As we discussed in Prepare for Persecution, the first step in preparing for persecution, according to 1 Peter 5:8-9, is to be sober-minded and alert. This probably conjures up some ideas in your mind, but what are some practical things we can do to cultivate this in our lives? Remaining vigilant is a discipline that needs to be honed and strengthened over time.
We don’t wake up one day and suddenly live with greater focus and attention. The first thing we need to do is understand the signs of this age and recognize the urgency of these times in which we find ourselves. Most of us have never had to worry about persecution and cannot grasp the reality or inevitability of it. Let me state it plainly. Persecution is coming; Jesus promises it will (John 16:33).
Too many Christians live with a sense of laissez-faire. Having never experienced persecution, we’ve allowed the devil to lull us to sleep. There is no urgency in our walk. While we might assume persecution may happen someday, we believe that day is a long way off. It is not. Persecution is now on the doorstep of every believer, regardless of where you live. It’s time to wake up and get serious about what it means to take up your cross daily (Luke 9:23). Being sober-minded and alert means we must give serious consideration to the cost of following Jesus and be aware of what is happening in the world.
One way to foster the habit of being sober-minded and alert is to pray continuously. When our thoughts and focus are on Christ alone, nothing in this world can shake our faith. When we neglect prayer, we become like a ship on the ocean being tossed back and forth (Ephesians 4:14). We have no anchor, no source of stability. When the storms blow, we will be destroyed. A shallow prayer life will set you up to deny Christ when the pressure mounts. The more time you spend with Him, the more you will understand and appreciate His glory and majesty. The more you pray, the more resilient your faith will be.
Being sober-minded and alert requires eliminating distractions. You can’t be on alert when you give your attention to the things of this world. Satan provides a myriad of diversions to steal our focus away from Jesus and to mask the sinfulness he parades before our eyes. Stay sharp. Don’t allow the things of this world, no matter how harmless they might appear, to steal your focus. Be vigilant and diligent. Satan is always seeking an opportunity to destroy your faith and your flesh (1 Peter 5:8).
Both Matthew and Mark emphasize how being sober-minded and alert in prayer is the key to overcoming temptation (Matthew 26:41; Mark 14:38). Our spirit may be willing to stand firm in Christ, but in times of testing, our flesh may betray us because it will be weak. By staying connected to Christ through prayer, we align our will with His will, allowing His strength to be our strength. The allure of sin and compromise cannot stand against the power of God.
Prayer is the key to becoming and staying sober-minded and alert. As you sense the urgency of standing firm in your faith and open your eyes to the sin and evil around you, you will find yourself driven deeper and deeper into prayer.
We will not and cannot fix this world. But we can devote ourselves to prayer, which will keep distractions at bay and help us overcome temptations and ultimately to hold fast when we must choose between comfort and our faith. Never let go and never back down. Stand strong in Christ by nurturing an unflinching prayer life. Allow His strength to flow through you and help you to stand firm in the One who cannot fail or let you down.