Updated: Aug 16, 2019
I have an enjoyment for reading about the spiritual disciplines. Reading gets me thinking about my own practice of the disciplines, reminds me of the ones I’ve been leaving out, inspires me to practice them and encourages me with practical tips. I feel like it's often the Spirit's way of shifting me more towards Himself.
The book, “Watchfulness: Recovering A Lost Spiritual Discipline” by Brian Hedges, was on my to-read list for awhile; the discipline of watchfulness hasn’t been something I’ve come across much, if at all, in my reading. So I was drawn with interest to discover more about it.
The point of “Watchfulness” is that all different seasons of life have a common need, “the consistent exercise of vigilance over [our] hearts and active dependence on the Lord’s sustaining grace.” Drawing on the writings of the Puritans, we have the what, why, how, when and who of watchfulness.
In the first chapter, Hedges defines watchfulness, using John Owen’s definition. “[Watchfulness is]...a universal carefulness and diligence, exercising itself in and by all ways and means prescribed by God, over our hearts and ways, the baits and methods of Satan, the occasions and advantages of sin in the world, that we be not entangled.” He breaks down each part of the definition to give us a clear idea of what being watchful means.
In the next chapter, he gives us seven reasons why watchfulness is an important discipline. “Watching takes effort. It will cost you something. But this only underscore the value, necessity, and urgency of this spiritual discipline. For in truth, while watchfulness will cost you something, not watching will cost you more.”
Chapter 3 provides us with the more practical aspect of how to be watchful. This chapter leads you to look at yourself, your sin, your vulnerability to temptation and then to practices which will equip you to be watchful over your heart and your mind.
Then, he looks at when we need to be watchful. I think you can probably guess that watchfulness is a discipline to practice for every season of life, but different seasons have different temptations. As we assess our own life, the seasons we are in, we become more aware of what temptation lingers, and are better prepared to guard our hearts against sin.
Last, who does the watching? There is the role of the pastor to shepherd and watch over his flock, and also for us as the body of Christ to watch over each other.
The discipline of watchfulness seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle among the other spiritual disciplines. This book reminds us of the need to pay attention to our souls and our sin -which can be a less than popular topic- and pursue Jesus deeply, guarding our hearts against our proneness to sin. In the distractions we experience throughout our day, watchfulness will draw us into quiet time with the Word, to keep us ever aware of what is going on around us, and within us.
As we are led to look honestly at our sin, we are pointed to the beautiful Gospel of Jesus, where we experience much grace and hope. We can be encouraged that God’s love for us cost Him something, as being watchful will also cost something of us.
I really enjoyed reading this book, it has challenged me to reflect on my life and really look at where I am tempted to sin. It is humbling. Somewhere in the thralls of my mind, I think I've got it all figured out...and that's a wrong attitude to have! Entering into an honest soul search, with the help of the Holy Spirit, brings me to my knees with joy over the grace I have been given.
So, if you want to be challenged in your walk of faith and learn more about how to guard your soul from sin, I would recommend adding this book to your shelf!
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