Have you ever worked hard to build a fire, only to have it go out? Although I was raised in a log cabin with five fireplaces, I never learned to build a fire that would last. One of those fireplaces is in my mother’s bedroom. When I go home, I invariably find her sitting in her overstuffed chair by the window with a roaring fire on the hearth. As we sit and visit, the fire dies down, and she frequently reminds me to “stir up the fire, Anne,” or “put another log on it.”
You and I can experience the thrilling fire of personal revival, but if we neglect that fire, it will die out. And nothing is more miserable than a heart that has grown cold, chilling a life that once knew the raging warmth of a passionate relationship with Jesus. Not only does a heart that’s grown cold make us miserable, but it makes Him miserable too. It grieves the Lord.
Speaking to the Ephesian church through the apostle John, Jesus explained: “‘I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance….You have persevered and have endured hardships for My name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love'” (Rev. 2:2-4, NIV). Jesus loves you and me, and He longs to be loved—really loved—by us in return.
STIRRING MY FIRE
For 12 years I taught a weekly Bible class of 500 women in our city. I never missed a class. During that time, through the disciplined study of His Word, God gave me a wonderful love for Jesus. At the end of those 12 years, I knew with absolute certainty God was calling me to leave the class and go into an itinerant, Bible-teaching ministry. I left the class and went out into the world. Literally.
Three months later I found myself in Fiji helping to lead a conference of 500 pastors who had come in from other islands for miles around. Five months later I was in Brazil leading another conference for approximately 1,500 pastors and evangelists from all over the country and squeezing in a youth conference of more than 2,000 young people. In between Fiji and Brazil, I was teaching in seminars and conferences every week in the United States.
Gradually I became aware that I was having to drag myself into my quiet time, that my heart no longer seemed to be uplifted in worship, and that I didn’t feel any real joy, but I thought I was just tired. I thought I must have been suffering from prolonged jet lag along with time and food changes.
One morning, in my devotions, I read Revelation 2—and sensed, in my heart, Jesus speaking to me: “Anne, I know your deeds. I know all about Fiji and the extra sessions that were dumped on you that you accepted because of your commitment to Me. I know all about Brazil and the women’s sessions you booked into your free time because of your heart to get others into My Word.
“I know your hard work and your perseverance. I know you have endured hardships in My name and have not grown weary. Thank you, Anne, for all you are doing to serve Me. Yet I hold this against you: You are losing your love for Me.”
When I came to verse four, I kept on reading. I knew He couldn’t be speaking to me! After all, I was traveling around the world telling others how to love Him! Surely He wasn’t speaking to me! But He was!
He kept drawing my attention back to those verses until I finally listened to what He had to say. I would have denied it and vehemently argued, except it was Jesus who was speaking to me. And I knew that whenever He speaks, it’s the truth.
Finally, the light of His Word penetrated my delusion. I acknowledged that I wasn’t just tired; I was losing my love for Him! I cannot tell you how devastatingly painful that revelation was to me. I yearned to love Him, and I thought I did. But He did not agree.
With tears streaming down my cheeks, I asked, “Lord, what would You have me do?” He replied from Revelation 2:5. “‘Remember the height from which you have fallen.'” Remember what it was like to love Me with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. I remembered. That love was the “height” in my relationship with Christ. And when I lost it, it was a long way down.
Then, still from verse five, He said, “‘Repent.'” Repentance means to stop it: stop going in one direction, turn around and go in the opposite direction. Since a “first love” is an emotional, affectionate, passionate love, and because emotions really can’t be controlled or dictated, I responded: “Lord, how? I want to repent of losing my first love for You, I want to stop not loving You emotionally and affectionately and passionately. But how? I am willing to repent, but I don’t know how.”
Again, He spoke to me from verse five, “Return to the things you did at first.” And I answered: “What things? Things I did when I was first born again? Things I did when I first began to serve You?”
Although I had been having times of daily Bible reading and prayer, although I enjoyed fellowship with other believers and was serving the Lord, I was not spending time in concentrated Bible study on my own. I had been traveling around, giving out messages that had been previously prepared, and I had studied nothing new and fresh for months.