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Watchful and Thankful - In Such a Time as This

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. -- Colossians 4:2


If you're paying attention at all to events in our country these days, you may be struggling as I am with being thankful.  Our country has been polarized - not in an instant, but over time.  The polarization surfaced with the election of President Trump, which unleashed a level of hatred and violence that I have not seen in my lifetime.  I am  astonished and saddened to see how uncivilized some facets of our society have become - from the riots at the inaugural address to the riots this week at two universities - supposedly places where ideas can be traded and discussed intelligently.  It's hard for me to pray with thanksgiving as I pray for our country.  I find my faith challenged in new ways.


To the believer, however, being "watchful" means more than just seeing what's happening on the surface.  It means seeing the spiritual battles beneath the surface.  It means understanding the truth of Ephesians 6:12 - "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." And since the battle itself is a spiritual battle, we fight it with spiritual weapons:  "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." (2 Corinthians 10:4).  Not with vitriolic speech, or torches and rocks; not with protests designed to silence voices we don't agree with; not with property destruction or injury caused by the unthinking actions of those under the enemy's control.  But with prayer; with the truth of God's word; with hearts of grace, love, and forgiveness; and with the hope that only the Christian has in the return of our Savior.


The violence we're seeing in places like UC Berkley and New York University is just the surface reflection of a much greater evil.  The actions of the demon-possessed that we read in the New Testament are not more shocking than what we're seeing on our TV screens today.  The cure then was a spiritual cure - the power and grace of Jesus.  And that's the same cure we need today.


So where does the thankfulness come in?  How can we be thankful in the midst of all that we see, and the fears caused by the blind hatred running rampant in our society?  Many key Christian leaders, like David Jeremiah and Dave Butts, believe that God is not done with America - that he has a purpose for this country in the years to come.  That, despite our moral decline and the fact that as a nation we have lost our way spiritually, God still plans to use us to bring about his purposes in the world.


Could it be that all this activity of Satan that we're seeing is a response to God's preparations for a revival in this country?  Would Satan bother with us if God was done with us?  I suspect not.  I wonder if all the evil we're seeing now is Satan's desperate attempt to prevent the plans God has for the United States. 


So, why am I thankful?  I'm thankful because the gates of hell - whether in the courtrooms and other public places trying to eliminate God from the public conversation, or in the violence and hatred of so many of the protesters - will not prevail against God's church.  I'm thankful because I know the end of the story.  I don't know how many chapters are left, but I know that it ends with every knee bowing, every tongue confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord.


Do I pray for God's justice and judgment on those whose hatred overflows into violence?  Yes, I do - but not for their destruction.  Rather, I pray for a judgment that will turn their hearts to Christ.  I pray for Nebuchadnezzar-like experiences where God reveals his power in a way that those who have set their hearts against Him cannot deny or refute.  And, to the best of my limited ability, I pray watchfully and thankfully.


Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.  -- Ephesians 3:20-21

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Comment by Malva Birch on February 5, 2017 at 10:01am

Dear God, we do not understand Your ways, but we do know that You are the Lord of lords, the King of kings, and that there will be no end to Your reign. You are Almighty God, the Highest Authority, the Most High, the All-powerful One, Commander of the Heavenly Armies. You see the end from the beginning.

Let Your will be done on earth as in heaven.

Protect us from all evil.

With You, we are more than conquerors.

In the Name of Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega, we pray, for Yours is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Ps 2:1, 2, 4, 8, 11, 12  Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed.
He who sits in the heavens laughs.
Ask of Me, and I will make the nations Your heritage, and the ends of the earth Your possession.
Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 
Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.

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