We are not as familiar with the concept of keeping watch as were previous generations. Construction techniques and materials have made our lives more secure. Hi-tech cameras and sensors monitor our country, businesses, homes and even the baby’s crib. Technology has certainly reduced the human effort required but has in no wise eliminated the need for this essential function. We must keep watch against foreign invaders, homegrown terrorists, domestic criminals of all sorts, politicians, a multitude of natural disasters and the antics of those we know here affectionately at TR as “snotty nose, screen door slammers”. Vigilance is as fundamental and as necessary as breathing.
I have wondered in the past what it must be like to be a cowboy keeping watch over a herd of cattle during a stormy night. It has a certain appeal in terms of drama and adventure but not enough to inspire me to try it at this age. Those with military experience have likely taken a turn keeping watch or standing guard. I still enjoy hearing Michelle tell of her experience working the occasional night shift as a nursing assistant. I also appreciate knowing that she kept a constant eye over our children through sleepless nights, countless illnesses and broken hearts. Anyone tasked with a responsibility that requires one to stay awake and attentive can relate to the difficulty.
It should not surprise us that vigilance is a critical part of our spiritual life. Consider these admonitions. Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong (1Co 16:13). Upon donning our spiritual armor, we are instructed to pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints (Eph 6:18). Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober (1Th 5:6). But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers (1Pe 4:7). Each saint must be attentive to their salvation and engage the tools God provides.
Evangelists are also tasked with watching. Timothy was instructed to be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2Ti 4:5). Ezekial, as prophet, was assigned this significant responsibility. “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: “When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. “Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. “Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.” (Eze 3:17-21) Evangelists must see and warn against the danger of sin.
Paul warned the elders at Ephesus of spiritual dangers lying ahead. “Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears” (Ac 20:31). The eldership is tasked with watching for dangers from outside and from dangers within the church. Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you (Heb 13:17).
Congregations have a collective responsibility as well. This does not fall solely on the eldership. The congregation at Sardis was told to “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. “Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you (Rev 3:2, 3).
How frustrated do we become when our children ignore our instruction and warning against danger? How many tears have we shed when they came to physical harm? How many children have lost their lives by ignoring sound instruction? How many children have lost their souls? Looking from this perspective we can relate to the burden placed upon saints, evangelists and elders. How many of God’s children must He lose?