Welcome to 2019! Are you ready?
As 2015 transitioned into 2016, I found my quiet time readings rather well-timed. As I once again completed reading through the Bible, sovereign progression brought me to several verses where Jesus gives the directive to “watch and pray.” Now, three years later, with the launching of 2019, coupled with the divisive, moral bankruptcy throughout the world, Jesus’ words strike an even more meaningful chord. The call to watch and pray is now more urgent.
Matthew, Mark and Luke captured this concept of alert readiness from Jesus during His earthly ministry. It continued consistent even through His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.
- “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” (Mark 14:34)
- Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:40-41)
- “Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching.” (Luke 12:37)
In its Greek form, the word Jesus uses is, “gregoreuo.” It means staying awake, remaining vigilant or watchful. In essence, He warned His followers to stay alert about some unexpected but pending event.
Breaking Down Jesus’ Warning
By dissecting Matthew 26:40-41, we find the following as applicable life lessons:
- The spirit is willing. The disciples had good intentions. They were where Jesus called them to be. Yet, they were overwhelmed by their exhausted physical condition.
- The flesh is weak. Though in close proximity with Jesus, the disciples failed to meet their purpose with determination. Their physical desires lulled them into sleep, rendering them unfit for the Master’s use.
- Prayer is the solution to not falling into temptation. If they had joined Jesus in diligent prayer, they would not have succumbed to physical desires.
- Spiritual watchfulness involves alertness, attentiveness, vigilance, paying attention on purpose. This requires an intentional focus within the spiritual realm. There is no room for distractions, laziness, carelessness, preoccupation, or competing priorities.
What Are We Supposed To Watch?
Naturally, when we receive a warning, significant questions arise. Our fight or flight reflex kicks in and we need more information. What will happen, when, and where? Against what are we to be vigilant? Additionally, we may ask how prayer fits into this sense of heightened watchfulness. Even more so, why should we hear and apply Christ’s warning into our lives?
Several other authors sounded the same alarm. Some used “gregoreuo” while others used “nepho” which means to be sober, discreet. Here again, the implication is to pay close attention and to be mentally diligent.
- Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful (Colossians 4:2)
- Be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect (Luke 12:40)
- Be sober, be vigilant; the devil walks about seeking whom he may destroy (I Peter 5:8)
- Let us not sleep, but let us watch and be sober (I Thessalonians 5:6)
- Therefore watch (Acts 20:31)
- It is high time to awake out of sleep (Romans 13:11)
- Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong (I Corinthians 16:13)
- But you be watchful in all things (2 Timothy 4:5)
Current Day Application
For the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, it was later than they realized. Their Master would soon die. They were tired from the long days, the heat, and the throngs of people, and found comfort leaning against gnarled olive trees and rocks. Their focus was distracted from their current environment and circumstances. They remained unaware of the upcoming events.
Comparing that scenario to our current situation, we find it is later than we realize. Our Master will soon return—quite unexpectedly—as He promised. We are tired (maybe even bored), lulled into apathy and complacency by our low expectations and snugly comfort zones. Our attention is elsewhere. We are distracted by the cares of the world, our self-centeredness, the latest technological gadget, social media, entertainment—the list seems endless.
The Secret to Readiness
Along with numerous Scriptural encouragements to deliberately prepare ourselves, we also find a story containing the secret to personal readiness. In describing the events on the Mount of Transfiguration, Luke explains how Peter and his companions were again very sleepy. Yet, he startles us with, “But when they became fully awake, they saw his glory” (Luke 9:32). Only when we “wake ourselves fully” do we see God’s glory, His purpose for our lives, and those in our lives who need us.
This awakening involves personal commitment. It is a re-dedication to reading and studying God’s Word and applying it to our lives daily. More personally, it is a sense of urgency in witnessing to lost friends and family. It is engaging in spiritual warfare, staying alert to global events that signal Christ’s imminent return. Finally, it is living with the expectancy of meeting Jesus face to face.
Watch, Pray, and Be Ready
The alarm is sounding. Instead of hitting the snooze button and continuing to doze in spiritual complacency, may we “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” (Luke 21:34-36).
May we forge into the coming year with joyful anticipation and excitement. This could be the year of our Lord’s return. “‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).