“[…] I hold this against you, that you have left the love you had at first.”
If we feel our love for true worship waning, what can we do to revive it?
We can try to remember what drew us to Jehovah in the first place and what convinced us that we had found the truth.
Those reasons are probably still valid. (Ps. 119:151,152; Mal. 3:6; Jas. 1:17)
We can also meditate on what Jehovah has done for us over the years since we dedicated our lives to him.
What trials has he helped us to endure? (1 Cor. 10:13)
What blessings have we personally received as a result of obeying him? (Ps. 34:8)
We may find that the time we have available for spiritual matters has lessened due to changes in personal circumstances.
If that is the case, we can remember the struggle the Ephesians had to keep a balanced life.
Ephesus was a very wealthy city, having a long street paved in marble.
There was a temple for the Greek goddess of fertility and a stadium featuring live violent entertainment.
It was also known for its dark magical arts.
Every year, it hosted hundreds of thousands of visitors. (Ephesus; Ephesians, Letter)
The Christians who lived there towards the end of the first century were enduring despite the pressures, but what Jesus asked of them was wholehearted resolve to grow in zeal. (Rev. 2:3,5)
“[…] Jehovah knows how to rescue people of godly devotion out of trial […].”
~2 Peter 2:9
Peter knew he would die the death of a martyr, but this did not weaken his faith in Jehovah. (John 21:18; 2 Pet. 1:13-15)
He put his trust in God’s undeserved kindness and the transcendence of divine justice. (2 Pet. 1:2; 3:13,18)
We may end up in a painful life situation where we know we are to endure a strenuous trial in the near future.
This might be due to health issues or other unfair circumstances.
If we are convinced of Jehovah’s love for us, we can face our trials with courage, and we will never lose hope in God’s promises. (Rom. 8:35-39; 2 Pet. 1:10,11)
“[…] ‘No one exercising faith in it will ever be disappointed.’ It is to you, therefore, that he is precious, because you are believers […].”
~1 Peter 2:6,7
Jesus’ teachings, way of life and role as messiah were rejected by most of his contemporaries. (Luke 20:13-17; 23:18-23)
Today, many Christians endure ridicule or persecution from their families, classmates or coworkers, neighbors or from government agencies for trying to follow in Christ’s footsteps. (1 Pet. 2:21)
If others look down on us or despise our God-centered lifestyle, we can remain joyful if we hold on fast to our hope in God’s appointed king. (1 Pet. 1:6,7,24,25)
May we never disregard the value of our ministry.
“[…] God is not ashamed of them, to be called on as their God […].”
This verse leads me to wonder if I sometimes conduct myself in a way that would embarrass God because I carry his name.
Psalm 15 lists some qualities expected of friends of God: showing integrity, being honest, honoring those who deserve it, rejecting gossip, keeping our word, kindly sharing material things, and rejecting corruption.
God’s Word tells us the importance of believing in him to the point that we do not doubt his individual love for us. (Heb. 11:6)
Other qualities include being willing to make an honest living, and to not entertain ourselves with violence or other activities he hates. (Is. 33:15,16)
And while we may feel unworthy of being called God’s friend, we need humility to keep trying to meet his standards. (Ps. 16:7)
“For you need endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the fulfillment of the promise.”
The work “Insight on the Scriptures” explains that “endurance” in ancient Greek means to “stand one’s ground; persevere; remain steadfast,” and “not lose hope in the face of obstacles.”
Jesus had to wait patiently to receive his heavenly blessings after sacrificing his life, and we do well to imitate his patient attitude. (Heb. 10:12,13)
He taught that what we do towards the end of our Christian ministry counts for more than what we did at the start. (Matt. 24:13; Luke 21:19)
We demonstrate endurance when we look for strength in God’s Word and through prayer, instead of looking for quick and easy short-term solutions to our problems. (Rom. 15:4,5; Jas. 1:5)
We can then face problems with a positive attitude, knowing that without them, we would not have had a chance to demonstrate our faith/hone our Christian qualities. (Rom. 5:3-5; Jas. 1:2-4)
Though God’s promises might sometimes feel like they are too far off, endurance helps us remember that they “will not delay.” (Heb. 10:37)
“[…] Just as you are in fact walking, we request you and appeal to you by the Lord Jesus to keep doing it more fully.”
1 Thessalonians 4:1
The members of the Christian congregation in Thessalonica were not perfect.
They had moral standards and love, but could improve on both counts. (1 Thess. 4:3,4,9,10)
That is why Paul commended them while tactfully encouraging them to “pursue what is good toward one another.” (1 Thess. 5:15)
Regardless of how long it has been since we became Christians, ‘making sure of all things’ and ‘holding fast to what is fine’ is something we have to remember to do every day. (1 Thess. 5:4,6,8,21)
We cannot afford to take our faith for granted, and as long as we are imperfect, there will be things we can improve on.
“Happy is the man whose sin Jehovah will by no means take into account.”
The verse the Apostle Paul is quoting in this passage is a Psalm which continues: “In whose spirit there is no deceit.” (Ps. 32:2)
In order to benefit from the joy of being granted true forgiveness, we must first turn around from our evil course. (Eze. 33:11; Acts 3:19; Ep. 4:22-24)
This implies being humble enough to recognize the error of our ways and a willingness to put in the effort to change.
Once we have demonstrated our repentance, we are able to feel the joy that comes from being reconciled to God through Jesus. (Rom. 5:11)
The knowledge that God loves us and assumes the best in us when we try to please him can carry us joyfully through difficult times. (Rom. 5:2-6)
“[…] Because I have experienced the help that is from God, I continue to this day bearing witness to both small and great […].”
It is not easy for most Christians to put ourselves out there, knocking on strangers’ doors, or greeting others on the street.
Most of us do not naturally have a “sales personality.”
Speaking to neighbors, acquaintances, or strangers about spiritual matters requires a great deal of resiliency and tact.
Realistically, most people do not want to be approached about something so personal.
Those who do like to have spiritual conversations are usually discouraged by friends or family who are afraid they will be brainwashed. (Matt. 10:35,36)
As imperfect humans, we may also experience friction between our partners in the ministry from time to time.
But like Paul, we humbly recognize that we are only able to carry on God’s work through the strength he gives us to endure, despite our own limitations. (Matt. 24:13,14; 1 Cor. 9:19-23; Php. 4:13)
“Barnabas was determined to take along John, who was called Mark. Paul, however, was not in favor of taking him along with them […]. At this there was a sharp burst of anger, so that they separated from each other.”
All three men involved in the discord were spiritually strong and had an extraordinary record of service to God. (Acts 13:4,5)
Still, there was at least one occasion in which Paul was disappointed by Mark, and eventually, he and Barnabas had a grave argument about it.
In time, though, Mark took on more responsibilities and even wrote a gospel account of Jesus’ life, having been eyewitness to some events. (Mark 14:51,52; Phm. 23,24; 1 Pet. 5:13)
Some time prior to the completion of the gospel, Paul came to forgive Mark and even requested his company in Rome. (2 Tim. 4:11)
This account teaches us that while Christians should constantly strive to display patience and self-control, we are not perfect and from time to time, will have serious disagreements with other mature Christians. (Gal. 5:22,23)
But much like Paul, Barnabas and Mark, such disagreements should not impede our desire to continue serving Jehovah to the best of our abilities. (Acts 15:39b,40)
That a fellow believer has a differing point of view does not automatically disqualify them as a spiritually strong person.
“[…] They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and threw them outside their boundaries. […] And the disciples continued to be filled with joy and holy spirit.”
Jesus had foretold the type of joy his disciples would reap on account of persecution:
“Happy are you whenever men hate you, […] and denounce your name as wicked for the sake of the Son of man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for look! your reward is great in heaven […].” (Luke 6:22,23)
Paul and Barnabas were physically thrown out of Antioch of Pisidia by “God-fearing” women and prominent men after only about one week of preaching there.
But the many Greek-speaking new disciples were happy despite the opposition because they knew they had God’s spirit. (1 Pet. 4:14)
While some modern day Christians enjoy more freedom of worship than others, all of us undergo various trials to our faith.
Whatever we are experiencing, if we endure with a positive attitude, we will also be blessed with a feeling of joy. (Jas. 1:2,3)