Keep “the Love You Had at First”
“Keep on holding fast what you have.”
1, 2. How did you feel when you became convinced that what you were learning about Jehovah was the truth?
DO YOU remember when you first learned about the wonderful prospect that Jehovah offers to obedient mankind? If you formerly practiced another religion, how did you feel when God’s purposes were explained to you in the light of Scripture or when teachings that were once difficult to understand were clarified? Perhaps you realized that you had been misled. But how you rejoice now that you have been enlightened! If you were raised by Christian parents, do you recall how you felt when you became convinced that what you were learning about Jehovah was the truth and you decided to live in harmony with it?
2 Many of your spiritual brothers will tell you that they felt elated, close to Jehovah, and grateful that he had drawn them. (John 6:44) Their happiness moved them to share in Christian activities. They were so full of joy that they wanted to share what they felt with everyone. Did you have a similar experience?
3. What situation existed in the Ephesian congregation when Jesus sent them a message?
3 When addressing the first-century Christian congregation in Ephesus, Jesus spoke of “the love you had at first.” The Ephesians had many good qualities, yet the love they once manifested for Jehovah had waned. Hence, Jesus told them: “I know your deeds, and your labor and endurance, and that you cannot bear bad men, and that you put those to the test who say they are apostles, but they are not, and you found them liars. You are also showing endurance, and you have borne up for my name’s sake and have not grown weary. Nevertheless, I hold this against you, that you have left the love you had at first.”
4. Why is Jesus’ message to the Ephesians relevant today?
4 Jesus’ counsel to the Ephesians and to other congregations he addressed in the book of Revelation has been fitting in view of conditions that existed for a time among anointed Christians from 1914 on. (Rev. 1:10) Yet, it is possible that even now some Christians may lose “the love [they] had at first” for Jehovah and for Christian truth. With that in mind, let us examine how by recalling and meditating on your own experiences, you can maintain, refresh, and build on the love and the zeal you first felt for God and the truth.
What Convinced You of the Truth?
5, 6. (a) Of what must each Christian convince himself? (b) What convinced you that Jehovah’s Witnesses teach the truth? (c) What can help a person to refresh the love he had at first?
5 Everyone who makes a dedication to Jehovah has first to “prove” to himself what is “the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rom. 12:1, 2) In part, that involves learning Bible truth. What convinces one person that Jehovah’s Witnesses teach the truth may differ from what convinces another. Some recall that a turning point came when they read the divine name in the Bible or when they understood what the true condition of the dead is. (Ps. 83:18; Eccl. 9:5, 10) What impressed others was the love among Jehovah’s people. (John 13:34, 35) Still others reasoned on what it means to be no part of the world. They concluded that true Christians cannot share in the political controversies or the wars of any nation.
6 For many, these reasonings and others were what kindled their first love for God. Take the time to recall what convinced you of the truth. You are an individual with unique circumstances and characteristics, so your basic reasons for loving Jehovah and believing in his promises likely differ from those of others. In all likelihood, the same reasons are just as valid to you today as they were when you first learned about them. The truth has not changed. Hence, reviewing those thoughts and feelings can in a way renew and refresh your first love for the truth.
Build on Your Foundation
7. Why do we need to build on our first love for the truth, and how can we do so?
7 Perhaps much has changed in your life since you made your dedication to Jehovah. Your first love for the truth was important, but as time went by, you needed a deeper love to face new challenges that put your faith to the test. However, Jehovah sustained you. (1 Cor. 10:13) Thus, your experiences over the years are also precious to you. They have helped you to build on the love you had at first, and they constitute another way you can prove to yourself the good, acceptable will of God.
8. How did Jehovah identify himself to Moses, and how did the Israelites come to know God more intimately?
8 To illustrate, consider the situation in which the Israelites found themselves when Jehovah stated his purpose to deliver them from slavery in Egypt. God identified himself to Moses, saying: “I shall prove to be what I shall prove to be.” (Ex. 3:7, 8, 13, 14) In effect, Jehovah was saying that he would take on any role necessary to free his people. In the events that followed and as circumstances required, the Israelites saw Jehovah reveal different facets of his personality
9, 10. What type of situation can help one come to know God, and why is it good to recall such experiences?
9 Your situation differs from that of the ancient Israelites. Even so, you have likely had experiences that convinced you of God’s personal interest in you, which strengthened your faith. Perhaps Jehovah proved himself to be in some way a Provider, a Comforter, or a Teacher. (Read Isaiah 30:20b, 21.) Or you may have sensed a clear answer to a prayer. You might have been facing a challenge, and then a fellow Christian provided help. Or personal study may have brought appropriate scriptures to your attention.
10 If you were to recount such experiences to others, some might not be particularly impressed. After all, the events were not miraculous. But you see them as very meaningful. Yes, Jehovah proved to be just what he needed to be for you. Think back on your years in the truth. Can you recall more than one occasion when you felt Jehovah’s personal care in your life? If so, remembering those events and how they made you feel can stimulate in your heart the same feelings of love for Jehovah that you felt back then. Treasure those experiences. Meditate upon them. They are proof that Jehovah is interested in you personally, and no one can take that conviction away from you.
11, 12. If a Christian’s love for the truth has waned, what may be the cause, and what counsel did Jesus give?
11 If you do not feel the same love for God and the truth that you once felt, this is not because anything has changed on his part. Jehovah never changes. (Mal. 3:6; Jas. 1:17) He was interested in you back then, and he is as interested in you today as he ever was. So what, if anything, might have changed in your relationship with Jehovah? Could it be that you feel that you are under more pressure, more preoccupied with anxieties? Perhaps in the past you prayed more earnestly, studied more diligently, meditated more often. Were you more zealous in the ministry and regular at congregation meetings than you are now?
12 You may not recognize any such tendencies in yourself, but if you do, what led to them? Could legitimate concerns, such as providing adequately for your family, caring for your health, or the like, have blunted your sense of urgency as to the nearness of Jehovah’s day? Jesus told his apostles: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare. For it will come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth. Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur.”
13. To what did James liken God’s Word?
13 The inspired Bible writer James urged fellow believers to analyze themselves honestly in the light of God’s Word. James wrote: “Become doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves with false reasoning. For if anyone is a hearer of the word, and not a doer, this one is like a man looking at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, and off he goes and immediately forgets what sort of man he is. But he who peers into the perfect law that belongs to freedom and who persists in it, this man, because he has become, not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, will be happy in his doing it.”
14, 15. (a) How can the Bible help you to improve your spiritual condition? (b) On what questions might you ponder?
14 A person can use a mirror to make sure that he is presentable. For example, if a man sees that his tie is crooked, he can straighten it. If a woman sees that her hair is not neat, she can adjust it. Similarly, the Scriptures help us to examine what we are. When we compare ourselves with what the Bible says we should be, then we are using it as a mirror. But what would be the point of looking into a mirror if we did nothing to correct a defect we saw? We are wise if we act on the basis of what we see in God’s “perfect law,” becoming “doers” of it. Hence, any who perceive that their first love for Jehovah and the truth has waned would do well to ponder these questions: ‘What pressures am I facing in life, and how am I reacting to them? How did I react in the past? Has something changed?’ If such self-examination reveals any deficiencies, do not ignore them. If adjustments are needed, by all means make them without delay.
15 Such meditation can also help you to set reasonable goals for spiritual growth. The apostle Paul gave inspired counsel to his fellow worker Timothy for improving his ministry. Paul urged the younger man: “Ponder over these things; be absorbed in them, that your advancement may be manifest to all persons.” We too would do well to ponder, in the light of God’s Word, what advancement it is possible for us to make.
16. To what danger do you need to be alert when examining yourself in the light of the Scriptures?
16 Any honest self-examination is bound to reveal some weaknesses. That could make one feel downhearted, but do not allow that to happen to you. After all, the objective of self-examination is to identify where improvement can be made. Satan, of course, would like a Christian to feel worthless because of his imperfections. In fact, the assertion has been made that God despises all efforts to serve him. (Job 15:15, 16; 22:3) That is a lie that Jesus vigorously contested; God considers each one of us precious. (Read Matthew 10:29-31.) An awareness of your imperfections should instead make you humbly resolved to do better, with Jehovah’s help. (2 Cor. 12:7-10) If illness or age are factors that limit what you can do, then set goals that are reasonable, but do not give up or let your love wane.
Much for Which to Be Grateful
17, 18. What benefits come from building on the love you had at first?
17 Great benefits are to be had from continuing to build on the foundation of the love you had at first. You can deepen your knowledge of God and your appreciation for his loving guidance. (Read Proverbs 2:1-9; 3:5, 6.) “In the keeping of [Jehovah’s judicial decisions] there is a large reward,” said the psalmist. “The reminder of Jehovah is trustworthy, making the inexperienced one wise.” Moreover, “happy are the ones faultless in their way, the ones walking in the law of Jehovah.”
18 You will surely agree that you have many good things for which to be grateful. You understand the reasons behind what is going on in the world. You benefit from the spiritual care and attention that God is giving to his people today. No doubt you feel grateful, too, that Jehovah has drawn you to his worldwide congregation and has given you the privilege of being one of his Witnesses. Count your blessings! If you were to make a list of them, it would likely be a long one. Doing that every so often will undoubtedly help you to apply the admonition: “Keep on holding fast what you have.”
19. Apart from meditating on your relationship with God, what is essential to maintaining spiritual health?
19 Meditating on how your faith has developed over the course of time is just one step that can help you to hold fast what you have. This journal has repeatedly drawn attention to other essentials to maintaining spiritual health. Among them are prayer, attendance at and participation in Christian meetings, and zealously engaging in the public ministry. These things can help you to continue renewing, refreshing, and building on the love that you had at first.
How Would You Answer?
• How can your reasons for coming to love Jehovah be a source of encouragement to you now?
• Reflecting on your own experiences through the years can convince you of what?
• Why should you analyze your love for God?
[Picture on page 23]
What was it about the truth that attracted and convinced you?
[Picture on page 25]
Do you see things about yourself that need to be adjusted?