Applying the Character Quality of Alertness

Alertness vs. Carelessness

4 min

Alertness is exercising my physical and spiritual senses to recognize the dangers that could diminish the resources entrusted to me.

Every physical sense has a corresponding spiritual sense. Through our physical senses we can be alert to the physical world, and through our spiritual senses we are able to understand the spiritual world. A mature believer is one who has exercised all his senses to discern both good and evil. (See Hebrews 5:14.)

The Biblical words beware and vigilance explain the concept of alertness.

  • Beware—Three Greek words are translated beware, and each defines a different intensity of alertness. Blepo means “to perceive or observe.” Phulasso conveys the idea of a sentry who is carefully guarding those put under his care lest they escape. The third word, prosecho, means “to give attention to, be cautious about, to devote thought to.”
  • VigilanceGregoreuo means “to take heed lest through remission and indolence some destructive calamity suddenly overtake one.” A church leader must be sober and vigilant. (See I Peter 5:8.)

What to Beware of:

  • “Beware [prosecho] of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15).
  • “Beware [prosecho] ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1).
  • “Take heed, and beware [phulasso] of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15).
  • “Beware [blepo] lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
  • “Beware [blepo] of dogs [men with evil minds], beware of evil workers” (Philippians 3:2).
  • “Beware [phulasso] lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness” (II Peter 3:17b).

How Can We Develop Greater Alertness?

Recognize that we are in perpetual warfare

Since Satan’s fall, evil has warred against good and Satan has aimed to kill, steal, and destroy Godly generations and the foundations of righteousness. (See John 10:10.) Scripture urges us to be “good soldiers” of Jesus Christ (see II Timothy 2:3). A soldier gives up his personal desires and comforts for the sake of the cause for which he is fighting. As believers, we also are to forsake worldly pleasures so that we can fight the good fight of faith. (See I Timothy 6:12.)

Realize that our enemy is a master of deception

Jesus warned that Satan is a liar and the father of lies (see John 8:44). The Apostle Paul pointed out that Satan is able to disguise himself as an angel of light. “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (II Corinthians 11:13–14).

Ask God for spiritual understanding

When Solomon became king, he asked God for keen spiritual senses: “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad” (I Kings 3:9). Paul prayed that the believers in Ephesus would be aware of their position in Christ and thus live victoriously. “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18).

Understand that life involves cause-and-effect sequences

Alertness is motivated by the realization that many actions have predictable results and that the laws of the harvest apply to all levels of life. Scripture warns us to not be deceived. Whatever we sow, we will also reap. (See Galatians 6:8–9.) We reap what we sow, we reap where we sow, we reap more than we sow, and we reap in a different season than we sow.

Alertness is motivated by the realization that many actions have predictable results.

Have a Biblical response to each danger

Be alert to resist—Our first line of resistance must be to check every thought that comes to our minds. As soon as we recognize that a thought is not from God, we should resist it and bring it into captivity to the obedience of Jesus Christ (see II Corinthians 10:4–5).

Be alert to avoid—Danger can come from association with the wrong people and wrong ideas. Paul wrote, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences [sic] contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17).

Be alert to escape—When we recognize temptation, we are promised that there is also a way to escape, if we are alert to see it. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful … [and] will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (I Corinthians 10:13).

Be alert to flee—Joseph was alert to danger when confronted with the evil request from Potiphar’s wife, and consequently he fled. Similarly, we are instructed to flee youthful lusts and situations that would lead to fornication. (See II Timothy 2:22 and I Corinthians 6:18.)

Personal Evaluation: How Alert Are You to Danger?

  • Do you daily remind yourself that you are in a spiritual war?
  • Do you compare everything you are taught with Scripture?
  • Do you guard your daily time with the Lord and His Word?
  • Do you reject all whisperers and talebearers?
  • Do you protect your good name by doing only what is right?
  • Do you ask God for daily guidance and find His will?
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