships we face and offers us the compassion, empathy, and support we need.
The Holy Spirit helps – we are never left alone
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to help us grow in our faith and understanding of God, and to empower us to live a life that is pleasing to him. As we actively pursue a deeper relationship with God, the Holy Spirit can work within us to help us overcome feelings of despondency and lethargy. He can give us the strength, wisdom, and perspective we need to navigate difficult times and to find hope and meaning in our lives.
That really important, life-sustaining, grace-filled work of the Holy Spirit is not something that can be controlled or forced. It is a work of grace that occurs in His own time, and at His own pace. It is important for us to be open and receptive to the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives and be patient with the process. Sometimes all that requires is a “Please help me Lord!” prayer.
It’s important to take care of yourself by eating healthy (i.e not just salad!), exercising and getting enough rest, as well as seeking pastoral or counselling help if you’re having serious or prolonged feelings of hopelessness or helplessness. Remember the way the angel dealt with Elijah; food and sleep. That might be all you need. Not a box set on cable, but a good rest – and then get around people!
I promised you some verses of encouragement:
1. Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Reminding us that no matter what challenges we face, God’s love for us is constant and unshakeable.
2. Psalm 34:17: “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.”
Reminding us that we can turn to God in prayer and trust that he will hear us and provide the help we need.
3. Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”
Reminding us that with God’s help, we are capable of overcoming any obstacle or challenge.
4. Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Reminding us that God is with us and will provide the strength and support we need to face any situation.
5. Matthew 7:7: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Reminding us that we can turn to God in prayer and trust that he will provide the guidance and help we need.
Turning to Jesus is important because he is the one who offers us salvation and the promise of eternal life and provides us with comfort, hope, and strength in the midst of our struggles and challenges. When we turn to Jesus, we can find the help and guidance we need to navigate difficult times and find healing and peace.
Jesus fully understands our human experiences, as he himself was fully human and faced many of the same challenges and temptations that we do. He understands the struggles and hardships we face and offers us the compassion, empathy, and support we need.
When we turn to Jesus, He is able to provide us with the strength and courage we need to face our struggles and overcome them, giving us the hope and peace we need to find joy and meaning in our lives, even in the midst of difficult circumstances.
If you are looking for a way to find comfort, hope, and strength, look no further than Jesus. Our lives are not promised to be easy, but with faith in Jesus, we can find a peace and hope that will sustain us through even our toughest times.