A few days ago, we visited St Andrews Aquarium. Meerkats aren’t what you normally expect to see in an aquarium, but for reasons I won’t go into here, you’ll find them in St Andrews. I really enjoyed watching these fascinating animals and reading the blurb written about them. I learned that one meerkat in the group always acts as the watchman or sentinel. This, of course, is crucial in their natural habitat, in order to be alert to predators- dangerous enemies looking to devour them.
There’s a spiritual lesson here. All Christians are meant to be on the look-out for danger all of the time. We are all watchmen and watchwomen. We are, spiritually speaking, soldiers in a battle, with enemies seeking to devour us. (1 Peter 5)
I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated just how much the Bible stresses ‘keeping watch’. The words of Jesus might come to mind: ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’. (Matthew 26:41)
But there are many others:
‘Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.’ (Colossians 4:2)
‘Be on your guard / watchful; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.’ (1 Corinthians 16:13)
‘Watch your life and doctrine closely.’ (1 Timothy 4:16)
‘Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.’ (2 John 8)
One famous verse I’ve been thinking over today is in Proverbs: ‘Above all else, guard/ watch your heart, for everything you do flows from it.’ (Proverbs 4:23)
We all guard our online passwords so that no one can hack into our various accounts or steal our money. We guard our homes with strong locks and alarm systems. We guard our children, ensuring we know where they are and that they are not in any danger. However, as the verse says ‘above all else’ we ought to be guarding our hearts. This is not a once in a blue moon activity. When we’re driving, we have to concentrate all the time – we always want to know what is in front of us and behind us. So too as we journey through life; we want to know what the state of our heart is, in order to guard it. Are our hearts proud? Full of self, or lust or greed?
As we enter the New Year, let’s do so as Christians who are sensitive to what is going on within us. We need to STOP and take time to reflect on our inner desires and thoughts. Our hearts need to stay soft, feeding on the God-given grace we receive from reading, meditating upon and obeying the Bible. Other ordinary means of grace, such as serving, evangelism, prayer and fellowship also greatly help to avoid hard-heartedness.
What a responsibility we have – everything we do flows from our hearts. (Proverbs 4:23) We are constantly impacting others, for good or for ill. Do you want to have a year devoted to God and to be a blessing to others in 2020? Perhaps this is a rhetorical question. But it will only happen as we daily watch our hearts. Be a watchful Christian. Learn from the meerkat!