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Called to Watch: Not Sleep

The command of Christ that we watch for His second coming is seen often in Scripture. The reason for this exhortation is that we, “know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matt. 25:13). Because of this uncertainty on our part, we must keep a constant watch. The opposite of watching as we learn from various passages is sleeping. Just as sleep is the greatest temptation for a guard keeping watch during a lonely dark night, so it is for the Christian who at times thinks that he is all alone and that his Saviour will never come. Nevertheless, we as young people must still watch. We do this through prayer as our Lord has commanded us. But, as I want to show in this article, we must also watch for the sudden coming of our Lord Jesus Christ by being awake and paying attention to the Word preached in the public worship services of the church.

The seriousness of the calling to listen attentively is brought out when we notice that the Word being preached is the very Word of Christ. Christ is the One who preaches to us just as He preached peace unto the Ephesians as we read in Eph. 2:17. When we remember that we must be watching at all times for Christ then it follows that we will desire to know as much as we can about Him and about His coming. What better place is there to do this than in the House of God during public worship? It is in public worship on the Lord’s Day that we hear the voice of Him for Whom we are watching!

We must watch for Christ Who is the Sun of Righteousness. It is He alone Who shines the rays of truth and right into our dark hearts, “to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Cor. 4:6). He enlightens us also because He is the Light as Jesus says in John 8:12: “I am the Light of the world, he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” Because He is the Sun of Righteousness and the Light, He is also, “the Dayspring from on high [that] hath visited us” (Luke 1:78). He is the One for Whom the Old Testament saints were watching. He is the One Who finally came in the darkest hour of the many years of silence as the Dayspring to lead us out of the weary night.

Because of this work of sovereign grace in our hearts, we as the people of God are called “the children of the day” and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14a). We are both of these things as Paul teaches also in I Thessalonians 5:5-6 where he says: “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” Here again, the Word of God brings up our calling to watch because Christ has shined the Light into our hearts. He has opened our eyes so that we are able to watch. Therefore let us watch out of thanksgiving to Him.

As the children of the day Christ has also given unto us confidence that when He comes again we will not be overtaken suddenly as by a thief. This is our great comfort as Christians. Christ has led us out of the darkness of sin so that when the Day of the Lord comes we shall not be as the unbelievers who have no escape! We have no fear of the end of the world!

This confidence only comes in the way of watching. Therefore we must not sleep as the wicked men of this world do. Yet this is so easy for us to do because of the weakness of the flesh. Think of parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1-13. Before the Bridegroom came back, all the virgins were sleeping including the wise virgins. Or think of Peter who declared, “Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death” (Luke 22:33). Yet, after Jesus commanded him to watch with Him while He prayed to God, Peter fell asleep. Upon seeing Peter sleeping, Jesus says, “What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:40b-41).

Although the passage just quoted doesn’t focus on Peter’s calling to watch for Christ’s second coming, the command of our Lord Jesus is the same to us today. We must watch and pray, not sleep, because we are weak. We watch and pray for Christ’s second coming by worshipping God on the Lord’s day in spirit and in truth. Our minds must be vitally interested in the congregational prayer that is offered up so that we can make that prayer our own. When we sleep, it is impossible to do this. In congregational singing, our hearts ought to meditate on the words while we sing with all our strength. During the sermon we need to concentrate on the Word spoken and apply that Word unto our own lives by faith.

We can only do this when we are awake. Therefore we should prepare ourselves by getting enough sleep on Saturday night. In the worship service we must not, “sleep as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” When we sleep in the worship service we are indeed doing as “others”, which undoubtedly is referring to unbelievers. Although the text is talking about sleep in a spiritual sense, we must conclude that when we physically sleep in a worship service we act like unbelievers for we manifest an indifference to the Word spoken.

On the other hand, we should not either be like the scribes and Pharisees of Matthew 15:7-8 where Jesus says, “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you saying, This people draw nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” This text makes plain that even though we may be wide awake in a worship service, and outwardly looking as though we are listening, if our heart is far from God we are spiritually sleeping. We are not following Christ’s command to worship in spirit and in truth.

When we worship God in the way He has commanded us then we will find joy in our God and confidence that at the last day we will be justified in our Lord Jesus Christ. Worshipping God’s way is being awake and watching for the coming of His Son Jesus Christ. Worship is not a time for sleep. The true worship of God that comes from the heart is because of the work of Christ Who makes us arise out of sleep and become the children of the day. So fellow young people let us watch and not sleep in the worship services of the church for by this we show to all the world our thankfulness to God for His sovereign wondrous work of transforming us from darkness into light. In this way our God alone will be glorified.

“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light” (Romans 13:11-12). ❖