by Steven Chan
19 September 2010
I have a fascinating watch-dog. He is probably the friendliest dog in the neighbourhood. Even the postman can come and pat him on the head! Someone mentioned that he is really a “watch-dog” because he watches all the people that come and go – and does nothing to stop them from coming near to him!
In 1 Pet 5:8, the Bible warns us to “be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour… (ASV)” Are we always on the alert and on the look-out for the schemes and fiery darts that the devil is aiming at us? And when we do “see” what the devil has schemed for us, what do we do about it? Do we merely ignore it? Or, we do take steps to escape or overcome it?
Jesus warned in Luke 21:34-36: “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
In the afore-stated passage, the warning is to watch out for our lives – to ensure that our hearts are not “weighed down” or overcome or overwhelmed with carousing (i.e. loaded down with self-indulgence or too much feasting, dissipation), drunkenness and worries of this life (exclusively focused on the things of this life such as what kind of food to eat, what kind of house to live in and how much money to store up for this life) such that we do not prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord or for the day when we make our exit from this life (James 4:13-14).
Are we so pre-occupied with the things of this life that we have no time to carry out the will of God? In Mark 4:19, these are likened to the seed that was sown among the thorns where “the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” We have no space in our very busy lives for any effort to bear fruits for God. Brethren, we need to watch and pray so that our lives do not become so over-crowded with our daily cares such that we have no place for God and the work that He has entrusted to us.
In Mark 13:32-37, Jesus warned us: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming–in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning– lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” Our Lord warns us that no one knows exactly when the Lord will come and therefore we should always be prepared for His coming.
In Mark 14:37-38, when Jesus “came and found them sleeping, and (He) said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit truly is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
In both accounts in Mark, Jesus asked them to “watch and pray” – firstly because we do not know when the Lord will come – and we need to be ready and prepared if He were to come at any time; secondly so that we do not enter into temptation – it is important that we do not place ourselves into situations where we would be tempted to sin. According to 1 Thess 5:21-22, we are to “test all things; hold fast what is good… and to abstain (avoid or stay away) from every form of evil.” “Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”(1 Cor 15:33) – this is good advice for us all. In Eph 5:8-12, the Bible further exhorts us thus: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.” As Christians we need to be aware of the danger of fellowshipping with the unfruitful works of darkness.
And thirdly, we need to watch and pray because “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”. We need to know that our flesh is weak and that therefore we need God’s grace to strengthen us so we can be empowered to overcome temptations (Eph 3:20; 6:10-18). The Bible warns in 1 Cor 10:12-13: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” God will “make the way of escape” for all of us when we are faced with temptations. “The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations.” (2 Peter 2:9). “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”(Heb 2:18). “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”(Heb 4:14-16). Are we aware of the times when we are being tempted – that’s what being watchful implies – and to pray so that God will deliver us out of these temptations? Are we watchful and prayerful?
“My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord–that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.”(James 5:10-12). As we watch and pray, we need to learn to endure suffering and to be patient as we wait for the Lord’s deliverance – even as Job provides us an excellent example. May we be truly sober, watchful and prayerful at all times and to learn to endure and be patient when we undergo times of suffering. We need to learn to trust God under all circumstances that He will guide us through them all. The Apostle Paul expressed it well in 2 Cor 1:9-10 when he wrote thus: “that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us,…”