In 1920, while attending high school in China, Nee Shu-tsu dedicated his life to Jesus. “From the evening I was saved,” he wrote, “I began to live a new life, for the life of the eternal God had entered into me.” Later, he adopted the English name, Watchman and the Chinese name To-sheng, “the sound of a watchman’s rattle.”
A watchman’s duty is especially important at night. God gave Watchman Nee the responsibility of sounding a warning to the spiritually dark world he lived in. He did this by teaching and preaching about the Lord Jesus and establishing churches.
It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ ” Mark 13:34-37
Watchman Nee suffered loneliness, poverty, loss of friends and sickness yet he remained faithful to God and to his calling. After the communist take-over of China in 1947 life became dangerous for Christians. Nee was arrested in 1952 for preaching and sentenced to a lengthy prison term. He died in custody in 1972.
Watchman Nee’s many books are still read by Christians around the world. His book on Ephesians, Sit, Stand, Walk, is one my favourites.
Our Lord Jesus, when he ascended to Heaven, left a project for each of his servants – to watch for His return. What does it mean to watch? It means to be on guard, alert, aware of our surroundings, listening to the Spirit and recognizing the signs of His return. It also means to remain vigilant in prayer, study of the scriptures, learning, obeying and fasting. It means to be found in faithful to Christ in life and in death.
We don’t know when Jesus will return, but if ever there was a time to be vigilant and alert, it is today. This warming from Paul is more urgent in 2020 than in the first century when he wrote it: “It is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11).
As we enter 2020 mindful that this could be the year of Christ’s return, let us not become immersed in self-indulgence, but standing at the gate watchful and prayerful, doing our part to spread the good news about Jesus.
Prayer: Lord, as I go about my life today I remember you’ve commissioned me as a watchman. Like Watchman Nee, make me brave and eager to give my best to You.