A few years ago after several houses were broken into and robbed, our neighborhood decided it needed to increase security. A guard house was built at the entrance of our cul de sac. But more importantly, guards were hired to watch out for thieves, one guard for the night and one for the day.
That came to mind as I’ve been reading through the gospel of Mark because I’ve been impressed by how many times Jesus tells the disciplines to watch out:
Watch out that no one deceives you. [Mark 13:5]
Be on your guard. You will be handed over…[Mark 13:9]
You must be on your guard! Be alert!… Watch! [Mark 13:33]
And then in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus urges Peter, Watch and pray so you will not fall into temptation. [Mark 14:38]
Unfortunately, Peter promptly fell asleep again. Even though Jesus predicted Peter would deny Him three times, Peter didn’t see any danger at the moment. He was confident he wouldn’t, so confident that he insisted emphatically.
The problem with temptation is that it tends to sneak up on us, especially if we’re feeling strong and confident. When things have been going well for a long time, it’s easy to get complacent like Peter. The houses in our neighborhood that were broken into were all locked at the time. People thought they were invulnerable. But the thieves managed to pry bars away from windows and break down doors.
I think the same happens in our spiritual lives. If we’ve been walking with Jesus for a long time, it’s easy to think we have everything under control. We begin to assume we’re immune from temptation. But like a thief, Satan doesn’t give up. He waits until we aren’t watching. We think we’ve mastered pride, fear, anger, and we let down our guard.
Recently I experienced this in my life. I thought a temptation I was prone to was gone for good. Instead I discovered it had gone underground, leaving seeds in the soil of my heart which were waiting for the right conditions to sprout again.
It shouldn’t have caught me by surprise. As long as we live, evil–in whatever form we’re most susceptible to–will tempt us. It’s not if I’ll be tempted, but when. That’s one of the few guarantees we have.
So the time to watch out is not when we can see danger coming. The time to pay attention is before. By listening to God’s word, examining our hearts, and then putting His word into practice, we keep watch on our lives.
I know I need to spend some time reflecting on my signature sins and see where I’ve gotten lax and where I need to post some guards.
What about you?
Where do you need to be on your guard?
What temptation do you need to watch out for?