THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES
January 7, 1886
Watchfulness and Prayer
By Mrs. E. G. White
“Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” Luke 21:34-36.
In the solemn language of this scripture, a duty is pointed out which lies in the daily pathway of every one, whether old or young. This is the duty of watchfulness, and upon our faithfulness here our destiny for time and for eternity depends.
We are living in an important time. When in 1844 the message was proclaimed, “Fear God and give glory to him; for the hour of his Judgment is come,” that announcement stirred every soul to its very depths. A deep solemnity rested upon all who heard it. How earnest we were to show our faith by our works, and to have our words and actions make a favorable impression on the world. More than forty years have passed since that time, and we are that much nearer the close of the Judgment and the coming of the Son of man—“nearer the great white throne, nearer the crystal sea.”
Today angels are watching the development of character; and soon our lives will have to pass in review before God. Soon we shall be weighed in the balances of the sanctuary, and over against our names will be recorded the judgment rendered. And we shall receive the crowning gift of eternal life or be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord. We may be unwilling to examine ourselves closely now to see what our spiritual condition is, and whether our hearts are being suitably impressed by the testing message of truth; but that will not make any difference with the work of the Judgment. Its decisions will be rendered just the same; and when the “Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels,” “he shall reward every man according to his works.”
“Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.” How many there are who are bereft of their reason, as much intoxicated with the cares of this life as is the drunkard with his liquor.
How many there are whose hearts are today aching under their load of care, and who are thinking, “Oh, if there was only some one to help me bear my burdens!” Well, there is some one to help you bear your burden; there is rest for you who are heavy laden. Jesus, the great Burden-bearer, invites, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Here is the promise of the Master; but it is on condition. “Take my yoke upon you,” he says, “and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” “For my yoke is grievous.” Is that what he says? No. “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The burden you are carrying which is so heavy, and which causes such weariness and perplexity, is your own burden. You desire to meet the world's standard; and in your eager efforts to gratify ambitious and worldly desires, you wound your consciences, and thus bring upon yourselves the additional burden of remorse. When you do not want to be distinct from the world, but desire to mix up with it so that no difference is seen between you and the world, then you may know that you are drunken with the cares of this life. Oh, there are so many selfish interests, so many cords to bind us to this world! But we must keep cutting these cords, and be in a condition of waiting for our Lord.
The world has forced itself in between our souls and God. But what right have we to allow our hearts to become overcharged with the cares of this life? What right have we, through our devotion to the world, to neglect the affairs of the church and the interests of our fellowmen? Why should we manufacture for ourselves burdens and cares that Christ has not laid upon us? Why should we, through distrust of his promises, suffer from wearing, anxious care? He says: “Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?” “for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.”
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They toil not neither do they spin, and yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” The magnificence of Solomon was not to be compared to the beauty of one of these little flowers, with its delicate colors, which the God of Heaven had painted upon it by his wondrous skill. Will not He who has taken so much thought for the flowers of the field care for your mortal bodies? Will he not see that you have bread to eat and raiment to put on, O ye of little faith? And more than all this, will he not also clothe you with the garment of his own righteousness?
Our heavenly Father has a thousand ways to provide for us that we know nothing about. But we are not excused from effort. While we may trust his constant care, we must not conclude that we may be slack in that which our hands find to do. We are to be “not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” “If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”
There is one thing in which we must be deeply in earnest, and that is in the service of God. There is no danger of having too much zeal here. If we would only work with an eye single to the glory of God, the mists would roll away, and our views of right and wrong would become clear. We should consecrate our property. The language of our hearts would be, “Lord, here is the means for which thou hast made me responsible; what wilt thou have me do with it?” And we should make straight paths for our feet, lest by any false step the lame be turned out of the way. The whole effort of our lives would be to glorify the Saviour, the Man of Calvary, and to prepare for the life immortal.
“Watch ye therefore, and pray always.” There is great need of watchfulness, not for our own sakes only, but also for the sake of our influence upon others. Our influence is far-reaching. We may think that it is confined to our own households; that only the members of our own families know what we are and what we are doing. In some cases this may seem to be true; but in some way the influence of the home life goes out beyond the home.
And what do we learn from this? That in our homes and in all the relations of life, we should be watchful and prayerful. Solemn, sacred duties devolve upon us. We should so speak and so walk that the Spirit of God may be in our hearts, and his blessing in our homes. If we had more of the love of God in our hearts, and his praise were oftener upon our lips, we should be better prepared to glorify him here and hereafter. But what will our words accomplish, if they are not backed up by a holy life?
“Watch ye therefore, and pray always,” that “ye may stand before the Son of man,” What a position to stand in before the world, to be ready and waiting for the coming of the Lord, that at his appearing we may be able to say, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us.” What a triumph it will be to enter in through the gates into the city of God, bearing the palm branch of victory! what a privilege to have a right to the tree of life, and to eat of its precious fruits!
If we would share in the glorious reward promised to the overcomer, we must fight the good fight of faith. This is what the apostle Paul did, and he says: “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day.” Let us be of the number of those that are “rich in good works,” “laying up for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”