[Watch and pray]
This morning, as I sat and meditated on the words that I’d just read in Exodus, some familiar words that Jesus spoke to His disciples came to my mind: “Watch and pray so you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41) Here, Jesus knew exactly what was coming: He would soon be seized and crucified. He wanted His disciples to keep watch while He went away to pray, but when He returned He found them all asleep.
I want nothing more than to follow Him faithfully; I want to trust Him without complaining, praying without ceasing, and rejoicing always. (The flesh is weak, so I don’t have a perfect track record.) To do this, therefore, I’ve learned how very necessary it is to continue to study Scripture and to seek Him daily (both watching and praying). Jesus cautioned His disciples to be on guard and alert (This is what it means to “watch”), for no one knows the day or the hour of His return. We too are cautioned not to be found sleeping when He returns.
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” –Mark 13:32-37
Thankfully, we always have God’s help, as well as His forgiveness for our sins, if we ask. We should be praying without ceasing. This doesn’t mean spending the entire day down on your knees (though time spent in prayer is always well spent, and we should be doing this as well.) To pray without ceasing however, is about consistency and mindfulness of the things that God wants, as well as, how we live our lives in accordance to what He wants. When Jesus returns will we be living for Him, or will we be found sleeping? (Will we be living for what the flesh wants instead?).
There have been times lately, when I could see myself becoming impatient in my trials, even though I know that God is telling me to be patient. (The spirit is in fact willing, but the flesh is indeed weak.) Yet, God is still faithful as I continue to seek Him. He continues to speak through Scripture, song or wherever I’m willing to meet Him. If I’m only mindful of the things that I personally want then I won’t “check myself before I wreck myself.” Therefore, I must want what God wants even moreso. In this way, we are living in the Spirit and praying without ceasing is second nature. No longer do we live for ourselves. Instead, we become true servants of Christ.
When I need a word, God always seems to graciously oblige me; but I know that I’d miss things if I wasn’t seeking Him. This morning it was through this verse in Exodus: “I will send something like hornets ahead of you. They will force the Hivites, Canaanites, and Hittites out of your way. But I will not force all those people out in only one year. If I did the land would become a desert. Then the wild animals would become too many for you. Instead, I will force those people out of your land very slowly. I will wait until there are enough of you to take over the land” (Exodus 23:28-30).
Before these words, God had informed the israelites that He would send an angel ahead of them for their protection, and here He was, again, telling them exactly what was going to happen; why it would happen this way; and that it wouldn’t happen quickly. In other words: They were going to need to have some patience. In His wisdom, God had planned things perfectly for their benefit. Unfortunately, the Israelites never could grasp God’s wisdom and instead chose to listen to what their weak flesh and foolish hearts wanted instead.
There are definitely times when I wish that I had as clear a picture as this one, to answer all the questions regarding my own life. However, I’m thankful that we have this historical event recorded, and that it’s so easily accessible to us. Sometimes, we do get impatient as fear creeps into our thoughts while we wait for God (pain will do this too), especially at times when things seem to be moving along so painstakingly slow. When we hit a snag, a set back or a detour (Andrew and I have had plenty of these), we can begin to get overwhelmed. We hope that we’re handling things better than the Israelites did, but if we’re being truthful, we fail to trust God fully and completely, as well.
What I see when I read these words in Exodus however, is that we have an awesome reminder that God–in all His wisdom–works things out with absolute precision timing. He’s never slow as we understand slow (2 Peter 3:9). The time it takes to accomplish what He wants to accomplish is again for our benefit and protection. There are in fact reasons for the seasons. (Ecclesiastes 3:1) This is a huge comfort to me.
The flesh may be weak, but with discipline, God will strengthen us. This too takes time and endurance. This is why we must keep mindful of all the good that He has already done; to know that He has provided, and that He will do it again. Sometimes, however, things do–for reasons that we may not be able to see ourselves–take time. Be assured that He’s still working. Keep waiting. Keep watching, and pray without ceasing.
“But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
“…anyone who trusts in me [God] will not be disappointed.” –Isaiah 49:23