When Love Is Lost, Labor Is in Vain
Ezekiel 3:16–5:17; Revelation 2:1–11; Job 32:11–22
When zeal lacks love, faith is rendered useless. Love is the crux of faith. We can study the Bible like a scholar, pray like a warrior, evangelize like the world is ending tomorrow, but we still might miss the mark of faith. God desires our love.
The church in Ephesus, one of the most influential communities in the first century AD, patiently endured persecution and held on to their faith. But Ephesus is the first church that Jesus holds accountable in His revelation to John—and not for their lack of zeal:
“And you have patient endurance, and have endured many things because of my name, and have not become weary. But I have this against you: that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the works you did at first. But if you do not, I am coming to you, and I will remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” (Rev 2:3–5).
Although the Ephesian church had remained outwardly faithful in formidable circumstances, Jesus still threatened to remove His favor. The community was doing everything right—maintaining orthodox standards, testing apostles, refusing to tolerate evil—but they no longer delighted in the grace that they first knew. They weren’t motivated by the same love.
We hear the same reprimand when Paul writes to the church in Corinth: Even if we “speak with the tongues of men and angels” or “have the gift of prophecy” or have faith that “can remove mountains,” we are nothing without love (1 Cor 13:1–2). Paul continues with the poetry that speaks a hard but necessary truth: Even if we “parcel out all [our] possessions” and “hand over [our bodies] in order that [we] will be burned”—all without love—it doesn’t benefit us or earn us favor with God (1 Cor 13:3–4).
These passages should shake us. If we are relying on our correct doctrines for approval, we need to take our cue from Jesus’ words to the church in Ephesus. If we think our evangelizing efforts, our church involvement, or our Bible reading merit God’s favor, we are mistaken. Even our suffering profits us nothing without love.
The grace God has shown us should break our hearts, drive us to Him, deepen our love—and motivate all of our labors. We must continually return to that grace. It’s His love that initially motivated our love. And it’s His love that sustains it.
Have your labors lost their love? How can you dwell in His grace and love so that all your actions are infused with meaning?
Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.