FYI, I was an evangelical Protestant for 33 years before becoming an evangelical Catholic in 2005. The lesson I learned back in the 70s stays with me today. I hope it will encourage you:
I’m reading again through Mark’s gospel and came to this text in the 13thchapter: “Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’” (Mark 13:33-37)
Four times in five verses the Lord warns us – stay alert to your walk. Stay alert to the seductions of this life. Stay alert for the Trumpet!
Which begs the question, I think: Just HOW do we stay alert?
The most common answers typically revolve around daily studying (not just reading) the Scriptures, prayer, confession of sins – and for Catholics, routine reception of the Sacraments.
All good answers.
But – well, I believe those answers do not provide us the complete answer.
I remember what happened to me back in the late 1970s. I was doing all the right things. As a student in Bible college, I took my responsibility very seriously to study the Bible, study commentaries about the Bible, and devour textbooks about the history of the Bible. I prayed every day and attended Sunday and Wednesday night services at our local church.
But Nancy recognized I’d fallen asleep. I was going through the motions of doing the right things, but the motions were not moving me closer to Christ.
So, when our pastor at Central Assembly of God church in Springfield, Missouri announced the start of a week-long old-fashioned tent revival in the overflow parking lot across the street, Nancy urged me to attend.
And she urged me to attend.
And she urged me to attend.
And I resisted. And resisted. And resisted. What did I need a ‘revival’ for? I was already a Bible student getting ‘A’s in my classes. I was already praying. I was already confessing my sins to the Lord. I was already doing all the right things.
But she kept at me. And I finally conceded. And it was there, in that tent, that the Holy Spirit got hold of me and I realized how far I’d drifted from my first love. When I walked toward the altar in that burlap tent, I started once again to walk more closely – and more alertly – with my Lord.
How do we stay on the alert? Certainly, study the Scriptures. Pray. Worship. But all those are mere mechanics to help us stay on the right track. Only the Holy Spirit can awaken us from slumber. As the Psalmist wrote: “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.”(Psalm 20:7)
Said another way, some trust in their bible knowledge. Others in their prayer life. Still others in their frequent reception of the Sacraments. But as the prophet Zechariah reminds us, it is “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6).
How do we stay alert? Certainly, the mechanics are necessary. But those mechanics must NEVER become like a check-off list of things to do to stay awake. I was falling asleep all the while I was checking off the boxes.
How do we stay alert? Do the mechanics AND routinely ask the Holy Spirit to shake us from our slumber when our spiritual eyelids grow heavy.
Remember – we are in a supernatural spiritual battle. Our help is only and singularly through the supernatural aid of the Holy Spirit as He moves in our hearts.