All are called as spiritual watchmen for ourselves and others. Our assignment is where we are, part of the global kingdom of God and Christ’s second coming.
Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. (Mark 13: 33)
This, of course, relates powerfully to the second coming of Christ. No child of God should ever forget how critical a truth this is. With the signs of the end times all around us, the return of the King is imminent and we cannot afford to lose sight of this. That said, however, It’s also a truth that has powerful relevance on a more practical level – our daily lives. Now, more than ever, spiritual watchmen are needed ‘on the ground.’
What are spiritual watchmen?
In the ‘universal’ context of this verse, spiritual watchmen are men and women of God called to ‘watch’ the signs of the times, to hear the warnings of the Spirit, to pray accordingly in God’s will, and to warn others. It sounds terribly ‘important,’ but they can be the bus driver, the politician, the retiree in an old age home, or simply a mom of four. These people are a little like John the Baptist for the second coming of Christ. They remind us of biblical prophesy and the coming of the King. I like to call them ‘kingdom watchmen’ because they serve Christ in the broader context of the church, but also have an evangelical purpose for the world at large.
‘On the ground’ spiritual watchmen is the role for every believer. We are none of us excused or exempt from this responsibility. When we join the army of the kingdom of God, we’re issued with weapons and with binoculars. The sad reality, though, is that too many believers are asleep at their posts. No armour or weapons, no matter how polished or sharp, will save us if the enemy sneaks up from behind. Even worse, we could unwittingly help to drag in the ‘Trojan horse.’ Warfare is dirty business, and the soldier who is not also a watchman is neglecting a vital part of his duty.
Spiritual watchmen in the trenches.
Being spiritual watchmen is a never-ending responsibility. It’s a role we never step out of and one we never take a break from. If we’re breathing, we’re meant to be watching. Simple. We can’t put the responsibility on anyone else. Our ‘watch field’ is where we are – at home, at work, on the bus, at school, at the PTA meeting… That’s because the enemy isn’t particular about where he strikes. Any battlefield will do. But the one without a watchman is going to be the one he chooses. Why not? It gives him the element of surprise, after all.
God, for His own reasons, has chosen to work with and through people. We are the vessels God uses, and He uses us where we are – out there in the trenches. He expects us to test everything, to be alert, to listen to the Spirit, and to discern spiritual things. That’s watching. It’s not about finding fault or judging others. Rather, it’s exercising spiritual wisdom and discernment and listening to the prompting of the Spirit. God has a very sound logic in making us all spiritual watchmen. If each of us is watching out for ourselves and others, we’re going to be one step ahead of the enemy. As today’s verse tells us, we don’t know the time. While this does apply in the bigger context of the second coming, it also applies to the ‘in the trenches’ happenings we face on a daily basics. When we’re watching, we’re prepared.
Spiritual watchmen and the kingdom of God.
In a ‘global’ world, where the other side of the world is as accessible as the house next door, we lose our real perspective. Technology has taught us to ‘think globally’ which, in and of itself, isn’t wrong. The second coming of Christ, according to the Bible, is a global event. It will be witnessed by the whole world. The problem with this global view, though, is that we see the kingdom of God from the same perspective. In doing so, we lose sight of the truth that it’s made up of your ‘village’ and my ‘village.’ Spiritual watchmen are easily distracted from the ‘war at home’ by the grand, sweeping kingdom vision.
To understand this better, we can look at the analogy of military strategy. A war is won by taking specific points and by holding or defending them. Our great world wars provide powerful examples. They were, technically, fought on a global scale on many fronts in many countries. There were those who knew all the details and had a global view of war as a whole. The greater part of the armies, however, were on the ground. Their part was limited to the place where they were assigned. They knew the war was widespread. Reports and rumours filtered through. But their focus was on the strategic position for which they were responsible. Spiritual watchmen serve the kingdom best when they focus on their assigned stations.
The duties of spiritual watchmen in the trenches.
We serve a God who, while omnipotent and sovereign, is also extremely practical. Our duties as spiritual watchmen are, therefore, just as practical. It starts with ourselves. We are, first and foremost, to keep watch on and for ourselves. This includes self-examination and submission to the Spirit. It means being honest, obedient, and sensitive to discern wrong teaching as well as sinful actions. We must watch ourselves lest we allow ourselves to be led astray. Ultimately, we are responsible for taking care of our own spiritual growth and relationship with God.
Then, we are to be spiritual watchmen for our families. We are to love them, teach them, guide them, and exhort them. If they choose to ignore the warnings, that’s between them and God. But we cannot use this as an excuse to hang up our binoculars and leave them to get on with it. Watching is a lifelong calling. It has nothing to do with whether others listen or not. After our family, God’s family is next. He expects the same devotion to them as to our own. Finally, we are spiritual watchmen for those who do not serve God – friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. Again, our obligation is warn them. If we don’t, their blood is on our hands.
Spiritual watchmen and pride.
Self, when it sees that we’re saved – despite its best efforts to avoid it – will remain our greatest enemy. It will continue to try to impose its control, even in spiritual matters. Pride is the basis of all these insidious attempts, and it’s adept at disguising itself as spirituality. The idea of spiritual watchmen is appealing if we think in global terms. We feel like we’re part of something huge and world-changing. That, in turn, makes us feel important. Self will instinctively steer us to the global battle where everything is potentially larger than life. It’s a subtle, pride-feeding deception that has all the right spiritual trappings.
Being spiritual watchmen in the trenches is definitely not appealing to self. It’s dirty work on the ground. It’s wearying, troublesome, irritating, and often thankless. Our efforts all too often go unnoticed, at best. At worst, we’re mocked and ridiculed. Pride resents either of these options. If self must tolerate being a Christian, it wants to at least see the benefits of being ‘set apart’ by God. The reality is that our day to day watching is that of servants, not princes. We’re troops, not commanders. But it is also quite possibly the single most important thing we can ever do in our day. Without the watchmen, there is no real hope of victory.
The shared responsibility of spiritual watchmen.
As the body of Christ, we’re also the army of Christ. Just as the body needs all its parts to function effectively, so the army needs each soldier to play their part. It’s simple truth that if one shirks their duty, another must assume a double burden. The work has to be done. If I don’t report for my shift, someone else will have to pull a double shift. Spiritual watchmen who lose sight of their God-given responsibilities fail both their fellow believers and the kingdom of God.
Being alert and committed spiritual watchmen – just as Jesus was – is one way to love others as God loved us. We watch because we care, not because it seems important. We may never know who or how many we have helped with a simple warning. But God knows. Today’s verse reminds us to be ready. To watch and pray in love as spiritual watchmen, because we never know the time He will call us to manifest His will.
Help us, Lord, to gladly assume our responsibility as spiritual watchmen. Release Your love in our hearts so that it will be a joy not a burden. Open our spiritual eyes and grant us wisdom and discernment, and empower us to watch and to pray, and to be alert and ready, no matter what the time.