Imitate Jesus’ Example of Watchfulness

“Keep on the watch and pray.”​—MATT. 26:41.

HOW WOULD YOU ANSWER?

How can our prayers demonstrate that we are on the watch?

In what ways can we show that we are watchful in our ministry?

Why is it important that we keep on the watch when under trial, and how can we do so?

1, 2. (a) What questions might arise concerning Jesus’ example of watchfulness? (b) Is Jesus’ perfect example useful for sinful humans? Illustrate.

YOU might wonder: ‘Is it really possible to imitate Jesus’ example of watchfulness? After all, Jesus was perfect! What is more, Jesus was at times able to see clearly into the future​—even thousands of years beyond his own day! Did he really need to be watchful?’ (Matt. 24:37-39; Heb. 4:15) Let us address those questions first so that we can see just how relevant and urgent this subject is.

2 Is a perfect example helpful for sinful humans? Yes, because it is possible to learn from a good teacher and his example. For instance, imagine a man taking his first archery lesson. He cannot shoot an arrow well enough to hit the target at all, but he takes more lessons and keeps on trying. To improve, he carefully studies the example of his instructor, who is an expert archer. The student pays attention to how his teacher stands, positions his arms, and uses his fingers on the bowstring. Little by little, the determined novice learns how much tension to apply to the string; he takes the wind into account, and he keeps on making an effort. By imitating what he sees his instructor do, he eventually aims his arrows so that they strike closer and closer to the center of the target. Similarly, we keep on striving to improve as Christians by following Jesus’ instructions and imitating his perfect example.

3. (a) How did Jesus indicate that he needed the quality of watchfulness? (b) What will we consider in this article?

3 What, though, about watchfulness? Did Jesus actually need this quality? In fact, he did. For  instance, on the final night of his earthly life, Jesus urged his faithful apostles: “Keep on the watch with me.” He added: “Keep on the watch and pray continually, that you may not enter into temptation.” (Matt. 26:38, 41) Though he had manifested watchfulness all along, in those dire hours Jesus especially wanted to be watchful and as close to his heavenly Father as possible. He knew that his followers needed the same alertness​—not just then but in the future. So let us consider why Jesus wants us to keep on the watch. Afterward, we will examine three ways in which we can imitate Jesus’ watchfulness in our daily lives.

WHY JESUS WANTS US TO BE WATCHFUL

4. What is the connection between what we do not know about the future and our need to be watchful?

4 In brief, Jesus wants us to remain watchful because of what we do not know and what we do know. When Jesus was a man on earth, did he know all that the future held? No, for he humbly acknowledged: “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matt. 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? Is our knowledge of the future limited? Of course it is! We do not know just when Jehovah will send forth his Son to put an end to this wicked system of things. If we did, would we really need to keep on the watch? As Jesus explained, the end will come suddenly, unexpectedly; so we need to keep ever watchful.​—Read Matthew 24:43.

5, 6. (a) How does our knowledge of the future and of God’s purposes affect our need to be watchful? (b) Why should our knowledge about Satan make us more determined to be watchful?

5 On the other hand, Jesus did know many marvelous things about the future​—truths that most people around him did not know at all. Our knowledge does not approach that of Jesus, but thanks to him, we do know a great deal about God’s Kingdom and what it will accomplish in the near future. As we look around us, whether at school, at work, or in the territory where we carry out our ministry, do we not observe that most people live in utter darkness regarding these glorious truths? So here we find another reason for watchfulness. Like Jesus, we always need to be alert, watching for opportunities to share what we know about God’s Kingdom. Each such opportunity is precious, and we do not want to squander any. Lives are at stake!​—1 Tim. 4:16.

6 Jesus knew something else that led him to remain watchful. He knew that Satan was determined to tempt him, to persecute him, and to break his integrity. That vicious enemy was always watching for “another convenient time” to put Jesus to the test. (Luke 4:13) Jesus never let down his guard. He wanted to be ready for any test, be it temptation, opposition, or persecution. Cannot much the same be said about us? We know that Satan is still “like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.” That is why God’s Word exhorts all Christians: “Keep your senses, be watchful.” (1 Pet. 5:8) How, though, can we do so?

HOW TO BE WATCHFUL IN PRAYER

7, 8. Jesus gave what counsel regarding prayer, and what kind of example did he set?

7 The Bible draws a strong connection  between spiritual alertness, or watchfulness, and prayer. (Col. 4:2; 1 Pet. 4:7) Not long after asking 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.” (Matt. 26:41) Did he mean to limit that counsel to the dire situation they were facing at the moment? No, his counsel is a principle we are to live by every day.

8 Jesus set a sterling example in prayer. You may recall that he once spent an entire night praying to his Father. Let us try to picture the scene. (Read Luke 6:12, 13.) It is springtime, likely near the fishing town of Capernaum, Jesus’ home base in the region. As evening falls, Jesus goes up one of the mountains that overlook the Sea of Galilee. As he views the darkening landscape, he perhaps sees the flickering of oil lamps down in Capernaum and other nearby villages. When Jesus addresses Jehovah, though, he focuses intently on his prayer. Minutes​—then hours—​pass. He takes little note as the lights far below go out one by one or as the moon drifts across the sky or as the nocturnal animals forage in the brush. His prayer likely dwells on the big decision that lies before him​—that of choosing his 12 apostles. We can imagine Jesus immersed in telling his Father all his thoughts and concerns about each disciple as he earnestly begs for guidance and wisdom.

9. What can we learn from Jesus’ example of praying all night?

9 What can we learn from Jesus’ example? That we must spend long hours in prayer? No, for he kindly acknowledged about his followers: “The spirit, of course, is eager, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt. 26:41) Nevertheless, we can imitate Jesus. For instance, do we consult our heavenly Father before making any decision that may affect us, our family, or our fellow believers spiritually? Do our prayers include concerns about our brothers and sisters in the faith? Do we pray from the heart rather than repeat a set form of expressions? Notice, too, that Jesus valued intimate, private talk with his Father. In today’s busy, hectic world, it is all too easy to get so caught up in the rush of life that we forget what matters most. If we make ample time for in-depth, private prayer, we will be more spiritually alert. (Matt. 6:6, 7) We will draw closer to Jehovah, eager to strengthen our relationship with him and avoid doing anything that might weaken it.​—Ps. 25:14.

HOW TO BE WATCHFUL IN THE PREACHING WORK

10. What example shows us how Jesus kept alert to opportunities to give a witness?

10 Jesus was watchful in the work that Jehovah assigned him to do. There may be some jobs that allow for the worker’s mind to wander without serious consequences. Many jobs, though, call for keen focus and alertness, and the Christian ministry is certainly like that. Jesus was ever alert in his work, watching for opportunities to share the good news. For example, when he and his disciples arrived at the town of Sychar after a long morning of walking, the disciples went to purchase food. Jesus stayed near the town’s well to rest, but he kept alert, and he saw an opportunity to witness. A Samaritan woman approached to draw water. Jesus could have chosen to take a nap. He could have thought of reasons to avoid a conversation. However, he spoke up, involved the woman in conversation, and gave a powerful witness that affected many lives in that  city. (John 4:4-26, 39-42) Can we more closely imitate Jesus’ watchful example, perhaps by striving to be increasingly alert to opportunities to share the good news with people we meet in our day-to-day life?

11, 12. (a) How did Jesus respond to those who sought to distract him from his work? (b) What balance did Jesus display regarding his work?

11 At times, well-meaning individuals sought to distract Jesus from his work. In Capernaum, the crowds were so moved by Jesus’ miracles of healing that they wanted to keep him there with them. That is understandable. However, Jesus’ mission was to preach to all “the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” not just those in one city. (Matt. 15:24) So he 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) Clearly, Jesus’ life was focused on his ministry. He allowed nothing to sidetrack him.

12 Was Jesus so focused on his work that he was a fanatic or an ascetic? Was he so absorbed in his ministry that he was aloof from the practical needs of families? No, Jesus set a perfect example of balance. He enjoyed life, taking pleasure in happy times with his friends. He valued families, showing profound empathy for their needs and problems, and he freely showed his affection for children.​—Read Mark 10:13-16.

13. How can we imitate Jesus’ example of watchfulness and balance when it comes to our Kingdom-preaching work?

13 As we imitate Jesus’ example of watchfulness, how can we strive for a similar balance? We do not let this world distract us from our work. Even well-meaning friends and relatives may urge us to slow down in our ministry or to seek what they see as a normal life. If we imitate Jesus, however, we view our ministry as if it were food. (John 4:34) Our work nourishes us spiritually and brings us delight as well. Yet, we never want to be extremists, displaying a self-righteous or ascetic spirit. Like Jesus, we want to be joyful, balanced servants of “the happy God.”​—1 Tim. 1:11.

HOW TO BE WATCHFUL IN TIMES OF TRIAL

14. In times of trial, what tendency do we need to resist, and why?

14 As we have seen, some of Jesus’ most urgent exhortations to keep watchful came when he was under severe trial. (Read Mark 14:37.) When we face hardships, we need his example more than ever. Under trial, many tend to forget a vital truth, one 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 face serious problems, we are  likely to endanger ourselves and those we love.

15. What temptation may a family head face during hard economic times?

15 For example, a family head may face severe pressure in providing materially for “those who are his own.” (1 Tim. 5:8) He might be tempted to take a job that repeatedly causes him to miss out on attending Christian meetings, taking the lead in family worship, or participating in the ministry. If he relies solely on human thinking, such a course could seem justifiable, even upright. However, it may well result in spiritual sickness or death. How much better to follow the counsel of Proverbs 3:5, 6! Said Solomon: “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 example of trusting Jehovah’s wisdom rather than his own did Jesus set? (b) How are many family heads imitating Jesus’ example of trusting in Jehovah during hard times?

16 When Jesus was under trial, he resolutely refused to lean on his own understanding. Think of it! The wisest man ever to live on this earth chose not to draw on his own wisdom for answers. For instance, when Satan tempted him, Jesus repeatedly answered with the phrase: “It is written.” (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10) He relied on his Father’s wisdom to ward off temptation, showing the humility that Satan despises and utterly lacks. Do we do the same? A family head who imitates Jesus’ watchfulness lets God’s Word guide him, especially in trialsome times. Around the world, thousands of family heads are doing just that. They are steadfastly putting God’s Kingdom and pure worship first in life, even ahead of material concerns. Thereby, they take the best care of their families. Jehovah responds by blessing their efforts to provide for material needs, just as his Word promises.​—Matt. 6:33.

17. What moves you to imitate Jesus’ watchfulness?

17 Without question, Jesus set the best possible example of watchfulness. His example is practical, beneficial, and even lifesaving. Remember, Satan is eager to lull you into spiritual sleep​—a state of weak faith, lackadaisical worship, and compromised integrity. (1 Thess. 5:6) Do not let him succeed! Remain watchful as Jesus did​—watchful in your prayers, in your ministry, and in dealing with trials. By following that course, you will enjoy a rich, happy, fulfilling life even now in the twilight of this dying system of things. A watchful course will also ensure that when your Master comes to bring this system to its end, he will find you alert and active, doing his Father’s will. How delighted Jehovah will be to reward you for your faithful course!​—Rev. 16:15.

[Study Questions]

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Jesus preached to the woman at the well. What opportunities do you make to preach daily?

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Caring for your family’s spiritual well-being shows that you are being watchful