What is the Most Important Aspect of Christian Living?
Going through the messages of the 7 churches in Revelation, I stood back and looked at what message Jesus was trying to portray to each one of them. Wow! It filled my heart with adrenaline. This experience has been an eye-opener to me, and I would like to share this experience with you.
In our day and world, each church in our society is urged to ask themselves: What kind of church do we have here? Are we like the church in Smyrna or the church in Pergamos or maybe more like the church of Ephesus? Jesus has a message for each of these churches. A message of encouragement, but also a message urging them to refocus on what is truly important. Those messages are vital for our churches as well!
Today we will focus on the message addressed to Ephesus.
“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance.” (Rev 2:2a, NIV2)
“You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.” (Rev 2:3, NIV2)
This is a church that many would love to attend. If our church was at least like that, what an impact we would have in our society! It is a persevering church, one that endures hardships without ever giving up. It is a church whose emphasis is on hard work. Wow!
As we read further, we are entirely shocked. How could this be? Is it even possible?
“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.” (Rev 2:4, NIV2)
How could a church like this have wandered away from Christ’s love? After all, they are working so hard at it, don’t they at least show the love of Christ? Doesn’t God’s Word say: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9, NIV)
It’s then that my Heavenly Father brought back to me memories of when my earthly dad was still alive. I loved him, and I really do miss him. Still, his life wasn’t perfect, and it serves as an excellent example of what the message to the Ephesian church truly means.
My dad had one purpose in life: to provide for the needs of his family. It was an honorable goal, driven by his love for each one of us.
He had never been close to his own parents, and the things he held against them were things he made sure that we didn’t experience. While he was still a tiny, suckling baby, his mother became pregnant with twins. When she gave birth, one of the babies was stillborn. My dad was blamed for this, and consequentially, his own father couldn’t tolerate him.
He eventually met my mom, and he was proud to have two sons of his own. When I look to the pictures of my childhood, I can see how close he used to be to all of us. His priority was his family, and he loved each one of us.
The responsibilities of life kept him quite occupied, however, and he found himself working longer and longer hours. He was not a quitter, and his perseverance during duress was exemplary. But as work became his priority, we began to see less and less of him. Of course there were still the 2-week family vacations, when he would put aside his work for a while. But these two weeks each year weren’t enough to truly have a personal relationship with him.
Little by little he and my mother drifted apart, and she turned her sole focus to her children. She was always faithful to him, but he became a stranger to her. Eventually my parents became so estranged that when my father passed away, my mother didn’t even cry. Although I knew he loved her deeply, but it just wasn’t evident to my mom any longer.
We were all aware that my father made his work a priority because he wanted to provide for all of our needs. Nevertheless, we would have enjoyed his company more than we enjoyed being financially stable.
Imagine how our Heavenly Father feels when we become so busy working that we don’t have time to spend quality time with Him? Often that work is done in God’s name, yet does it satisfy our relationship with our Maker? Doesn’t it leave us feeling completely empty when our focus is misplaced? Imagine how God feels!
I wonder if this is why Jesus announces boldly: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me . . .'” (Matthew 7:22-23, NIV)
Work isn’t what is most important. Our relationship with our Maker and Savior is. When we experience His love by dwelling in His presence, we won’t be able to stop from not only loving Him back, but loving others as well! Only through Him can we have an impact on our neighborhood. Love should be our main motive. Our ministry is worthless without this main ingredient.
What should we do when we find ourselves in such a church? Jesus advices us to “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” (Revelation 2:5, NIV) We should come back to that love that drove us to His presence in the first place, and focus solely on Him. Dwell in His love and follow His leading. He will help us make mountains move, through His love!
“Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed-that exhilarating finish in and with God-he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! (Hebrews 12:2-3, MSG)
(To access the entire, “A Study on the Seven Churches of Revelation” devotional series, please click here.)