“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41
The true nature of our faith doesn’t usually come to light until we are faced with our own weaknesses. Not our Sunday morning attendance record. Not our work on a service project. Not a well crafted sermon or Bible study. (All of these are very important.) It is only when we are tempted can we know the true strength of our faith.
When we are overcome by temptation, it often means we haven’t been vigilant—that we’ve stopped pursuing the God who has pursued us. In the aftermath of temptation, we recognize a spiritual weakness, and hopefully we use this failure to grow closure to God. We become wiser—but we do so remorsefully.
Both spiritual weakness and vigilance are illustrated in the garden of Gethsemane. In His last moments, Jesus requests that His closest disciples stay awake with Him to pray (Matt 26:38). But while He prays, the disciples fall asleep. At first Jesus’s instructions to pray seem like a request for spiritual and moral support. Jesus is facing a horrifying and painful death, and he wants his disciples to pray fervently for him.
But in just a few verses later, Jesus explains the true reason for prayer request: “Stay awake and pray that you will not enter into temptation” (Matt 26:41). Staying awake is associated with resisting temptation. The disciples rest their eyes, and they pay a high price for it. Because of their spiritual laziness, they are not prepared for Jesus’ death, even though Jesus had repeatedly prepared them for this. When they are tempted at the point of their weakness, they abandon the one they love out of fear (Matt 26:56; 75).
In this same passage, we also see what vigilance looks like. “Deeply grieved, to the point of death,” Jesus turns to His Father in prayer. He boldly requests relief from suffering, and when it is not granted, He submits to God’s will.
Being vigilant means constantly seeking guidance and refuge from the God who provides it. Keep pursuing the God who pursues us. We don’t know what challenges and temptations we will face, but God does. Pray for Holy Spirit to provide you with strength and discernment when they do come.