How Can We Keep Our ‘First Love’?
1. During these last days, have God’s people as a whole lost the ‘love they had at first’?
“YOUR people will offer themselves willingly on the day of your military force.” (Psalm 110:3) As this prophecy foresaw, God’s servants today have been vigorous in doing his will, holding fast to their first love for Jehovah. As an organized people, Jehovah’s Witnesses have maintained their enthusiasm and zeal for his service all through this difficult “conclusion of the system of things.”—Matthew 24:3, 14.
2, 3. (a) Why may an individual lose his ‘first love’? (b) If we find such an attitude developing in us, what should we do?
2 Nevertheless, it is possible for an individual Christian to lose the love he had at first. Day-to-day problems may lead him to forget the great things Jehovah has done for him. He may get tired of waiting for Jehovah’s purposes to be fulfilled and may start to be attracted by the material advantages the world offers, or may perhaps feel a need to spend more time in recreation than he once did. Christian responsibilities, such as attendance at meetings or assemblies, preparing talks and sharing in field service may start to feel burdensome.
3 If we find such attitudes developing in us, we should follow Jesus’ counsel to the congregation in Ephesus, so as to cultivate again ‘the love we had at first,’ striving to “do the former deeds.” (Revelation 2:4, 5) We should realize that we need to regain our former fervent love for Jehovah and our zeal and enthusiasm for his service. How can we do that?
Cultivate a Love for Jehovah
4. How can we imitate the psalmist’s fine attitude? (Psalm 119:97)
4 The inspired psalmist said: “How I do love your law! All day long it is my concern.” (Psalm 119:97) What a fine way to feel about God’s law! It is far more rewarding to serve Jehovah with an attitude like that than to have to keep forcing ourselves to do what we know is right. We need to develop a desire to do what is right, to do it because we want to.—Psalm 25:4, 5.
5. (a) What did Paul recommend to protect our spirituality? (b) How can we preserve its effectiveness?
5 Satan would like to pressure us into losing our ‘first love,’ for he is the greatest enemy of our spirituality. To oppose him, the apostle Paul urged the Ephesians to put on “the complete suit of armor from God.” (Ephesians 6:13) Included in that armor are four vital Christian features: truth, righteousness, faith and the hope of salvation. (Ephesians 6:14-17; 1 Thessalonians 5:8) Of course, we learn about these features when we first come into the congregation. But metallic armor can become rusty if it is not maintained. Similarly, if we do not maintain these essentials, our spiritual armor will deteriorate and fail to protect us adequately. At all costs, we must prevent that from happening.
Study and Meditate
6. How did one missionary solve the problem of maintaining his spirituality while in prison?
6 In 1958 the missionary Stanley Jones began to serve seven years in solitary confinement in prison in China. How did he keep his love for Jehovah strong while isolated from his Christian brothers without even a Bible? He reports that he wrote down all the scriptures he could remember and added to these any Bible quotations he could find in the “religion” columns of newspapers that were sometimes sent to him. Thus he built up a reservoir of Bible texts that formed the basis of a personal study and meditation program. Surrounded by people opposed to his beliefs, he knew that if he failed to keep his heart and mind filled with God’s thoughts, his faith would quickly become dull.
7. What pressures do we face, and how must we protect ourselves from them?
7 True, most of us are not in prison. Nevertheless, for much of the time we are exposed to the thinking of this world. The entertainment that the world offers, while not always directly opposed to Christian principles, certainly does not promote such things as truth, righteousness, faith and the hope of salvation. Hence, if we do not spend time fortifying our hearts and minds, we will likely become weak spiritually and our love will grow cold.
8. What blessing comes to the person who studies God’s Word and meditates on it?
8 If we do spend time fortifying ourselves by means of personal study and meditation, we will be like the man whose “delight is in the law of Jehovah” and who reads in that law in an undertone day and night. The psalmist says of such a man: “He will certainly become like a tree planted by streams of water, that gives its own fruit in its season and the foliage of which does not wither, and everything he does will succeed.”—Psalm 1:2, 3.
9. How can we develop a love of studying the Bible and meditating on it? (Psalm 77:11, 12)
9 Realistically speaking, many of us are not naturally inclined to study. Yet, if we want to, we can train ourselves to enjoy studying. Think of someone who takes up the pastime of jogging. At first his muscles will probably ache. Gradually, though, his body will adjust, and soon, if he perseveres, the jogger will enjoy his exercise. Paul told Timothy: “Be training yourself with godly devotion as your aim.” (1 Timothy 4:7) Studying the Bible is a part of godly devotion. (Proverbs 2:1-6) At first it may take discipline to get down to it. Soon, though, we will find real interest in learning new points or in getting a deeper understanding of things we already know. Our study will then give us genuine pleasure.—Psalm 119:103, 104.
10. Why is study material covered more than once in study aids?
10 Some may feel that since they know the basic doctrines of the Bible they no longer need to spend time on personal study. They may even complain when similar material is covered more than once in Bible study publications. Yet the Bible speaks of the need for reminders. (Psalm 119:95, 99; 2 Peter 3:1; Jude 5) If we do not keep reminding ourselves of the truth, of God’s righteous standards, of our faith and our hope of salvation, our heart will be influenced by other things.
11. What are some things that Paul discussed in his letter to the Ephesians?
11 Consider Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. He reminded them of what their situation had been before they became Christians, and he spoke about the organization of which they were now a part. (Ephesians 2:12; 4:4-6, 17, 18) He mentioned Jehovah’s wonderful purpose for mankind and man’s part in relation to that purpose. (Ephesians 1:8-12; 2:4-6) And he reminded them of Christian principles that would help them to be successful in the family and in the congregation.—Ephesians 4:1, 2; 5:21–6:4.
12. Why did Paul tell the Ephesians things that they already knew?
12 Some of what Paul wrote may have been new to the Ephesian Christians, but much of it must have covered what they had heard before. Nevertheless, Paul wanted to remind them of these matters and perhaps provide fresh insight into them. Thus he helped the Ephesians to refurbish their spiritual armor and to “grasp mentally with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth.”—Ephesians 1:15-17; 3:14-19.
13, 14. (a) How will study and meditation help us? (b) What further items are included in the “suit of armor from God”?
13 Our personal study, too, will refresh us and enrich our understanding of many basic points, as well as help us to grasp the deeper things of God’s Word. (1 Corinthians 2:10) In this way, our “suit of armor from God” will prevent Satan from making us lose our fervent love for Jehovah and his Son.
14 Among other things, the apostle Paul mentioned two other features of our spiritual armor that we have not yet discussed. He said that Christians should have their “feet shod with the equipment of the good news of peace” and that they should accept “the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word.” (Ephesians 6:11-17) How do these features help us to maintain the ‘love we had at first’?
Stay Active in Kingdom Preaching
15. What novel way did one imprisoned missionary find to have “plenty to do in the work of the Lord”? (1 Corinthians 15:58)
15 When, in 1958, the missionary Harold King began to serve four and a half years in prison in China, he faced the same problem as Stanley Jones: how to keep his ‘first love,’ his deep devotion to Jehovah, alive. He reports: “To keep alive my appreciation of spiritual things, I arranged for a program of ‘preaching’ activity.” He worked up some Bible sermons from the scriptures he remembered and preached to imaginary characters. Eventually, he conducted an imaginary Bible study. The result? When he was released, he was ready and eager to preach to real people again!
16. What is one important reason why we should be busy in Jehovah’s service?
16 His was a novel way of applying an important truth: To remain spiritually healthy we have to keep busy in God’s service. The apostle Peter said: “Brace up your minds for activity.” (1 Peter 1:13) And the apostle Paul exhorted: “Become steadfast, unmovable, always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord.”—1 Corinthians 15:58.
17. What was noteworthy about faithful Christians in the Philadelphia congregation?
17 It is noteworthy that while the Christians in Ephesus had allowed the ‘love they had at first’ to cool off, those of another congregation in the neighborhood had kept busy, and their love was still strong. Jesus said to the faithful congregation in Philadelphia: “I know your deeds—look! I have set before you an opened door, which no one can shut.”—Revelation 3:8.
18. What activity will help to keep our ‘first love’ alive?
18 What deeds will help a modern-day witness of Jehovah to maintain the ‘love he had at first’? Among others, deeds in harmony with Jesus’ command: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations.” (Matthew 28:19) Harold King realized the importance of this. So did the apostle Paul. That is why Paul advised the Ephesians to have their “feet shod with the equipment of the good news of peace” and to be equipped with “the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word.”
19. How does preaching, which is a proof of our zeal, also build up our zeal?
19 There is a close relationship between zeal and the work of preaching and making disciples. True, zeal makes us want to do this work. But the preaching work will, in turn, stimulate our zeal. After preaching to a Samaritan woman, Jesus told his followers: “My food is for me to do the will of him that sent me.” (John 4:34) Teaching the truth had nourished him, built him up. Similarly, when we speak to others about God’s Kingdom, this impresses vital facts on our mind and heart and builds up our skills in defending the truth. (1 Peter 3:15) Furthermore, as God’s spirit supports us in this work, we become “aglow with the spirit” and see it working on others.—Romans 12:11.
20. How do preaching and personal study work together to keep us strong?
20 Is preaching to others a substitute for personal study? No. A balance is needed between these two activities. If we eat plenty of physical food but get no exercise, ultimately our body suffers. On the other hand, if we get a lot of exercise without eating enough food, eventually we ‘burn out’ physically. Similarly, if we engage in much personal study without preaching to others, we are likely to become unbalanced. The apostle Peter associated “activity” with ‘keeping our senses.’ (1 Peter 1:13) If we preach to others without doing personal study—especially if the people we preach to are not very responsive—then we may ‘burn out.’ However, if we engage in personal study and then go out and tell others what we have learned, we will remain spiritually healthy.
Buy Out Time
21, 22. (a) What large obstacle has Satan raised to our maintaining our ‘first love’? (b) How did Paul recommend that the Ephesians overcome this obstacle, and why should we follow his counsel?
21 Stanley Jones, describing one of the biggest problems he faced in prison, said: “I had so much time on my hands.” His problem was exactly the opposite of that experienced by many of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Most of us are chronically short of time. Why is this? The apostle John said: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) Satan’s world keeps people so busy constantly that they have little opportunity to think, let alone study. We are no part of the world, but we certainly do feel the effects of its way of life. Using its influence, the “wicked one” would like to keep us so busy that our service to God would be crowded out.
22 Paul recognized this problem and gave the Ephesians this valuable counsel: “Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked. On this account cease becoming unreasonable, but go on perceiving what the will of Jehovah is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17) If we fail to buy out time to do “the will of Jehovah,” the pressure of living in these ‘wicked days’ is likely to cause our love to cool off.
23. What kind of personal study and preaching activity will help to keep our ‘first love’ alive?
23 True, some Christians have heavy obligations or are sick and thus are quite limited as to what they can do in God’s service. (Luke 21:1-4) But in harmony with Paul’s counsel to Christian slaves, whatever we can do should be done in a “whole-souled” manner. (Ephesians 6:5, 6) Personal study will never be enjoyable if we snatch just a few minutes for it between television programs. Similarly, our field ministry will hardly keep our ‘first love’ and zeal alive if we spend merely a token hour or two in it each month between periods of recreation.—Compare 1 Timothy 4:8.
Pray for Help
24. What further vital aid to our spirituality did Paul mention to the Ephesians?
24 Ending his discussion of “the complete suit of armor from God,” Paul urged fellow believers to accept “the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word, while with every form of prayer and supplication you carry on prayer on every occasion in spirit.” (Ephesians 6:17, 18) If we keep in close contact with Jehovah by prayer, we will not lose our ‘first love,’ even though we have to endure many pressures or, like John, have served many years in this system of things. Paul said in another letter: “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.”—Philippians 4:13.
25. In summary, what provisions has Jehovah made to help us avoid losing ‘the love we had at first’?
25 Most of us get tired from time to time. But Jesus’ message to the Ephesian congregation shows that we can and must avoid losing the ‘love we had at first.’ As Jehovah helped the Ephesians by means of Paul, Timothy and others, he is helping us today through his organization. If, in turn, we train ourselves to enjoy study and meditation and ‘brace up our mind’ for the fine activity of telling others what we learn, while praying to Jehovah for help to persevere in doing his will, then we are doing a fine work. In keeping with what the apostle Paul told the Galatians, “let us not give up in doing what is fine, for in due season we shall reap if we do not tire out.”—Galatians 6:9.
How Would You Answer?
□ If we do not schedule time to study and meditate on God’s Word, what may happen to our love for Jehovah?
□ Why is it valuable for us to study not only new truths but also truths and principles that we have heard before?
□ Why is preaching to others vital to our maintaining our ‘first love’?
□ How do study and preaching activity work together in keeping us spiritually healthy?
□ Why should we never neglect prayer as we strive to maintain the ‘love we had at first’?
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Study can be enjoyable, and it keeps our love for God fresh
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Talking to others about the truth strengthens our love for Jehovah