Why are we told to Keep Watch?

Our property backs onto a wilderness area that gradually turns into a marsh. The first time I saw the house I fell in love with the wildness of it. It was like living in a forest. Although I’m not an outdoor person and do not enjoy camping, I do enjoy looking at the trees and the wildlife. Sometimes my husband was able to persuade me to take a walk with him in this forest and we would explore the area. The one thing I noticed immediately, and anyone who has ever walked in this type of terrain will also know, is that I had to be careful to watch where I was going. There were holes in the ground where I’m sure some little critter lived; there were tree limbs and branches littering the ground, and there were even little areas of standing water that I had to find a way to cross, without slipping. I had to be on alert the entire time for these natural traps and snares, so I would not be injured or worse, even bitten by a snake. As I ponder on this, I can’t help but think of the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:42 when He warned His disciples to “stay awake”. The word used here is a Greek word that means to stay awake or be vigilant or keep watch. In other words, don’t fall asleep. As I walked through that untamed wilderness area behind my house, I had to be vigilant to not sprain my ankle, or trip and fall. As much as I love watching the birds, looking up at that time would not have been good. I had to keep watch over my feet. 

I’ve always wondered what Jesus meant when He told us to “keep watch”. However, as I think of this story in the natural, I begin to understand what it could possibly mean in the spiritual. In Ephesians 5:15 Paul admonishes us to “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil”. So the first thing that I have to understand as I learn to keep watch in the spirit realm, is that I need to be wise, and I need to make the best use of my time. 

In other words, I have to have the wisdom to understand that the enemy is laying traps, snares, tree limbs, branches, little holes in the ground, and even using snakes, to trip us and make us fall and get hurt or bit. Denial doesn’t change anything. He’s out there looking for you and me. He’s looking for weak spots in our lives so that we might become offended with the Lord and walk away from Him. Jesus warned His disciples in John 16:1 by telling them: “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.” The word falling away means to offend, to trip up or cause to stumble. What did Jesus just warn them about before He said that? He told them that persecutions would come and they would be hated by the world. I think we can all agree that this has been happening all over the world, and is most recently getting even worse. We must guard our hearts that we not become offended with the Lord but instead choose to trust Him in everything that happens, even and perhaps especially when we don’t understand. 

Jesus also warned His disciples in Mark 14:38 to “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak”. Jesus told His disciples this right before He was arrested and crucified. What temptation could He have been referring to? I believe He was warning them about fear and offense. They were all scattered and afraid when He was arrested. They were afraid that it could happen to them as well and offended because He was not doing what they had hoped. He did not declare Himself as King of the Jews and deliver them from Roman occupation, which is what they were looking for in a Messiah. They were not looking for a lamb that was crucified. 

Temptation is not always about sinful actions such as immorality. We can also be tempted to become angry, bitter and offended with our Lord when life doesn’t turn out the way we thought it should. When our prayers haven’t been answered or they were answered in a way we didn’t like, or anytime stuff happens that is painful and difficult, it is easy to become offended with Him. When life doesn’t turn out the way we expected it to, the temptation is great to become like John the Baptist and doubt that Jesus really is God and that He is in control. “Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:2-3) I will point out what Jesus said to John’s disciples after telling them to report back about the things He was doing, “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matthew 11:6) Why would Jesus say that? I would venture to say that John was offended because he was in prison, and this was not the way he expected his ministry to end up. He fell into the trap of offense. If it can happen to John the Baptist, it can happen to anyone. We must be vigilant and keep watch. 

The enemy is also looking for ways to distract us with the cares of this world. When I look at the world right now, I can truly agree with Paul when he says “the days are evil”. There are so many things happening to us in this world right now that are distracting, to say the least. Fear is everywhere. Anger is readily on the surface. Confusion reigns. If we struggle with who is in control, then these emotions double in their intensity. I’m sure that I am not alone in trying to escape from the fears of this world. It is easy to do that with the internet and other entertainments so readily available in our society. I have to so often reign my heart and mind back in and stop finding comfort in these distraction and instead find my peace and comfort in Jesus. As He faced arrest, knowing the darkness coming at both Him and them, Jesus told them “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Our eyes must be on Jesus in these perilous days. I will leave you with this final word of encouragement that Jesus tells us in Luke 21:28: “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Look up. He’s coming in the clouds!

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