I know your works, your labor, and your endurance. I also know that you don’t put up with those who are evil. You have tested those who say they are apostles but are not, and you have found them to be liars. You have shown endurance and put up with a lot for my name’s sake, and you haven’t gotten tired. (Rev 2:2-3)
These are words that God spoke to John in the book of Revelation in regards to the church in Ephesus. I think if we took the time to talk to church leaders…and for that matter…Christians as a whole, we would find that we all long to hear these great words from God. I mean, come on…these are great words of encouragement and support.
Any church that heard these words from God would be proud and would certainly be attentive to what else the Big Guy had to say. And maybe that is the point. This is a church that has been working really hard. They have tested the false apostles. They have stood up to those who practice evil deeds. They are the picture of what the Church should be.
My guess is that they took great pride in all of this. So much pride that the only way to get their attention was to praise them for all that they have done. For those of us who have over-inflated egos…we know what that is like.
Of course…God doesn’t let our big egos get in the way too long does He? Coming out of this amazingly great review of all they have done, God passes along this little tidbit of information:
But I have this against you: you have let go of the love you had at first. (Rev 2:4)
Whoa! What happened to the smiles and congratulatory notes? “You have let go of the love you had at first”! That is certainly not what I expected to hear after verse 3. I figured I would hear something like, “you are such an amazing church, and your leader is so fantastic, that I have made you the king of all churches…and you everyone will follow you.” Okay…maybe that is just what my over-inflated ego wants to hear.
But…if I were a betting man, I would be willing to wager that most churches are the same. We work so hard at doing what is right. We do the ministries, we stand up against evil, and we test the apostles that are sent to us (maybe too much).
As for church leaders…we may be the worst. We get so wrapped up in the work…in the ministry…in being the leader of the people…that we forget what got us to the point of being a leader. We are a leader in the Church because we were first a follower of Christ.
When we lose sight of our “first love”, we find ourselves working, fighting, enduring…for all the wrong things. It is so easy to put our relationship with God on the backburner. We are serving God’s children. We are feeding the hungry, clothing the homeless, and helping the poor.
While we may be serving as the hands and feet of Jesus…we fail to know the heart of Jesus. We fail to be connected to Christ. And…we all know what happens when we fail to do that:
If you don’t remain in me, you will be like a branch that is thrown out and dries up. Those branches are gathered up, thrown into a fire, and burned. (John 15:6)
But…never fear…there is a better way:
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified when you produce much fruit and in this way prove that you are my disciples.” (John 15:7-8)