I recently attended our camp conference which focused on our upcoming theme for next summer: Keep Watch. In order to fly from the middle of the country to the West Coast, I was awake at 4:20 a.m. to catch a plane leaving at 6:40 a.m. in order to arrive in Seattle at 11:09 a.m. (It was a much longer flight than it appears.) Meeting old friends, getting settled, eating lunch, and walking the trails kept me busy until the conference began at 5:30 p.m. with dinner.
By 8:00 p.m. I was fading fast, because it was really 10:00 p.m. to me, having been awake for almost 18 hours. As not only my eyelids grew heavy, my arms and legs did too. I decided there was no reason to continue to try to stay alert (I was failing miserably at it.) so I gathered my things, left the meeting, and settled in to bed. Let’s just say, I was not sleepless in Seattle. I enjoyed a good nine hours of sleep.
Our time of worship and devotions the next morning talked about keeping watch with expectancy – waiting for the Lord’s return. However, I was struck by the fact that the night before, I was so tired I was unable to keep watch. I needed to rest. In the same way, there are times in our spiritual lives we become exhausted as well. How do we “keep watch” during those times? Perhaps the command to keep watch is not meant just for individuals. Perhaps we are to keep watch for others, especially our brothers and sisters who are too exhausted from trials and fiery darts to keep alert to the dangers and opportunities surrounding them.
Jesus gives us an example of this when He took Peter, James, and John into the garden Gethsemane (Matthew 26:28) “Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ Of course, the three fell asleep showing us how not to keep watch. In His hour of need, Jesus wanted others interceding and keeping alert with Him.
Shouldn’t we be doing the same? Shouldn’t we put on the full armor of God – not just to protect ourselves but to also protect our fellow soldiers? Shouldn’t we use our shield of faith to help deflect the fiery darts hurled at our struggling friend – offering a shoulder to cry on, praying for healing, for strength, and wisdom, sending a note of encouragement, forgiving, holding, surrounding, caring. As a fellow believer, a fellow soldier, how can I stand by and watch someone struggle without offering protection? When I see my brothers and sisters struggling with sin, struggling with trials, how can I not fall on my knees and intercede for them?
“But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” I Thessalonians 5:8-11