Faith, Revelation Series

Revelation (series): Guard—When We Stop Watching

@JeanneTakenaka +Jeanne Takenaka

I didn’t set out to write a series based on Revelation 2-3. As I began reading the book of Revelation during my quiet times, I wanted to find truths written to the churches that apply for my life. What came from that desire to find one thing in each letter . . . is this series.

The churches to whom John wrote dealt with many of the same issues we face in an increasingly godless culture. Just as the early churches made choices about whether they would live for Jesus or themselves, so too, do we. 

We have the gift of being able to look at back at their strengths and weaknesses and learn from them.

This isn’t an in-depth theological rendering of these letters. Rather, each post reflects what God has taught me through studying both the letters and the churches. As we walk through Revelation two and three over the next seven weeks, I hope you’ll be encouraged and share your thoughts here! Past posts can be found here: Revelation Series 

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How many of us let down our guards in our walk with Jesus? I’ll own it: I have.

Sardis (See Revelation 3:1-6) was a wealthy city in John’s time. It had seen better days, but the people lived well. The church looked alive. There was little conflict or division. Many called the people of this city soft, and dare I say it—entitled—because of their wealth and luxury.

Sardis was a city with sheer cliff walls protecting them. Though they were in an easily defensible position, they were overcome by enemies, not once but twice.

Why?

Because their guards stopped watching. Their soldiers became overconfident in their protective walls.

The enemy found a way in. And conquered them.

In the days of the seven churches, Sardis was again in a place of not watching. Idolatry, sexual immorality reigned supreme, even within the church. Their church had stopped watching for the enemy of their souls and let their hearts’ guard down.

Jesus begins His letter with a rebuke. He told them He knew their works. That they looked alive but were dead.

The enemy entered the church and seduced many believers away from Jesus. His goal: to overcome and kill. Jesus warned them that they needed to repent.

We’ve all walked through times of being overcome by our enemy. The walls of our heart were overrun. We were left naked and exposed. And defeated.

Attacks aren’t always a result of not walking closely with the Lord. Attacks come because we have an enemy who wants to destroy us. 

I’m not making light of the trials or the heartbreak we all walk through. This life has one guarantee: we will face trials.

We will undergo times of attack.

Some trials that invade our lives shake us to our foundation.

They challenge us to question the goodness of God, even suspect His character. They  lead us to a precipice.

We can blame God for allowing tough things to happen. Our hearts can grow cold toward Him. We can become cynical because God didn’t live up to our expectations.

Or, we can remember that God promises to be with us in the midst of hard seasons

In Matthew it says the rain falls on the just and the unjust. The question is, how will our hearts respond when it rains on us? 

Will we choose to look beyond the circumstances and into the face of our Father? Will we choose to believe that He is good, even when He allows the horrible into our lives?

Jesus searches for those who will turn to Him, those who will ask Him to be their defender and protector. His protection seldom looks the way we expect. But Jesus is with us. He will deal with our enemies. Either on this side of the veil or on the other.

When we turn to Him as the attacks come, He can strengthen our heart-walls so we can endure. We can be the over-comers in the end. He’s the One who gains our victory.

Sardis was in a powerful, well-guarded position. Ultimately, they were defeated because they didn’t keep watch.

For us, that can look like becoming so comfortable with what we believe that we stop pursuing God in His word and in prayer.

We allow lesser things to attract our eyes, our attention.

Like their forbears, many in Sardis’ church had stopped guarding the walls of their hearts. Worldly mindsets had crept in to both occupy them and to tell them they were doing just fine.

Pride is a quiet enemy. It slips in, convinces us we’re fine. That it’s okay to let other things take priority over spending time with God. It’s acceptable—expected even—to pursue other things. Lesser things.

Sure, we’re still doing the good works. But are they grounded in a desire to please Jesus and grow closer to Him? Or are they grounded in a different motivation?

Even when we’re intentional about pursuing relationship with Him, we’ll face attack.

We must guard our hearts. 

The people of Sardis did the works that looked good from the outside. But God declared them imperfect, incomplete.

What works do we do today that look good, but God sees them differently?

He’s looking at our hearts. Always our hearts. What motivates us? Do we complete works out of love for Him? Or to look good to those watching?

When we entrust our hearts to Him, through times of ease and struggle, He will guard and protect us.

What about you? How do you keep the walls of your heart strong? How have you dealt with pride in your life?

Click to Tweet: Attacks come because we have an enemy who wants to destroy us

I’m linking up with #RaRaLinkup, Jennifer Dukes Lee, and Holley Gerth

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29 thoughts on “Revelation (series): Guard—When We Stop Watching”

  1. Jeanne,
    Not only do I need to ask God to guard my heart….I desperately need Him to guard my mind. Since I deal with anxiety and depression, before I enter a situation that would be be great romping ground for the enemy ( a new or different situation, something I fear or have trepidation about doing, etc.) I HAVE to ask God to go ahead of me and guard my mind along the way. I know that’s the only way to make it through. So glad we have God has the guard of our minds and hearts….we just need to remember to not get slack and lazy and just ask. Great post series.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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    1. Bev, I couldn’t agree with you more! We must place that same guard around our thoughts. I’m like you. When I’m not careful, my thoughts run away with me, leading me into very dark places. I’ve learned to pray Phil. 4:8 almost every day. This verse helps me keep my thoughts where they need to.

      I love that you ask God to go with you and guard your mind along the way. I need to do that more. I’m with you, so glad God guards our minds and heart. May we both be intentional about asking God for His help! I’m so thankful for you, friend!

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  2. I think what I have also experienced is the closer to God I am, the more in His will, then I have to place more guards for protection. It’s not just keeping the guards alert that are already there, but placing an even stronger defence force! I just may be in that place today and thank you for ministering to me with this message.

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    1. Interesting truth, Lynn. I think you’re right. The closer we are with God, the more effective we can be for His kingdom. When we’re living in His ways, carrying out His calling in our days, we are stepping on the enemy’s feet. And he’s going to try to distract us. We do need to keep those guards up at all times.

      Thanks for sharing this! You’ve got me thinking!

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  3. This is a great reminder to guard our hearts. It’s all too easy to slip into thinking we can manage for ourselves, especially when live seems to be going well, instead of recognising how much we need God in everything. It’s also so important to remember that no matter how things look to others God knows the truth about us and our real motivations.

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    1. Yes, Lesley! It’s far too easy to slip into the mindset that I can do it on my own. I have done this too many times. Whether life is going smoothly or roughly, we need to keep our hearts close to and depending on God, yes? This seems to be a way to keep our guards up too. We realize how much we need the Lord. I so appreciate what you closed your comment with. God does know the truth about us, and our motivations. It’s best to filter our motivations through His will and be yielded to what He shows us. Thank you for sharing your insights here!

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  4. Beautiful post, dear Jeanne. I couldn’t agree more about the importance of choosing to continue believing God is good in the not-so-good circumstances of life. It’s a gap in our faith wall we’re wise to keep filled with trust. I’m learning about the problem of pride while reading the Old Testament. It seems we’ve been prone to stumble since being banished from Eden. But God is still good.
    Blessings ~ Wendy Mac

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    1. Wendy, yes. We need to choose to believe God is good, even when it’s hard to find the evidence we search for that would confirm it. I guess that’s when faith takes us into that belief, isn’t it? I love what you said about keeping those gaps in our faith walls filled with trust. What a beautiful visual. Loved your thoughts here!

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  5. Those messages John wrote so long ago come to life when we look at our hearts and know how easily distracted we are.
    So wonderful to share in your quiet time treasures.

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    1. It’s true, Michele. When we seek God, His words do come to life in our hearts. And, man, am I distracted lately. I need to be more intentional about focusing on what God has for me each day. Thanks for sharing in my “treasures,” friend.

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  6. This series certainly hits home in all the right places. I love how God is teaching me through your words. I need to ask myself if I am focused on the right things or if I’ve let down my guard. God knows the answer to that but I also need to continue to ask for His protection to keep the enemy away. Daily contact with God in prayer and spending time in His word combats the evil that tries to sway us away from God. I pray I engage in time with God everyday.

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    1. Mary, first of all, thank you for your kind words of encouragement. Secondly, I think part of the reason for these posts has been for me to heed what God’s showing me. I’ve definitely been the one who’s let down her guard. Who’s focused on the wrong things. I agree, spending time with God daily in His word and in prayer combats the evil. The older I get, the more I see how desperately I need Him!

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  7. We so easily fall into trusting in our own strength, don’t we? And let down our guard from the enemy who prowls as a roaring lion, seeking to devour us. Thank you for this enlightening series, Jeanne. I love, too, how you inspire us to search our hearts with questions – “Will we choose to look beyond the circumstances and into the face of our Father? Will we choose to believe that He is good, even when He allows the horrible into our lives?” Love and hugs to you!

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    1. Oh Trudy, yes. I’ve been the one (more times than I care to admit) who has relied on her own strength, and it’s led to disaster and disillusionment. I’m thankful for God’s grace and His mercy for those times when I forget to rely on Him alone.

      I’m so very glad this series has encouraged you to dig deeper with the Lord, my sweet friend.

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  8. Dear Jeanne, you are so right about the importance of staying watchful. The enemy is insidious and does hesitate to use ANYTHING to seduce, even something God intends to be a blessing, like family, or work in His service. I am most vulnerable when I’m not spending time with the Lord and watching out for the enemy. Thanks and blessings for an encouraging word!

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    1. Alice, it’s true. The enemy will twist what God intended for good and use it to lure us from God. I’m with you…most vulnerable when not spending regular time with God. Not on guard against our enemy. Thank you so much for stopping by!

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    1. Sarah, I’ve been the girl sailing on the busy currents of life and not paying attention to the one who wants to capsize me. I’m with you…let’s always be on the watch and seeking Jesus.

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  9. Yep. That sounds very much like our culture. Sadly, I have been one of those soldiers a time or two. It’s crazy how quickly and easily it is to unguard your heart. It takes such work and focus to do that.

    It reminds me how much the church and myself at times let our guard down. How many times are we actively sharing the Gospel like the first church did? How are we spurring each other to love better and to walk away from sin? How often are we living in a community and sharing everything we have with one another? I feel like that God is working hard to wake us up because the enemy is here. How very challenging. I have enjoyed reading how you have taken each church and challenged us with it. Thank you.

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    1. Nate, our culture has so many diversions that take our eyes and attention off of Jesus, doesn’t it? It’s easy to think we’re doing fine in our walk with Him, only to discover that we’ve drifted away from His safety. We do need to be intentional in pursuing Jesus first, in living as He has told us is good, and in ministering to others as He gives opportunity.

      Thank you for your words of encouragement!

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  10. Yet one more example how we are so very similar to the churches back in the day. Our sinful nature hasn’t changed … but either has His power to convict, forgive, and redeem.

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    1. So true, Linda. In the big scheme of things, not much has changed about believers’ hearts and struggles. I’m so thankful God loves us enough to convict us, forgive us, and redeem us! Have a beautiful weekend, my friend!

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  11. Hi Jeanne!

    First, I like your new cover, it’s great.

    Well said: “We have the gift of being able to look at back at their strengths and weaknesses and learn from them.”

    That’s exactly how it is.

    I love your perspective, and the way you took us through the city of Sardis.

    Becoming overconfident is dangerous.

    You wrote:

    “Attacks aren’t always a result of not walking closely with the Lord.”

    You have a point here.

    Life will still be a struggle even if we walk with Jesus.

    What happens when we walk in faith is that we get an extra dimension so that we can bear the burdens we meet in life through the strength of Jesus.

    Many Christians today, also in the blogging community take a perspective where it looks like it’s up to us to do a whole bunch of things to get accepted by the Lord.

    In my opinion, this is the wrong path to go down.

    No-one can do anything to walk in faith.

    Faith comes to us from outside, from what we hear.

    As Martin Luther said many times in his writings, we believe because the case seems believable.

    It’s not, contrary to what the majority says, an active choice we make individually to walk in faith if we follow Martin Luther’s thinking.

    In short, what I’m trying to say, Christianity becomes dangerous if it turns into something subjective depending on individual people.

    Sorry, perhaps that was an off-topic comment, but it was just something I came to think of while reading your excellent blog post.

    It’s packed with context and value that can be used in a modern context.

    At the end of your post, you asked your audience:

    How do you keep the walls of your heart strong?

    How have you dealt with pride in your life?

    My answer to the first question is: I don’t.

    Instead, I rest assured that God has prepared a chair for me when my time’s coming.

    Time and time again I go back to the early Christians to get reminded of this perspective because it’s rarely found among contemporary Christians.

    The early Christians knew that there was nothing good to be found in the subject.

    This thought is not-existing in our culture.

    Nevertheless, I love this perspective because it forces us to think in terms of what we have in common rather than what’s beneficial for the individuals.

    My answer to the next question:

    Too me, pride is a little bit tricky because it’s related to another term: the awareness of when we’ve done an excellent job.

    If we know we’re good at our job, it can be highly beneficial for our customers and us to be proud of what we’re doing because it enables us to do even better.

    Ultimately, this will help our customers.

    Other than that, pride seems to be an unwanted quality because it turns the attention towards the individual rather than what’s common to all of us.

    Pride was the fourth of the Seven Deadly Sins, also called Superbia.

    What’s interesting is that in modern culture the Seven Deadly Sins are views as virtues.

    Once again, thank you for the in-depth blog post.

    God bless!
    Edna Davidsen.

    I shared on Twitter.

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    1. Edna, you bring up some great points. God told us in Matthew that the rain falls on the just and the unjust. We won’t get through this life without facing troubles and trials that drop us to our knees. The good in that is, the Lord is there to walk with us through them. To strengthen us and to help us. We have to realize and accept the fact that we need Him. Period.

      Your answer to the first question surprised me, at first. You are right. If we belong to God, our position in heaven is assured. I guess I was also thinking about in living our days here. 🙂 We belong to Him, but living on earth is the place where we learn to walk out our faith. As His followers, it’s my belief that we need to guard our hearts as we walk out our days. Prov 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Part of how we guard our hearts is to be in close fellowship with Jesus through His word, prayer, fellowship, and being careful what we expose ourselves to. It seems like the believers in Sardis didn’t do this, and this opened them up to idolatry and sexual sin.

      You are right. Pride does have different meanings. 🙂 I’m glad you shared a bit on some of them. I so appreciate your thoughtful response to this post.

      And thank you so much for sharing it on Twitter!

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      1. The pleasure is mine . . .

        I’m not so optimistic on behalf of what we can learn 🙂 especially when it comes to faith.

        There’s as I see it nothing I can do, learn, or pick up, to walk closer or farther away from God.

        I take the other side of the position.

        God walks with me; whether I like it or not 🙂

        I am aware that this is not a classical position seem with modern eyes.

        But it is if we go back in time (maybe we can do that one day? 🙂 to the old Christian hero’s who could write 50 books in their lifetime – without a laptop.

        Enjoy!

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