What it Means to Watch and Pray

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By John Thiel, Audio: mp3

Scripture Reading; Mark 13:31 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. 33 Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.

I received a phone from someone through the week in which an expression was made, I am so shocked, I am so surprised, I did not expect to be treated in such a way by the church.  That prompted me to think and to pray and to observe what Jesus has said.  When he said, watch and pray, what did he mean? The history of Gods people has been fraught and surprise and shock and with disappointed hopes.  Why did the people of God become surprised, shocked and disappointed?  Because as always, they did not appreciate Gods preparatory counsels.  God in love has always prepared his people for every negative experience that would come upon them.  God warned Jacob and his sons and their offspring that they would be in Egypt in captivity for 400 years long before it happened.

How God Prepared His People

Genesis 15:13 And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land [that is] not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; 14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. 15 And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. 16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites [is] not yet full.

If you were living in Egypt as one of the people of God, would you have been crying to God saying why did this happen to us?  Why are we in captivity?  If they would remember the counsel of Abraham they would have accepted it.

Babylonish Captivity

Then there is the story of the children of Israel in Babylonian captivity.  The people were distressed.  Why did God let this happen?

Jeremiah 25:9 Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the LORD, and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations. 10 Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones, and the light of the candle. 11 And this whole land shall be a desolation, [and] an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, [that] I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations.

If you were living as one of Gods children in Jerusalem, would you have been overwhelmed with shock and dismay that now that beaut city of Jerusalem was being ransacked, the sons and daughters being taken captive?  What a heartache.  What a dreadful experience they would have been making.  If they had listened to the Word of God they would have prepared themselves for it.

The Disciples Disappointment

Then when Jesus came and he established the early church, the twelve disciples, what a wonderful story was happening in their life.  He their Messiah, they his disciples and everything was going to be wonderful they expected. But what was there to prepare them?

Zechariah 13:6 And [one] shall say unto him, What [are] these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, [Those] with which I was wounded [in] the house of my friends. 7 Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man [that is] my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.

What would happen to this their beloved Messiah?  What would happen to them?  They didn’t know.  Jesus in his efforts to prepare them told them what we just read.

Matthew 26:31 Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. 32 But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. 33 Peter answered and said unto him, Though all [men] shall be offended because of thee, [yet] will I never be offended. 34 Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. 35 Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.

Jesus directly reminded them of the scripture in Zechariah.  What did they say?  Jesus prepares the lives of his children.  He prepared the mind of his disciples.  Did they believe it?  They did not.  They even denied his very words and said no, we will never be offended, we will never be scattered, and we’re going to press together with you.

The Message for Us Today

Observe the message for us today.  We continue the preparation message and the call;

Matthew 26:36 Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. 37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. 38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. 39 And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou [wilt]. 40 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed [is] willing, but the flesh [is] weak.

This is what our message is for today. As Jesus spoke to these men just prior to their absolute disappointment he said watch and pray lest you fall into temptation.  He had just warned them they were going to be scattered and they said no, no we’re not going to do that.  What did they do?  They slept.

Matthew 26:42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. 43 And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. 44 And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.

Here we are, they slept on and didn’t watch and pray.  Consequently, what happened next?

Matthew 26:50 And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him. 51 And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out [his] hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear. 52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. 53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? 55 In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me. 56 But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.

Oh we will never flee, we will stand loyal to you.  When Peter had the right opportunity he said I’m going to defend my Jesus and cut of the ear of the high priests servant.  Then to Peters disappointment Jesus put the ear back on again.  Peter saw total hopelessness.  As Jesus spoke to them they said, it’s useless, lets get out of here.  The scenarios of this experience are parallel to now.  The scripture reading of Mark 13 is what Jesus is saying to us who are living in the last days.  We can be sure that the words of Jesus are going to take place even for us today.  He says to us today as he said to the disciples before the disappointment.  You’re going to do this.  This is going to happen, prepare yourself.

Mark 13:31 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. 33 Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.

My words shall not pass away.  Be assured what I’m saying to you in the last days, as it was said to all Gods people in the past, it will take place as much as you don’t want it to.

Luke 21:29 And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; 30 When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. 31 So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. 32 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. 33 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. 34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and [so] that day come upon you unawares. 35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. 

What is Jesus saying?  Don’t sleep.  Pay close attention because if you’re sleeping, you will be shocked, dismayed and bewildered.  You need to escape from these terrible things not to be shattered and destroyed because when these things I’m telling you come about, it is going to be like a snare and you will fall into the snare.  Take heed to yourselves because you mustn’t sleep by the cares of this life, take heed.

Surfeiting, drunkenness, and the Cares of this Life

What do they produce upon our consciousness of what is happening in the future?  It is a kind of sleep, it is a kind of unconsciousness of the fine detail of what is around me.  Isn’t it the case in our life?  Do we have more than enough?  The reality is yes.  We live like kings.  In the past, Gods people lived in tents, Gods people lived in houses that were not as well serviced as ours are.  We are living in a society of surfeiting, drunkenness, and the cares of this life.  As the cares of this life pile upon your life, you have no time too look upon the fine print of Gods word.

The world, full of rioting, full of godless pleasure, is asleep, asleep in carnal security. Men are putting afar off the coming of the Lord. They laugh at warnings. The proud boast is made, “All things continue as they were from the beginning.” “Tomorrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant.” 2 Peter 3:4; Isa. 56:12. We will go deeper into pleasure loving. But Christ says, “Behold, I come as a thief.” Rev. 16:15. At the very time when the world is asking in scorn, “Where is the promise of His coming?” the signs are fulfilling. While they cry, “Peace and safety,” sudden destruction is coming. When the scorner, the rejecter of truth, has become presumptuous; when the routine of work in the various money-making lines is carried on without regard to principle; when the student is eagerly seeking knowledge of everything but his Bible, Christ comes as a thief.  {DA 635.3}

That shudders me. The student is seeking knowledge of everything but his bible.  That is what you get today if you want a good income by going to university.  You have to study and study to pass those exams and you have little time to study and study to pass the exams of Christs soon coming.  People say to me I study enough, no, not the fine print.  That is why we become terribly shocked when we see things happens.  The people who do not sleep are those that watch and pray.

1 Thessalonians 5:1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as [do] others; but let us watch and be sober. 7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

It’s not meant to overtake you as a thief.  If people are aware and studying and praying, they will be aware of the muffled tread of the thief.  They hear the slippered footstep and will say, ah hah, there he is, while others are occupied doing their thing.

What were they doing at night the disciples?  They were sleeping.  Sleep is for the people at night.  In the world we are living in gross darkness.  There is gross darkness and people are sleeping but the glory of the Lord arises upon Gods people.  His light shall be noticed in the darkness.  God’s people are not asleep in the night of this world’s darkness.  They can see what is happening in front of them with the harmony of what God is saying.

What does it mean to sleep?  It means to be unaware of surrounding circumstances.  It means spiritually unaware of the creeping compromise.  Unaware of the insidious little things that will take us off our guard just like the disciples when Jesus said, you’re all going to forsake me.  He could say that as he knew they would be sleeping.  The story of the disciples was given to us as an object lesson that we should not do what they have done because what will happen?  We will be shocked and overwhelmed.  We will become unaware of the specifics of our time.  The specifics that were written, we will suddenly discover, too late.  We will be bewildered and unprepared.

During the long hours when Saul was shut in with God alone, he recalled many of the passages of Scripture referring to the first advent of Christ. Carefully he traced down the prophecies, with a memory sharpened by the conviction that had taken possession of his mind. As he reflected on the meaning of these prophecies he was astonished at his former blindness of understanding and at the blindness of the Jews in general, which had led to the rejection of Jesus as the promised Messiah. To his enlightened vision all now seemed plain. He knew that his former prejudice and unbelief had clouded his spiritual perception and had prevented him from discerning in Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah of prophecy.  {AA 119.1}

Is this is what his happening to people today?  Something is clouding their vision so they are unconscious of the events they need to be conscious of. Therefore to watch and pray is the opposite of the above statement.  It is to be alert as Apostle Paul was after he had been enlightened.  If we remain in a state of sleepiness and don’t observe carefully before the close of probation, we won’t have another chance.  To watch is to do the opposite of sleeping.

Blissful Ignorance

That is sleep isn’t it.  Then at the last moment we awake and then what’s happened?  Like the disciples did when the crowd came to take Jesus and in their sleepiness they said yes, yes, we’re going to stick with Jesus and off goes the ear.  Have you ever been asleep and you wake up fast and you don’t know what you’re doing?

Peculiar and rapid changes will soon take place, and God’s people are to be endowed with the Holy Spirit, so that with heavenly wisdom they may meet the emergencies of this age, and as far as possible counteract the demoralizing movements of the world. If the church is not asleep, if the followers of Christ watch and pray, they may have light to comprehend and appreciate the movements of the enemy.  {6T 436.3}

If the church is not asleep what will they have?  Light to comprehend the movements of the enemy.  You will see him as changes take place in your experience.  Sr White wrote that at the turn of the century.  How essential is it now to watch and pray and be not asleep.  What is needed as these emergencies come by us?

Because we know not the exact time of His coming, we are commanded to watch. “Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when He cometh shall find watching.” Luke 12:37. Those who watch for the Lord’s coming are not waiting in idle expectancy. The expectation of Christ’s coming is to make men fear the Lord, and fear His judgments upon transgression. It is to awaken them to the great sin of rejecting His offers of mercy. Those who are watching for the Lord are purifying their souls by obedience to the truth. With vigilant watching they combine earnest working. Because they know that the Lord is at the door, their zeal is quickened to co-operate with the divine intelligences in working for the salvation of souls. These are the faithful and wise servants who give to the Lord’s household “their portion of meat in due season.” Luke 12:42. They are declaring the truth that is now specially applicable. As Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses each declared the truth for his time, so will Christ’s servants now give the special warning for their generation.  {DA 634.2}

What are we doing if we are not sleeping?  We are very active in the revelations of Gods word to not reject the offers of mercy.  We are watching for the Lord by purifying our hearts by obedience to the truth.  If you are going to be obedient to the truth, what must you do?  Look for it.  As the ministry is passing on God’s word, we must take it and not forget it.  I have seen too much forgetfulness.  People say, that was a wonderful message but if you ask them what was the message about 2 or 3 weeks later, they have forgotten.  Why?  They were sleeping why they were listening to it.  We weren’t so alert that we were taking it to our hearts and keeping it fresh in our memory and thinking about how my life must be affected by what I am hearing.  We must not be affected by those things.  We have been sleeping.  We then wonder why the thing happens that catches us by surprise.  Watching is to watch what Jesus is doing.  What is he doing right now?  Am I watching him?  Am I engaging with Jesus?  What is he doing?

Matthew 24:37 But as the days of Noe [were], so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, 39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 41 Two [women shall be] grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.

They were spiritually asleep.  The majority of people that read this believe it to be the literal physical coming of Jesus in the clouds.  How can that be if there are two are at the mill and field and one taken and one left?  This is the reason why people in the other churches believe in the rapture.  That is not what it is talking about.  What is meant here?  It will take people by surprise if they are not watching.

Jesus has left us word: “Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the Master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: lest coming suddenly He find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.” We are waiting and watching for the return of the Master, who is to bring the morning, lest coming suddenly He find us sleeping. What time is here referred to? Not to the revelation of Christ in the clouds of heaven to find a people asleep. No; but to His return from His ministration in the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, when He lays off His priestly attire and clothes Himself with garments of vengeance, and when the mandate goes forth: “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still; and he that is holy, let him be holy still.”  {2T 190.1}

When Jesus ceases to plead for man, the cases of all are forever decided. This is the time of reckoning with His servants. To those who have neglected the preparation of purity and holiness, which fits them to be waiting ones to welcome their Lord, the sun sets in gloom and darkness, and rises not again. Probation closes; Christ’s intercessions cease in heaven. This time finally comes suddenly upon all, and those who have neglected to purify their souls by obeying the truth are found sleeping. But while their interest was buried up in their worldly gains, the work closed in the heavenly sanctuary, and they were unprepared.  {2T 191.1}

Beware of the Fine Print

We need to be watching what Jesus is doing now in the heavenly sanctuary.  We need to be alert and see him working and everything that is written in the scriptures for this time, we need to understand and we need to participate in. That is why we need to go over it again and again to read the fine print so to be aware of what is actually transpiring right now.  This is so I can do what is expected of me so that when Jesus is finished in the sanctuary above, I am not caught by surprise.  If I am not so occupied, I will be aware of the fine print.

Here is one example of the fine print;

Matthew 24:44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. 45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? 46 Blessed [is] that servant, whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 47 Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. 48 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My Lord delayeth his coming; 49 And shall begin to smite [his] fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; 50 The Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for [him], and in an hour that he is not aware of,

Can you read the fine print?  What is this telling us about just now?  What do you need to understand just now before Jesus finishes his work in the sanctuary?

These are the faithful and wise servants who give to the Lord’s household “their portion of meat in due season.” Luke 12:42. They are declaring the truth that is now specially applicable. As Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses each declared the truth for his time, so will Christ’s servants now give the special warning for their generation.  {DA 634.2}

But Christ brings to view another class: “If that evil servant shall say in his heart, My Lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him.”  {DA 634.3}

Listen to the fine print:

The evil servant says in his heart, “My Lord delayeth his coming.” He does not say that Christ will not come. He does not scoff at the idea of His second coming. But in his heart and by his actions and words he declares that the Lord’s coming is delayed. He banishes from the minds of others the conviction that the Lord is coming quickly. His influence leads men to presumptuous, careless delay. They are confirmed in their worldliness and stupor. Earthly passions, corrupt thoughts, take possession of the mind. The evil servant eats and drinks with the drunken, unites with the world in pleasure seeking. He smites his fellow servants, accusing and condemning those who are faithful to their Master. He mingles with the world. Like grows with like in transgression. It is a fearful assimilation. With the world he is taken in the snare. “The Lord of that servant shall come . . . in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites.”  {DA 635.1}

How does a preacher let you feel its yet coming, but its not here yet?  How does he do it?  Have you heard of futurism?  The latter rain is coming, the persecution is coming.  All these future things are coming but they don’t recognise its right in front of them.

When probation closes it will be a big surprise to the people that are saying it is happening in the future and we are waiting for the attack of the big enemy and they don’t realise its already attacking.  They don’t recognise when the faithful servant gives meat in due season, he begins to smite.  Its alright, we can still do these things and worldliness takes root in the church and the faithful servant is crying out, and the unfaithful servant says don’t pay too much attention to that and they begin to accuse the faithful servant.  These are the events that happen just prior to the close of probation.

To discern between the types of servants within the house of God and thus not to be misguided, that is essential in the fine print.  If we listen to the servant that preaches that Jesus is coming to the household of God but in his heart he says it is a way of yet, that will be the effect in the congregation.

God calls at this time for laborers whose interests are fully identified with His work and His cause. The ministers engaged in this work must be energized by the spirit and power of the truths they preach, and then they will have an influence. The people will seldom rise higher than their minister. A world-loving spirit in him has a tremendous influence upon others. The people make his deficiencies an excuse to cover their world-loving spirit. They quiet their own consciences, thinking that they may be free to love the things of this life and be indifferent to spiritual things because their ministers are so. They deceive their own souls and remain in friendship with the world, which the apostle declares to be enmity with God.  {2T 645.3}

When church leaders are engaging church members in the pleasure seeking and enjoyments of the world around them, you want to know they are false shepherds.  At a time when social engagement is not the simple engagement of Jesus Christ, you want to know at such a fearful time as this as Jesus is about to close the door, the people are being put to sleep in finding pleasures of this world and are eating and drinking with the drunken.  Jesus will come suddenly.

Jesus Is About To Close the Door

The youth who are instructed by those teachers who are not learning in the school of Christ, will seldom rise higher than their teachers. If they should try to rise, they would be repressed and taught to keep their place as subordinates to the will and word of their teachers. {SpTEd 166.1}

I looked to see what souls of value were holding on to the truth as the result of his labors. I watched closely to see what watchcare he had had for souls, to strengthen and encourage them, a labor which should ever accompany the ministry of the word. I could not see one who would not have been in a far better condition had he not received the first impressions of the truth from him. It is about impossible for a stream to rise higher than its fountainhead. The man who bears the truth to sinners stands in a fearfully responsible position. Either he will convert souls to Christ or his efforts will balance them in the wrong direction.  {3T 554.4}

This is the fine print.  This is what you need to be aware of as Jesus warns us just prior to his coming.  We need to know how teachers and ministers in the house hold of God can actually sit me back on my lees.  As you can feel it, you will be aroused and you will not be surprised when they begin to clamp down and begin to smite their fellow servants.

1 Thessalonians 5:12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; 13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. [And] be at peace among yourselves.

The wife and children are to obey their husband and parents in the Lord.  We need to be able to discern the servant that gives meat in due season to the servant that is giving meat but say in his heart my Lord delays his coming.  That is the fine print.  How can you see what is in a persons heart?  They will become participant with pleasures in the world that in themselves are not wrong, but what makes it wrong?  It’s not the time to do so.  How can we?  It doesn’t make sense but they do it.  That’s how you will understand the heart is saying something different to what they are proclaiming.

Obey them that have the rule over you.  Heeding the closing experience, heeding the words and watching closely, we will not be shocked and confused. We have more to fear from within than from without.  That is right because there are two classes of servants.  The one who says the Lord delays his coming in his heart and the one who gives meat in due season.  As the fellowship of Gods people see this happening they will become shocked and bewildered.  Emerging out of these times these wise virgins of this period of time are written of in Daniel;

Daniel 12:10 Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.

They are not sleeping but wide awake.

Daniel 12:3 And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.

Perplexing indeed is the circumstance around us but it has been foretold, it has been identified.

The opposition which Christ received came from his own nation, who would have been greatly blessed had they accepted him. In like manner the remnant church receive opposition from those who profess to be their brethren.  {RH, August 28, 1883 par. 13}

Watch and pray?  Remain alert?  Understand the revelations relevant for now.  How?  By earnest prayerful study and retention of what we have learnt.  That is how it is that we will not be caught by surprise.

Amen.

Posted on November 13, 2009, in Divine Service Sermons and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. lord, keep me from faling asleep and forgetting your Word.

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