“Keep on the Watch”—Why So Important?
“WHAT will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” (Matt. 24:3) In answer to that question, Jesus gave his disciples a sign that was clear, detailed, recognizable, and unmistakable, as recorded in Matthew chapter 24, Mark chapter 13, and Luke chapter 21. He added: “Keep on the watch.”—Matt. 24:42.
If the sign in itself was to be so evident, why this extra admonition? Consider these two possibilities. First, distractions might incline some to disregard the sign, resulting in a loss of spirituality and watchfulness. Second, a Christian might recognize particulars of the sign but because of his immediate surroundings not feel directly affected. He might then reason that the “great tribulation,” the culmination of Jesus’ prophecy, was still quite distant and that it was therefore not yet necessary to “keep on the watch.”—Matt. 24:21.
“They Took No Note”
Jesus reminded his followers about Noah’s contemporaries. Noah’s preaching, the construction of the colossal ark, and the violence of the day could not have gone unnoticed. Nevertheless, most “took no note.” (Matt. 24:37-39) A similar attitude toward warnings prevails today. For example, speed-limit signs send out an unmistakable message, yet many disregard them. Authorities often feel compelled to install speed bumps across city streets to force drivers to slow down. Likewise, a Christian may be conscious of the sign of the last days but still become involved in activities not consistent with its implication. Arielle, a West African teenager, experienced this.
Arielle enjoyed watching women’s handball on television. When her school organized a team, the prospect of playing dulled her alertness to potential dangers to her spirituality. She signed up to be a goalkeeper. What followed? She explains: “Some of my teammates had boyfriends who used drugs and smoked. They made fun of me for being different, but I thought I could handle that. Unexpectedly, the game itself began to corrode my spirituality. Handball filled my mind and heart. During Christian meetings, my thoughts often wandered from the Kingdom Hall to the handball court. My Christian personality also suffered. Love of playing shifted to a passion for winning. I practiced hard to satisfy my new competitive spirit. Stress built up. I even sacrificed friendships for handball.
“The climax came when our opponents were awarded a penalty shot in one game. I was poised to defend the goal. Before I realized it, I had prayed to Jehovah to help me block the shot! This incident made me realize how much my spirituality had suffered. How did I regain it?
“I had seen our DVD Young People Ask—What Will I Do With My Life?a I decided to watch it again and this time to take it seriously. After all, I was in the same predicament as André, the young man in the drama. I especially took note of what an elder had suggested that André do—read and reflect on Philippians 3:8. That did it. I quit the team.
“What a difference that made! My competitive spirit and the accompanying stress disappeared. I felt happier and closer to my Christian friends. Spiritual activities took on greater meaning. I concentrated at the meetings and enjoyed them again. My ministry also improved. Now I regularly serve as an auxiliary pioneer.”
If a distraction is tugging at you to disregard the sign Jesus gave us, take serious steps, as Arielle did. You might try some of the following. Consult the Watch Tower Publications Index, which has been called a map to hidden treasures. References to sound counsel and first-person reports on how others have faced temptations await you. Benefit fully from Christian meetings by preparing well and taking notes. Some have found that sitting near the front of the auditorium is helpful. When there is audience participation, try to give a comment early. In addition, keep spiritually awake by matching up current news items with aspects of the sign and other characteristics of “the last days.”—2 Tim. 3:1-5; 2 Pet. 3:3, 4; Rev. 6:1-8.
“Prove Yourselves Ready”
The sign of the last days is international, comprising “all the inhabited earth.” (Matt. 24:7, 14) Millions live in areas hard hit by pestilences, food shortages, earthquakes, and other foretold events. In contrast, many others dwell in relative peace and quiet. If you have never personally experienced some aspects of the sign, should you reason that the great tribulation is still a long way off? That would not be wise.
Reflect, for example, on what Jesus foretold about “pestilences and food shortages.” (Luke 21:11) First, he did not say that these would affect all areas simultaneously or to the same degree. Rather, he stated that these would occur “in one place after another.” So we cannot expect the same events everywhere at the same time. Second, shortly after mentioning food shortages, Jesus indicated that some of his followers would have to be alert not to overeat: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating.” (Luke 21:34) Thus, all Christians should not expect to experience every aspect of the sign. Rather, Jesus stated: “When you see these things occurring, know that the kingdom of God is near.” (Luke 21:31) Modern communication allows us to see all aspects of the sign, no matter what we personally experience in our locality.
Remember, too, that Jehovah has already set the “day and hour” for the great tribulation to begin. (Matt. 24:36) The progression of events on earth will not alter this date.
Jesus admonished Christians everywhere: “Prove yourselves ready.” (Matt. 24:44) We should always be ready. Of course, we cannot engage in theocratic activities all day long every day. Besides, none of us know what we will be doing the moment the great tribulation begins. Some may be working in a field or caring for domestic chores. (Matt. 24:40, 41) So, what can we do to prove ourselves ready?
Emmanuel, Victorine, and their six daughters live in an area of Africa where they do not feel the full thrust of all the events marking the sign. So they decided to have a spiritual discussion every day to help prove themselves ready. Emmanuel explains: “It was difficult to find a time convenient to all. We finally chose the half hour between six and six-thirty in the morning. After considering the day’s text, we prepare a few paragraphs in one of the publications scheduled for congregation study during the week.” Has this program helped them to stay awake? Indeed! Emmanuel is coordinator of the body of elders in the congregation. Victorine often serves as an auxiliary pioneer and has helped many to accept the truth. Their daughters are all progressing well spiritually.
Jesus admonishes us: “Keep looking, keep awake.” (Mark 13:33) Do not allow a distraction to diminish your spiritual alertness. Rather, take note of the fine counsel in our publications and at congregation meetings, as Arielle did. Like Emmanuel’s family, try to do something every day to prove yourself ready and “keep on the watch.”
a A modern-day drama about a Christian youth’s struggle to do what is right in Jehovah’s eyes.
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Daily spiritual discussions help Emmanuel and his family to ‘prove themselves ready’