If we desire to be faithful witnesses to Christ in this world, we must be watchful. For most of us, our everyday lives are predominately peaceful and largely free of serious conflicts, hatred, or persecution. Most of the time our neighbors are reasonably amiable and seek no harm against us regardless of how they feel about our faith. Most of the time our government is content to allow us to practice our faith in peace. The prevailing conditions in which we are blessed to live seem not to require anything extraordinary in terms of faith or obedience. It is in just such times that it is necessary for us to continue in prayer and watchfulness lest these conditions of our life lull us into a false sense of what is normal or that a life free of troubles is something to which we are entitled. Our Lord assures even as He forewarns us of what we, as his witnesses in the world, will face: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”1 Yet when things suddenly turn unpleasant for us, when our faith is reviled or we suffer injustice for our faith in Christ, it can come as a surprise. The strangeness of it can catch us off guard… careless, inattentive, forgetful of who we are and to Whom we belong.
The Apostle Peter writes,
But the end of all things is at hand; therefore, be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins…. Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. Therefore, let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.2
If we heed Christ and his apostles, being vigilant in the knowledge of what is to be expected precisely because we belong to Christ, we will not be caught by surprise; nor will the shock cause us to succumb to the temptation to react in accordance with our sinful passions. If we are watchful, our faith will be strengthened when such things happen to us. We will remember that our Lord told us it would be thus for those who are in him. We will be all the more confident of his promise to empower us to obey because suffering for his Name’s sake is itself a sure sign that we belong to him. Our faith will then be perfected in obedience, and our witness in this world will be empowered with divine grace.3