I’m reading the book of Acts these days, amazed and impressed once again by the intensity, boldness, and courage of those first disciples. What if they had not answered the call of God?
Thankfully they did, and we have a worldwide church because of their faithful obedience to the Spirit of God. The church, with all its flaws and failures is still the carrier of the hope of the world. Jesus chose his workers well and he still does. You are the ones I think about when I write these blogs.
My desire today is to dig into the commandment to watch, which was spoken frequently by Jesus and the Apostles. Repeatedly disciples are instructed in Scripture to have our attention fixed in the right direction, to look upon the right things. What we attend to determines our fruitfulness for the kingdom of God. Fixing attention upon God was the key to Daniel’s wisdom and godliness, and to Joseph’s, and Paul’s, and many others.
If we are carefully watching, we will be prepared to receive the Lord when he comes. We will keep ourselves out of enslavement to the world’s troubles. If we are continually looking toward heaven, our countenance will remain peaceful and sane in a world so given to distraction and derangement. This will be of great benefit to those around us.
Jesus tells his disciples to be watching for his return, which will be unmistakably dramatic and sudden. While people are going about their normal routines or work and play, he will blast through the eastern sky, and it will be too late at that point to make any corrections to our lives and hearts. “Keep watch,” he said, “because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Matt. 24:4, see also 25:13; Mark 13:34-37)
Using a parable, Jesus outlined the qualifications for servants in Luke 12:35-40. Servanthood was one of the many metaphors he employed to describe our identity in him. While the master is in a far country, his servants are to be awake and vigilant, listening for his knock on the door, ready to open it for him. There is no ambiguity here; it will be “good for those servants whose master finds them watching” (Lk 12:43). By implication, it will be not good to be found sleeping at one’s post! God have mercy.
Jesus, in agonizing prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, finds his slumbering disciples and pleads with them, “Could you not watch with me one hour?” (Mt 26:40). Our spirits are willing, but oh how weak our flesh can be!
Secondly, while we are searching the horizon for his appearing, we are to keep a watch over ourselves. Paul admonished Timothy, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16). Even leaders with many years of experience handling the word of God can be lured away from the pure doctrines of the gospel of Christ.
Daily self-examination (not self-obsession) is a very necessary discipline. It is stunning how quickly a believer can turn from the right way and become immoral, unethical, caught in the snares of wickedness. We must be daily engaged with the word of God, and the God of the word, and allowing the Lord to continue his work of refinement.
In Jesus’ meticulously detailed prophesies about the end times, he warned, “Watch that no one deceives you” (Matt. 24:4). He knew that no matter how patiently or earnestly we watch, there will be demon-inspired individuals who will try to subvert and derail our faith. Or perhaps lull us into a trance of complacency, like the talking snake in the garden (or in Jungle Book). Paul taught that such people are recognizable by the way they “cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching…” (Rom. 16:17).
Thirdly, we are to watch out for each other. As Paul gave his final, tearful speech to the disciples in Ephesus, he exhorted, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).
Jesus does not take lightly the proper care of his sheep. When we see another believer slipping into sin, we are to warn, restore, and rescue him, watching that we don’t succumb to the same temptations ourselves (Gal. 6:1). Peter instructed leaders, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve” (1 Pet. 5:2).
Lord, make us willing, eager to serve!
Perhaps the simplest, most powerful statement about watching is found in Colossians 4:2: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”
Watchful and thankful. Looking for him each day because we long for his appearing (2 Tim. 4:8). Fervent and effectual in our prayers without ceasing.
In my effort to keep my mind renewed and transformed by God’s truth, I’ve often thought, “If Jesus were to appear today, what would I want him to find me doing?” The answer is found here: watching for him, persevering in the doctrine, watching out for the welfare of my brothers and sisters, and remaining fervent in prayer.
How are you being challenged recently to keep your attention on the goodness of God and your trust in him? Does it encourage you to remember that the Messiah is returning to gather his church, and we are to watch as we long for that day?