Word of the Week: Watchful


“Watch your step!” is an admonition often given by parents to young children.

Kids can become distracted, lethargic, or passive regarding their surroundings and not be paying attention to potential pitfalls. This is particularly good advice when walking down stairs, hiking a trail with rough terrain or walking through a cow pasture.

This is also sound spiritual advice.

In John’s letter to the church at Sardis , “who had a name that you are alive, but are dead,” he wrote, “be watchful” (Rev. 3:1-2)

Our word of the week, “watchful” is a word for all time. Everyday. In every circumstance and situation.

Thayer says it’s used metaphorically and means to “give strict attention to, be cautious, active.” W. E. Vine suggests it has to do with “spiritual alertness.”

While Sardis could be called “a dead church,” there were, as A. T. Robertson writes, some “vestiges of life” within the congregation. Not everyone had “defiled their garments.” There was a remnant that could be salvaged from the slothful, spiritless church at Sardis.

This reminds us that regardless of the spiritual condition of the local church, that Christianity is an individual responsibility. Each of us are personably accountable, even when the church is listless, languid, and lackadaisical.

However, the key for each Christian is to “be watchful.” This specific word of exhortation is found 22 times in the New Testament. Paul told Timothy to “be watchful in all things.” To the Corinthians, he urges, “Be watchful, stand firm in your faith” (1 Cor 16:13). And more than once Jesus admonished, “watch and pray.”

Here are a few areas in which we need to be watchful.

(1) Be watchful for Satan’s schemes.

Peter says he’s like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. From Genesis to Revelation we are reminded of the devil’s cunning craftiness as he seeks to deceive us and lead us away from the Lord. So, the apostle warns and admonishes, “be sober-minded; be watchful” (1 Pet. 5:8)

(2) Therefore, knowing that Satan is out to get us, we must be watchful for temptation.

He will attack our weakest point with the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-17). He will tempt us with riches, pleasure, power, position and even other people.

Temptations may arise while we’re surfing the internet. Listening to music. Watching a movie. Flipping through a magazine. Working with a fellow employee on a project. Traveling on a business trip. And even on vacation. Jesus’ injunction “Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation” is well-heeded advice.

(3) Be watchful of false teaching.

Paul counseled the Ephesians elders in his final address to “be watchful” of “ savage wolves” that would invade the flock. Even among the Shepherds, some would spread error, “speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” (Ax 20:28-31).

Shepherds, as well as all saints, need to be alert to the dangerous doctrines in both within the church and in the world.

(4) Be watchful for the second coming of Christ.

The Bible clearly teaches that He will come again. But we don’t know when. “Watch, therefore,” said Jesus, “for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” “What I say to you, I say to all: watch” (Matt 24:42-43; Mark 13:37).

“The last day is a secret,” says Augustine, “that every day may be watched.” Thus, we should all live like we are dying, and as if the Lord were coming today.  One author wrote that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty” and “eternal watchfulness is the price of salvation.”

If you’ve become spiritually sluggish, wake up! Open your eyes. Watch your step. And be watchful.

–Ken Weliever, The Precherman

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