We must be both sober and watchful and joyfully expectant as we look for the coming of Christ. His return will be as the King of Glory, and our response to this truth is a testimony to others. It’s part of being set apart for God and living lives of surrender and obedience.
Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. (1 Thessalonians 5:6)
Every believer looks for the second coming of Christ. But it must be with joyous expectation rather than as something wonderful that will happen down the line. It could happen at any moment. It may be in our lifetime or in our children’s lifetime. What we can be sure of is that none us know the time or date. What we do know is that He will return as the conquering King and the whole earth will witness His coming. There is little doubt that we are living in the end times and already, the internet makes it possible for the whole earth to see His return. It’s a matter of time, and it’s up to us as believers to be sober and watchful. If we anticipate His coming with joy and expectation, we will not be caught unawares in the beautiful and terrible moment of His appearance on earth.
Sober and watchful is a daily attitude.
It’s easy to get distracted by the responsibilities and pressures of life and the world. We live at an increasingly fast pace. The things created to make things easier often demand more of our time and attention. A good example is social media which allows us to interact with loved ones and friends across the globe in ‘real time’ but which somehow gobbles up a huge number of hours if we’re not disciplined in its use. Even these benefits bring seduction and deception. To be sober and watchful applies to everything and not only the negative things we encounter, e.g. on the internet. We must be as careful in not allowing even the ‘good’ things not to steal our time with God in worship and the Word. These are critical in empowering us to be able to discern what is of God and what isn’t.
No believer should ever live in fear, because fear is not of God. But we must be wise, and wisdom comes from time in the Word and in communion with God. We must learn to cultivate the habit of being sober and watchful so we’re not caught unawares by the ploys of the enemy to separate us from God under the guides of ‘scriptural’ or ‘spiritual’ things. The pressure on believers will continue to increase because Satan knows that his time is running out. Persecution and tribulation will become more focused and our refuge and power lies in right relationship with Christ. This means that every day means a day lived with Him and in surrender to Him. Our joyous expectation of His coming is our daily joy, the strength that sustains us in all things and reminds us that He already has the victory.
Sober and watchful for ourselves and others.
Ezekiel’s watchmen are for this moment, perhaps more than any other before. While we may lack the nitty-gritty details of the second coming of Jesus, we can be sure of one thing. The spiritual realm is roiling with an abundance of activity never seen before as the factions of darkness and light gear up for the final battle to come. We can be absolutely certain that dramatic and powerful alignments are taking place even now as God prepares for the return of His Son. This spiritual activity has mankind as its critical focus, and to be sober and watchful has never meant as much as it does now. More than this, we are to watch for ourselves and for others. We are the body of Christ, united in Him, and what befalls one affects us all. Whether others may listen to our warnings or not is irrelevant.
Our task is to watch and to warn. We cannot neglect this critical function of every believer. The Bible tells us clearly that this is the time of the great apostasy when many fall away from the faith. It’s possible that many of these will not hear the warnings if we do not speak them. If we speak and they do not heed, then that is their choice. But our purpose is to be sober and watchful, to sound the alarm, and to allow the Spirit to lead and convict. We cannot simply stand back and watch while others fall away and wash our hands of our responsibility. As Christ’s ambassadors on earth, we have to speak what God reveals in our times of watching and study of the Word. God will provide insight into the activity in the spiritual realm and how it will impact us and our churches.
How to be sober and watchful.
The very nature of ‘sober’ seems to exclude a joyful anticipation of His coming. But it refers to sobriety in the world, i.e. in not being swept away by emotion or ‘feel-good’ things that seem spiritual but which lead us away from Christ. To be sober is to be centred in Christ and surrendered to the Spirit. Sober and watchful are attitudes that grow from intimacy with God and from times of worship. They are the outworking of spiritual maturity that has grown beyond the deceptions of the world to where we are able to listen and to see spiritual things at work. The first thing, then, is to learn to spend time with God and in His Word, listening and discerning what He is saying. It requires discipline – something comfortable Christianity shirks because it implies hard work or effort – and it requires daily commitment.
Spiritual wisdom is from God, and we can only acquire it by sitting at His feet and learning from Him. The second step in being sober and watchful is being willing to learn. This means putting aside our own ideas and opinions and allowing God to renew our minds to discern what He teaches us. Finally, it requires obedience, and this is often the hardest habit to develop. The difficulty is that others may not particularly want to hear the warnings. Those who are ‘sleeping’ may not want to be woken up with the truth. Resistance and rejection are difficult barriers, especially if we carry a challenging message. But speak we must, and leave them to make their decisions. We cannot truly be sober and watchful if we do not implement it by speaking or acting. Revelation from God is pointless if it’s not shared with those who need it.
Joyful expectation and sober and watchful.
Joyful expectation is the mark of a true believer. When we can look forward with joy to the coming of Christ in triumph, we provide a powerful testimony to those around us. Our joy doesn’t diminish the command to be sober and watchful. It empowers it. We don’t look for Christ because we want out of the world but because we want to be with Him. We are joyful because we know the glorious eternal future that awaits us. It makes the reality of His return something worth celebrating, something real rather than a vague spiritual something that may or may not happen. We choose to be sober – to live free of the seductions of the world – because He is more important. Our watch is because we want all to enjoy the celebration with Him. We live in expectation of life eternal.
To be sober and watchful is part of being set apart for God. His purpose is that we live consecrated lives that are spiritual in foundation. We manifest His nature, purpose, and truth to the world. Our example is the example of Christ – servanthood and surrender to the sovereignty of God in all things. This is what makes us ‘different’ and adds relevance to our lives. It reveals the reality of the King of Glory and that the Word of God is eternal and the only truth.
Help us, Lord, to remain sober and watchful. Draw us into deeper intimacy so that we may learn from You. Empower us by Your Spirit to speak as You reveal Your truth. Strengthen our joy and expectation so that the world may see the truth of Your glorious return and be challenged to choose the right path.