To be “vigilant” is to be watchful, alert, and cautious. It is to recognize that there are things that demand your utmost attention and to treat those things with a high degree of seriousness. As a Christian, you must be vigilant concerning some things. Consider them with me.
Vigilant About Jesus’ Coming
In Matthew 24:36, Jesus says (concerning His impending return), “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” Then, He proceeds to demonstrate that individuals were not vigilant during the time of Noah (verses 37-39). During this time when Noah was preaching to the people, the people were not heeding the warnings or instructions. Instead, the people were just living as they had always been living (just focused on the temporary things of life on this earth). However, when the flood came and Noah had entered the ark, it was too late!
This example of Noah is used as an example concerning Jesus’ return. Many people will be caught unprepared when Jesus Christ returns. Rather than being vigilant, they will be found living according to their own desires. And, just as those who were not vigilant were punished by the flood, those who are not vigilant about Jesus’ coming will be punished with everlasting destruction.
Therefore, Jesus said, “Watch…for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore, you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:42-44). Then, the same concept is repeated in Matthew 25:13. “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”
In both 24:42 and 25:13, the word translated “watch” is the same Greek word for vigilant. Therefore, Jesus is urging vigilance about His return, given the fact that you do not know when He will return. Furthermore, in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, Paul demonstrates that those who are Christians should be so vigilant concerning the return of Jesus Christ that His return will not catch them unprepared (even though they do not know the exact day or hour He will return). Verse 6 says, “Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.” Again, the word translated “watch” is the Greek word for vigilant. The Christian, therefore, is always alert regarding the impending return of Jesus Christ and making preparations for that Day.
Vigilant About Temptation
As the Christian exercises vigilance about the impending return of Jesus Christ, he/she will also be vigilant about the temptations he/she will experience. 1 Peter 5:8 exhorts, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” Consider a couple significant points from this passage, relative to your life as a Christian.
First, there is an enemy who wants to devour you. This is the devil (Satan). He is attempting to lure you away from following God by using the tactics he has at his disposal. Namely, the tactics that he uses are summarized in John 8:44 – when Jesus said that Satan is a liar and there is no truth in him. This enemy is as fierce and set on destroying you as a lion is set on destroying its prey – and he is prowling around right now looking for an opportunity to accomplish this goal. However, unlike a lion, Satan is not seeking to destroy you physically. Rather, he is seeking to destroy your soul!
Second, given this threat of the one who is focused on the destruction of your soul, Peter says you must be “sober” and “vigilant.” To be sober (or, sober-minded) is to have yourself under the proper degree of control. Therefore, you will not just allow yourself to follow after the temptations of Satan just because they appeal to your earthly desires. Instead, you will have your mind and body under control to make sure that whatever you do pleases God. Then, in order to overcome this fierce enemy, you must also be vigilant. Therefore, you will work diligently to maintain your focus concerning the threats that Satan poses to your eternal salvation. You will keep your guard up against an attack of this enemy who is seeking just the right opportunity to destroy you.
Vigilant About All Spiritual Dangers
In connection with the previous point (though not limited to the temptations of the devil), the Christian must exercise vigilance concerning everything that poses a danger to his/her soul. The Christian maintains a state of being constantly alert for dangers to the soul, recognizing the dangers of falling away from the faith of the gospel.
For instance, Paul told the elders of the Ephesian church, “Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.” This instruction follows Paul’s warnings to them about the “savage wolves” who would come in among the flock and about the men who would rise up from among themselves, “speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (see Acts 20:28-31). So, those who are shepherds of a local church have a definite responsibility of being vigilant (as seen in the instruction to “watch”). Elders need to be aware of the fact that there are many spiritual dangers to those who have been entrusted to their watch and care (the sheep in the local congregation).
However, elders are not the only ones who have the responsibility to be vigilant about such spiritual dangers. As Paul was concluding the 1 Corinthians letter, he wrote, “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). Again, there is much that Christians must be vigilant concerning – as there are many obstacles that threaten to overthrow his/her faith. The Christian must always keep his/her eyes focused upon Jesus Christ and be alert to the dangers that would pull him/her away from the ultimate prize of salvation in Jesus.
As a Christian you need to be constantly vigilant! While this can become wearisome, the Christian should be vigilant because he/she knows that eternal salvation is dependent upon this vigilance. Dear Christian, can you not watch (be vigilant) for just a few short years during life on this earth so that you can experience everlasting life in Heaven? Or, will you be like Jesus’ disciples who were too tired to watch with Him for a short time while He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (see Matthew 26:38-41)? “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (vs. 41).