Chances are most of us have not had to stand a watch; that is, a shift were you were on guard or responsible for something. Those who’ve been in the military or worked as a first responder (police, fire, EMT), however, probably have had plenty of experience on watch.
Standing watch was very common in the ancient world. People on watch worked through the night to make sure an enemy would not sneak up on their town as people slept. Watchtowers were employed to guard important locations or to keep an eye out for approaching enemy forces. Those who stood the watch were given words to use as passwords—anyone with the right word could “pass” or enter the town. Those without the right word, well…good luck.
Over time, watchwords became more like guiding principles for people to follow, kind of like a motto or guiding principle. For someone standing a night watch, “vigilance” might be a good watchword to encourage them to stay awake (although “Caffeine” might be a more appropriate choice). Colleges and universities have their own form of watchwords in their school motto. Mine was a French word, “Essayons,” which means, “I will try.” Maybe that sounds better in French. My class motto is a good one: “By Courage and Strength.”
Watchwords are meant to tell us something about what we value, about what is (or should be) guiding principles for us. They are sometimes handed down by those with a track record of wisdom and experience.
In the letters to Timothy, the Apostle Paul provides some sage advice to his younger protégé about how to be an effective pastor. Paul likely was in prison in Rome, having suffered much for the sake of the Gospel for many years. Before he departed this life, Paul wanted to pass on worthwhile advice to Timothy and to encourage him to stand firm in the faith.
The Second Letter to Timothy contains several passages with guiding principles for Christian life and ministry. Three of those passages are the subject of October’s sermon series entitled “Watchwords.” Watchwords for the faith we can discern from these passages are:
- Unashamed, 2 Timothy 1:1-14. “But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him” (2 Tim 1:12).
- Remember, 2 Timothy 2:8-15. “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained” (2 Tim 2:8-9).
- Breathe, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5. “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:15).
We will explore these watchwords for the faith, what they meant to the first generations of Christians, and how they can inspire and strengthen us today.
Beloved, may you always remain in the love of God, the grace of Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.