The beloved hymn continues, “When for deeper faith I seek, Then in thought I go to Thee, Garden of Gethsemane!” (sic, “When My Love To Christ Grows Weak” by J.R. Wreford and Mrs. Jos. F. Knapp; Hymns for Worship, revised; 1987, Shepard-Stevens Music, Inc.).
It’s a problem most Christians face at one time or another — our love to Christ grows weak. The apparent causes vary: family crisis; debilitating disease; the death of a loved one despite fervent prayers to the contrary; some form of persecution; or even the spiritual failings of a respected fellow Christian. But no matter the specifics, it is almost always connected to weakened faith. These two, our faith in and our love to/for Christ, are so closely joined as to be practically inseparable. Correction through the strengthening of one often resolves both issues. As the hymn further suggests, remembering the sacrificial love of Jesus- “See that suffering, friendless One, weeping, praying there alone,” and further, “There behold His agony, Suffered on the bitter tree; See His anguish, see His faith, Love triumphant still in death” (sic, IBID), can’t help but to inspire and strengthen our love for Him. Being thus reminded of the sacrifice required to bring about our purification from sin is something we need constantly, as 2 Peter 1:9-10 indicates. It’s always “good for what ails us.”
But as suggested above, there is another component to strengthening our love for Christ: the increasing and rebuilding of our faith. Let’s note the example of the Ephesians in this regard. Revelation 2:1-7 provides pertinent details:
- They had done well in many respects — their deeds, toil, and perseverance are commended (v. 2a).
- Furthermore, they had apparently properly dealt with evil men, and even tested and exposed false apostles (v. 2b).
- They had not grown weary, but instead persevered and endured (v. 3).
- But — and this is significant — they had also left their first love (v. 4).
As my old friend, Larry Bilbo, described them, “They were right, but not radiant.” They were doing a lot of good things, but apparently doing them from mere rote or obligation rather than being properly motivated by love. Obviously, while their actions still appeared righteous, their love to Christ had grown weak.
Having thus experienced the same problem we sometimes face, the “prescription” given in Revelation 2:5 becomes very relevant. It is threefold:
- Remember from where you have fallen. This hearkens back to the three years Paul had spent with them in Ephesus (cp. Acts 20:31). During that time, as recorded in Acts 19:1-20, “the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified” (v. 17), and “the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing” (v. 20). All of which means that their faith was growing.
- Repent. Repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change of course or direction, as demonstrated by Jesus in the parable of the two sons (Matthew 21:28-32). Repentance leads to a change of affiliation. They needed to reverse course, so to speak, to get back to where they had been previously when both their faith and love were doing magnificently.
- Do the deeds you did at first. After repentance had brought them back to the foundations and motivations of faith, they needed to reproduce the dedicated mindset and activities that had resulted in the explosive growth of their faith and love for Christ in the first place (cp. Acts 19:18-19).
When we find our faith waning and our love for Christ fading, we sometimes want to blame God or others. We may even cry out for God to “help my unbelief” as did the man in Mark 9:24. The true problem may be closer to home.
Ultimately, each one of us is responsible for our own faith, and our own love for Christ. Others can encourage and assist us (Galatians 6:1-2), or discourage and fail us, but we all must “examine his own work” and “bear his own load” (Galatians 6:4-5). If your faith and love are decreasing rather than increasing, don’t put off remembering, repenting, and repeating so that you can be not only right, but also radiant!
Adapted from Philip C. Strong