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ASLEEP ON THE WATCH

Heard the joke about the smallest man in the Bible? One person said it was Nehemiah (read "Knee-high-miah"). Another insisted it was Bildad the Shuhite (in the book ofJob). The argument ended when. a third person said it was the guard who was so short he "slept on his watch." I don't know who the shortest person in the Bible was, but I know that any of us are capable of sleeping on our watch! The word watch occurs 25 times in 24 verses in the New King James Version of the New Testament. Typically, the word is used in the sense we find in Mark 13 where Jesus is teaching the apostles about the coming destruction of Jerusalem and His eventual second coming and the end of this age: "It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming; in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning. . . .And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!" (13:34, 35, 37). The word watch in these verses comes from Greek words that mean to take heed, pay attention, be aware in the sense of paying close attention to, and even literally to be sleepless by keeping awake and watching!

Every Christian is admonished to watch. Elders are instructed by the Holy Spirit to watch for false teachers (Acts 20:31). Every child of God is commanded: "Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong" (1 Corinthians 16:13). In 1 Thessalonians 5:6 early Christians were admonished to avoid spiritual napping: "Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober." God help the church if her elders fall asleep on the job, for it is their God-given task to "watch out for your souls" (Hebrews 13:17). The church of Christ at first century Sardis was not just asleep. Jesus said they were (spiritually) dead, and His divine demand for the spiritual corpses in that congregation was to wake up: "Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you" (Revelation 3:1, 3).

Americans are frequently warned about the possibility of injury or death (to ourselves and others) if we fall asleep at the wheel. The Bible seeks to warn us of an even more serious situation: falling asleep on the watch. The spiritual watch, that is. Spiritually, if you are snoozing you are losing. Jesus Christ calls to all who are spiritually asleep: wake up and watch.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ