Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Matthew 26:41
The flames at the end of your torch flicker aimlessly into the night sky. The moon does not reveal itself tonight as only traces of its dull presence can be seen behind the clouds above. You stand atop a wall surveying the dimly lit plains for any trace of movement. The town the wall surrounds is quiet and serene, the residents fast asleep. The night is long but you keep your focus, vigilant to those that would do the town harm.
Suddenly, you see a group of obscured figures moving swiftly from the horizon. The figures grow larger as you realise they are headed straight for your direction. Suddenly you feel something fly by your head, grazing the tip of your ear. You move your hand across your ear and bring it close to your eyes only to see blood. An arrow had just narrowly missed your head. You begin to feel the pain in your ear and fear grips your mind. Your legs feel weak almost forcing you to collapse and hide from the oncoming hail of arrows. Still, you gather your thoughts into one goal as you sprint towards the tower and reach for the horn to alert the town. The enemy draws near.
I need to remind myself to think of temptation to sin as a very real and physical threat, similar to the way the watchman looks out for the physical enemy described in the story above. If I do not treat temptation as an impending danger, then there is a tendency to become unaware of temptations or actions that could lead me to sin. On the contrary, if I constantly thought of temptation as a real threat to my life, like an enemy waiting to stab me through my back, I would be much more alert and on guard.
Matthew 26:41 is sometimes analogised with the watchman at night who must be even more alert than usual due to the darkness, which inspired me to write the passage from a first-person narrative. However, in addition to being on watch, Jesus tells His disciples to pray in order to combat temptation. When we become aware of the sin, we respond by praying to God, constantly connecting with Him, and asking for help to overcome or the way out of temptation (Corinthians 10:13). When the watchman is alert to the enemy, he does not climb down the walls and face them on his own; he alerts the town in order to assemble their defences. You and I have God as our defence!
Jesus also tells us in the verse, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” We all constantly struggle against temptations of the world; otherwise, we would not need to be alert to the enemy. But as long as the spirit is willing, as long as we want to follow Jesus and His commandments, we continue to watch and pray and know that God is with us. Even in our moments of failure we can pray and seek God.
Let us practice alertness by:
- Praising God who has warned us to watch and pray so that we will not fall into temptation; and,
- Asking God to remind us of the danger of taking temptation lightly, for it leads to sin, and to be open to godly counsel.