Character Trait No. 38
Definition: Foreseeing and responding correctly and alertly to any situation
“Keep watching and praying, that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mk. 14:38
The classic example of being observant occurs in Judges 7, where only 300 men lapped the water with their cupped hand, while the other 9,700 lapped it with their tongues, “as a dog laps.” The observant 300 were chosen to go on and win a great victory for God against the innumerable Midianites. Paying attention pays off in fighting for God against our spiritual adversaries in the never-ending brutal war between darkness and light. Here’s what Paul wrote the Thessalonians in their day:
“Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just a thief in night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep (be unobservant) as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep (are unobservant) do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, we that whether we are awake (physically alive) or sleep (physically dead), we may live together with Him.” (I Thess.5:1-10)
In the previous long quote, Paul points out that Christians are not unenlightened or uninformed, but know the exact and awful fate of this sinful, doomed world and the people who are in it. (The “times and epochs”.) They are therefore to be watchful and live carefully so that they’ll be found ready without blame at the coming of the Lord. (5:23). Living in readiness for the Second Coming of Christ is the ultimate reason for being observant. So much of Jesus’ teachings were on this theme: BE READY WHEN I RETURN! (Note that “ready” is defined in various verses as: sincere, spotless, blameless, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, ... perfected in love and good deeds. (Phil.1:9-11; Eph.5:2:27) Wise virgins (Christians) will have oil in their lamps, and be waiting for the bridegroom. Not so, the foolish. Foolish people don’t discern the times. Of course, this brings us back the original purpose for writing this series of lessons on Christ’s perfect character that lasts. Without possessing all of it, we are unprepared – miserable, blind and shamefully naked – for our master’s soon return. (Rev.3:18)
Jesus expects men to study the scriptures and understand the times and epochs. During His time on earth He often chided his disciples for being hard hearted and slow to believe. (Mk.7:17-18) “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Messiah (Christ) to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” (Lk. 24:25-26) Earlier, he had lambasted the Jews for their unobservant attitude concerning the earthshakingly important spiritual and historical events taking place in conjunction with His ministry:
“When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming,’ and so it turns out. And when you see a south wind blowing, you say, ‘It will be a hot day,’ and it turns out that way. “You hypocrites! You know how to analyze (make proper observations) the appearance of the earth and the sky, but why do you not analyze the present time?” (Lk.13:54-56)
Obviously, the Lord expects us to use our noggins’ and reason out what is what in our times as well. We are not paid to check our brains out at the counter! We must anxiously and carefully examine the Bible and see what it has to say to us - now - and then wisely and courageously act like men, before its too late. The days are evil! The hours are rapidly passing by. The opportunities for evangelism are slipping away. NOW is the time. We are The People. Jesus will not come and personally give a “Word of the Lord” concerning the times and epochs. He will not jar us awake with a spiritual cattle prod. He expects men to listen to His word and prepare for that great and terrible day of the Lord, when He comes in the glory of His father and with the holy angels, wrecking havoc on the unprepared and ungodly – those who do not know Him or have obeyed His one true gospel. (II Thess.1:8)
Learning to be observant will even pay rich dividends in this life as we prepare for Christ’s return. Actually, people can be so wrapped up in details that they miss the BIG picture. They can be so busy successfully buying and selling, marrying and giving in marriage, totally missing the important spiritual events unfolding all around them. (Missing the forest for the trees). Yet one must still learn to pay attention to more “earthly” concerns if he is to get anything accomplished for the Lord. Watching with prayer means being alert to what’s going on – to “whaz up”. We need to learn to use our eyes and ears as God intended. We must learn to look, listen and learn, then carefully “connect the dots”, so to speak. This is to see how things relate to each other in light of the big picture. Jesus asked his disciples: “Do you not yet see or understand? Having eyes, do you not see? Having ears, do you not hear? (Mk.8:9) Again, obviously Jesus expects us to use successfully utilize what we have in the brains department.
Here are some ways to be more observant:
- Learn to notice what people are doing, and then ask yourself why they are doing it.
- Learn to read the scriptures with discernment. You must learn to notice the scriptures that apply to us in this age, and those that don’t. This is rightly dividing the word.(II Tim.2:15, KJV) Ask about what you’ve read such questions: Old Covenant or New? Fulfilled prophecy, or not? Local application or widespread? For Christians, or non-Christians?
- Get more education. Learn to analyze by doing science, English and math paces.
- Become a good reporter and eyewitness. Notice more details and use them when reporting a story to your family or friends.
- Read good, insightful books and magazines, like the “New American” magazine. Or “The Lord’s Second Coming” by Jay Wilson. Or “Fulfilling the Ancient Purpose of the Lord’s Church” by Jeff Hostetter.
- Study the prophecies of the Bible in Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelation in the light of what is now already fulfilled in Christ and in His church. See the spiritual emphasis of things.
- Buy a good pair of eyeglasses.
Like the sons of Issachar, there’s still a great need for men who understand the times, with knowledge of what (the New) Israel should do. (I Chron.12:32) Christ’s church is the world’s watchman. (Is.21:11; Ez.3:18; 33) “Watchman, how far gone is the night?” It is the eleventh hour, the dawn is soon coming. As the Lord told Ezekiel: “ I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me. We are to sound the trumpet as we see the sword of God’s judgment coming. If not, then God will require their blood from the watchman’s hand. That’s the church, God’s watchman. We must not fail. We must loud shout out the royal proclamation of the King’s pardon. Know the times and epochs, brethren. Be observant!