Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
– Colossians 4:2
What do you do when your beliefs and values are being challenged?
The Colossian church during the days of the apostles was in danger of being influenced by “fine-sounding arguments” (Colossians 2:4), “hollow and deceptive philosophy” (verse 8) and smooth talking people seeking to dilute the fullness and sufficiency of Christ (verse 18).
It is important to know that this wasn’t an ignorant church, but one that was founded on sound principles and most likely thriving which is why their situation was even more alarming – that a strong, established church could be vulnerable to worldly influence. In fact, many churches today are like the Colossian church – built on strong principles and led by competent leaders – and yet also on the defensive against not-so-subtle influences of worldly values creeping into the body of Christ.
In case you think that this is a problem for a vague group of “other people” – let me remind you that WE are the church, the body of Christ of which Jesus is the head. These clever arguments and empty philosophy are not directed against “other people” – these attacks are directed against you. Me. Us.
What does one do in the face of enemy infiltration?
If your reflexive response is to pray you are not far off, but you are not completely accurate either.
Paul’s parting shot in his letter to the Colossians suggested three things they should do in the face of an attack on their beliefs.
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful (Col 4:2)
There is power in prayer. It is a powerful weapon against the evil one. James 5:16 says “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”. God answers prayers. Isaac prayed to God for his barren wife and the Lord answered (Genesis 25:21). David built an altar and prayed for the plague to end, and the Lord answered (2 Samuel 24:25). Ezra prayed for protection and the Lord answered (Ezra 8:23).
No wonder Paul made an almost identical plea to the Ephesians:
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. – Ephesians 6:18
How many times have we been told that the evil one is a prowling, opportunistic lion? The devil is also scheming and deceptive. He “masquerades as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14) so we must never let our guard down. Test everything we see and hear against the standard of God’s Word. Be questioning and discerning against any new teaching, whether they are from devotionals, podcasts, popular Christian books or even preachers from the pulpit.
But don’t just barricade yourself behind a wall of suspicion, arm yourself with the truth. Seek wisdom and understanding. Remember the parable of the sower, “When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.” (Matthew 13:19)
At first glance, this may not be the most intuitive action in the face of an enemy attack. But having an attitude and heart of thankfulness keeps our perspective right. It protects us against feeling despair and hopelessness, especially when we see strife, petty arguments and personality clashes among Christian brothers and sisters, even within the church. Thankfulness turns our face upwards towards God instead of downcast towards our problems.
Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High. Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.” – Psalm 50:14-15
Thankfulness gives us renewed hope because, despite all that is going on, “we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful…” (Hebrews 12:28).
So let us be encouraged, do not be worn down by the never-ending debates, the challenges and the conflicts. Instead, be thankful, be alert and never-stop interceding and praying for your church.