Imitate Jesus’ Example of Watchfulness
“Keep on the watch and pray.”—MATTHEW 26:41.
HOW WOULD YOU ANSWER?
How can our prayers show that we are on the watch?
In what ways can we show that we are watchful in our ministry?
When we suffer trials, why is it important that we keep on the watch? And how can we do this?
1, 2. (a) What questions might you ask yourself about Jesus’ example of being watchful? (b) Can sinful humans imitate Jesus’ perfect example? Give an illustration.
HAVE you ever asked yourself: ‘Is it really possible to be watchful, as Jesus was?’ You might think it is not possible for you because Jesus was perfect. Also, Jesus at times knew exactly what would happen thousands of years in the future. Did Jesus really need to be watchful? (Matthew 24:37-39; Hebrews 4:15) Let us answer both of these questions first so that we can understand how important and urgent it is for us to be watchful.
2 Can a sinful human learn from a perfect example? Yes, just as a student learns from the example of a good teacher. Imagine a man having his first lesson on how to shoot arrows. At first, he cannot hit the target at all, but he takes more lessons and keeps on trying. To become better at it, he carefully studies the example of his teacher, who is an expert archer. The student pays attention to how the teacher stands, positions his arms, and uses his fingers on the bowstring. Little by little, he learns how much pressure to put on the string and how the wind will affect the arrow. If he keeps working hard and imitates his teacher, he will learn to hit closer and closer to the center of the target. In a similar way, we continue to do our best to become better Christians by following Jesus’ instructions and imitating his perfect example.
3. (a) What did Jesus say to show that he needed to be watchful? (b) What will we discuss in this article?
3 Did Jesus really need to be watchful? Yes, he did. For example, on the night before he died, Jesus urged his faithful apostles: “Keep on the watch with me.” Then he said: “Keep on the watch and pray continually, that you may not enter into temptation.” (Matthew 26:38, 41) Jesus had always been watchful while on earth. But during those very difficult hours before his death, he wanted to be especially watchful and as close to his heavenly Father as possible. He knew that his followers needed to be watchful too, not just at that time, but also in the future. So we will discuss why Jesus wants us to keep on the watch. Then we will learn about three ways in which we can be watchful like Jesus.
WHY JESUS WANTS US TO BE WATCHFUL
4. Why do we need to keep watchful?
4 Jesus wants us to stay watchful because of what we do not know and what we do know. When Jesus was a man on earth, he did not know everything about the future. He humbly admitted this when he said: “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36) At that time, Jesus, “the Son,” did not know exactly when the end of this wicked world would come. What about us today? Do we know everything about the future? Of course not! We do not know exactly when Jehovah will send his Son to destroy this wicked world. If we did know everything about the future, we would not need to keep on the watch. Jesus explained that the end of this wicked world would come suddenly, when we would not expect it. So we need to keep watchful.—Read Matthew 24:43.
5, 6. (a) How does our knowledge of God’s Kingdom help us to be watchful? (b) Why should what we know about Satan make us want to be even more watchful?
5 Jesus knew many wonderful things about the future that most people around him did not know at all. We do not know as much as Jesus did. But he taught us a lot about God’s Kingdom and what it will do in the near future. Most of the people around us at school, at work, or in the territory do not know these wonderful things. So this is another reason for being watchful. Like Jesus, we need to be alert for opportunities to tell others what we know about God’s Kingdom. These opportunities are precious, and we want to make sure that we do not waste any of them. People’s lives are in danger!—1 Timothy 4:16.
6 Jesus knew something else that helped him to stay watchful. He knew that Satan was determined to tempt him, to persecute him, and to break his integrity to God. That wicked enemy was constantly looking for “another convenient time” to test Jesus. (Luke 4:13) Jesus was always alert. He wanted to be ready for any test, whether it was temptation, opposition, or persecution. We are in the same situation as Jesus was. We know that Satan is still “like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.” That is why the Bible tells all Christians: “Keep your senses, be watchful.” (1 Peter 5:8) But how can we do that?
HOW PRAYER HELPS US TO BE WATCHFUL
7, 8. What counsel did Jesus give about prayer? And what can we learn from the way he prayed?
7 The Bible tells us that prayer is very important for us to stay alert, or watchful, so that we can protect our relationship with Jehovah. (Colossians 4:2; 1 Peter 4:7) Soon after he asked his followers to keep on the watch with him, Jesus said: “Keep on the watch and pray continually, that you may not enter into temptation.” (Matthew 26:41) Did he mean that they needed to pray only during the very difficult situation that they were in at that moment? No, his counsel is a principle that we should live by every day.
8 Jesus’ example shows us the value of prayer. You may remember that Jesus once prayed to his Father for an entire night. (Read Luke 6:12, 13.) Imagine this: It is spring, and Jesus is probably near the town of Capernaum. As it becomes nighttime, Jesus goes up one of the mountains near the Sea of Galilee. He looks out over the land and perhaps sees the little lights of oil lamps down in Capernaum and other nearby villages. Jesus then begins to pray, and nothing distracts him as he speaks to Jehovah. The hours go by. He barely notices the lights far below going out one by one or the moon moving across the sky or the sounds of animals nearby. He probably prays about a big decision that he has to make. He has to decide who will be his 12 apostles. We can imagine Jesus intensely praying to his Father for guidance and wisdom as he tells Him all his thoughts and concerns about each disciple.
9. What can we learn from Jesus’ example of praying all night?
9 Does Jesus’ example teach us that we must spend many hours in prayer? No. Jesus kindly said about his followers: “The spirit, of course, is eager, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) Even though this is true, we can imitate Jesus. For example, do we talk to our heavenly Father before making any decision that may affect our faith and loyalty, that of our family, or that of those in the congregation? Do we pray for our brothers and sisters in the truth? Do we pray from the heart, or do we repeat a set pattern of words? Also notice that Jesus valued personal and private talk with his Father. In today’s busy world, it is very easy to forget what is most important. We will be more watchful if we give ourselves plenty of time to pray privately to Jehovah from the heart. (Matthew 6:6, 7) We will draw closer to Jehovah, doing everything we can to strengthen our relationship with him and avoid doing anything that would weaken it.—Psalm 25:14.
HOW TO BE WATCHFUL IN THE PREACHING WORK
10. What example shows us how Jesus was watchful for opportunities to preach to others?
10 Jesus was watchful in the work that Jehovah gave him to do. There may be some types of work which allow a person to think about other things while working without causing any serious problems. But there are many jobs that require a worker to stay alert and not think about anything else while he is working. The Christian ministry is like that. Jesus was always alert in his work. He was watchful for opportunities to tell others about the good news. For example, when Jesus and his disciples arrived at the town of Sychar after walking all morning, the disciples went to buy food. Jesus stayed near the town’s well to rest, but he was watchful and saw an opportunity to witness. A Samaritan woman came to the well to get water. Jesus could have slept, or he could have thought of reasons not to speak to her. But he started a conversation with her and gave a powerful witness that helped many people in that city. (John 4:4-26, 39-42) Can we do more to imitate Jesus’ example, being more watchful for opportunities to preach to people we meet every day?
11, 12. (a) What did Jesus say to those who tried to distract him from his work? (b) How did Jesus show balance in his ministry?
11 Sometimes, sincere people tried to distract Jesus from his work. In Capernaum, they wanted to keep Jesus with them because of his miracles of healing the sick. It is understandable why they would want to do that. But Jesus’ special work was to preach to all “the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” not just to those in one city. (Matthew 15:24) Jesus told those people: “Also to other cities I must declare the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this I was sent forth.” (Luke 4:40-44) So the most important thing in Jesus’ life was his ministry. He did not allow anything to distract him.
12 Was Jesus so busy with his work that he was unbalanced, perhaps not allowing himself time to enjoy other things in life? Or was he so busy in his ministry that he did not know what people needed? No, Jesus showed perfect balance in his ministry. He enjoyed life and happy times with his friends. He had compassion for families and great understanding of their needs and problems. He freely showed affection for children.—Read Mark 10:13-16.
13. How can we imitate Jesus’ example of being watchful and balanced in the ministry?
13 As we imitate Jesus’ example of being watchful, how can we try to be balanced, as he was? We do not let this world distract us from our work. Even sincere friends and relatives may tell us to do less in the ministry or to live what they think is a normal life. But if we imitate Jesus, our ministry will be as important to us as food. (John 4:34) Our ministry helps to strengthen our relationship with Jehovah and makes us happy. But we never want to be unbalanced, showing a self-righteous attitude or not allowing ourselves to enjoy other things. Like Jesus, we want to be joyful, balanced servants of “the happy God.”—1 Timothy 1:11.
HOW TO BE WATCHFUL WHEN WE HAVE TRIALS
14. When we are in difficult situations, what should we not forget? Why?
14 Jesus gave his followers some of his most urgent counsel when he had trials. (Read Mark 14:37.) When we are in difficult situations, we need to remember Jesus’ example more than ever. At these times, people often forget a very important truth. It is a truth so important that the book of Proverbs says it twice: “There exists a way that is upright before a man, but the ways of death are the end of it afterward.” (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25) If we rely on our own thinking, especially when we have serious problems, we will likely put ourselves and those we love in danger.
15. What may a family head who is struggling to provide for his family be tempted to do?
15 For example, a family head may be struggling to provide for the material needs of “those who are his own.” (1 Timothy 5:8) He might feel tempted to accept a job that causes him to miss meetings or that keeps him from taking the lead in family worship or participating in the ministry. If he does only what he thinks is right, accepting the job might seem like the right thing to do. He could lose his friendship with Jehovah and even turn against him. It is much better to follow the counsel of Proverbs 3:5, 6. Solomon said: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight.”
16. (a) What do we learn from Jesus’ example of relying on Jehovah’s wisdom? (b) How are many family heads imitating Jesus’ example during difficult times?
16 When Jesus suffered trials, he refused to rely on his own opinion. Just think about that. The wisest man who ever lived on this earth chose not to rely on his own wisdom. For example, when Satan tempted him, Jesus repeatedly answered with the words: “It is written.” (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10) Jesus relied on his Father’s wisdom to fight temptation. By doing this, Jesus showed humility, a quality that Satan does not have and that he hates. Do we rely on Jehovah’s wisdom? A family head who is watchful, as Jesus was, uses God’s Word to guide him, especially in difficult times. All over the world, thousands of family heads are doing this. They are putting God’s Kingdom and true worship first, even ahead of their material needs. In this way, they take the best care of their families. Jehovah blesses their efforts to provide for the material needs of their families, just as he promised.—Matthew 6:33.
17. What makes you want to imitate Jesus’ example of being watchful?
17 There is no doubt that Jesus is the best example of being watchful. His example is helpful and even saves lives. Remember, Satan really wants you to fall asleep spiritually. He wants to weaken your faith, make you lose your zeal in worshipping Jehovah, and cause you to break your integrity. (1 Thessalonians 5:6) Do not let him win! Be watchful, as Jesus was. Give yourself time to pray from the heart, be alert in the ministry, and trust in Jehovah when you have trials. By doing this, you will have a meaningful, happy, and satisfying life even now as you see the end of this wicked world getting closer. If you stay watchful, Jesus will find you alert and busy serving God when he comes to destroy this wicked world. Jehovah will be very happy to reward you for your faithfulness!—Revelation 16:15.
SOME EXPRESSIONS EXPLAINED
Watchful: To be alert to dangers that can affect our relationship with Jehovah, to look for opportunities to preach, and to rely on Jehovah’s wisdom
Self-righteous: An attitude of being proud, being critical of other people, and thinking that we are better than them
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We must be alert for opportunities to tell others what we know about God’s Kingdom
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If we give ourselves time for prayer to Jehovah, we will stay close to him
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A family head who is watchful, as Jesus was, uses God’s Word to guide him
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Jesus preached to the woman at the well. Do you make opportunities to preach every day?
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If you help your family to strengthen their relationship with Jehovah, you show that you are watchful