The front page of the OLC website has a beautiful photo of a tree in a field, basking in the sunlight. The feeling I get when I look at the picture—the same feeling I had when I first saw it—is a feeling of warmth, comfort, and hope. It is a very similar feeling to how I feel about this current season for our church: a season of being planted as an oak of righteousness in the middle of a bountiful harvest field, basking in the presence of God and the warmth of community, and showing early signs of fruitfulness. Praise God! There are so many things to be grateful for!
However, as we begin this fast, I do feel a precautionary reminder from God that Satan will not go down without fight, that we must not be lulled into spiritual lethargy, and that God might want to grow us in sanctity and maturity in a manner appropriate for the season ahead. That, because of what God wants to do in us and through us, we must be, in a word: vigilant.
Vigilance is a mandate for every Christian in the era of the Church.
Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed! (Rev 16:15)
For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. (1 Thess 5:2-8)
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Pet 5:8)
I don’t think anyone would disagree that being alert and sober-minded is a good posture to have as a Christian. However, vigilance appears to be something more than just a posture of the heart. Vigilance costs something to have, as when a watchman of a city keeps a vigil overnight.
One passage from Scripture that God has been putting before me in this regard is Luke 22:35-36:
And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.
Cloaks in Bible times were highly valuable and precious items for people, which is why, regarding lawsuits, Jesus taught that if a person sues you for the less valuable inner tunic, we should also give them our much more valuable outer cloak (Matthew 5). In fact, the Israelites of the OT were forbidden from withholding a cloak overnight from a neighbor who had given it to them as a pledge during the day. Cloaks represented warmth and protection from the elements during travel and even served as blankets for people when they slept overnight. They were expensive and often an individual’s dearest material possession, and as Jesus taught, being willing to part with things dear to us seems to be a normal aspect of Kingdom life because the things we stand to gain in return have infinite value.
What cost are you willing to bear for a greater degree of vigilance? For a greater experience of the presence of the Holy Spirit? For greater maturity, spiritual health, holiness? For 3 days, yes, but also—perhaps—for a more indefinite period of time?
Let’s explore this question together over the next few days. Looking forward to seeing you tonight!