Wherefore let us know nothing more profitable for ourselves than to examine ourselves daily, every day of our life reviewing that dubious life, and keeping account of our words and thoughts, and shuddering at human life, to ponder without ceasing the aforesaid end of that roadway, that is of our life, while we spurn all the pleasures of this world.
- Columbanus, Sermon IX, Irish, 7th century
My son, give attention to my words;
Incline your ear to my sayings.
Do not let them depart from your eyes;
Keep them in the midst of your heart;
For they are life to those who find them,
And health to all their flesh.
Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.
Put away from you a deceitful mouth,
And put perverse lips far from you.
Let your eyes look straight ahead,
And your eyelids look right before you.
Ponder the path of your feet,
And let all your ways be established.
Do not turn to the right or the left;
Remove your foot from evil.
- Proverbs 4.20-27
Scripture often exhorts us to examine ourselves and make sure that everything about us is what it ought to be before the Lord (cf. Ps. 90.12, 16, 17; 2 Cor. 13.5; 1 Tim. 4.16). Such a self-watch must be intentional, comprehensive, regular, and with a view to improving in our walk with and work for the Lord.
Most of us doubtless agree that some kind of self-watch can be a useful, perhaps even a necessary discipline. We shouldn’t just go through life willy-nilly, with no clear sense of where we are, where we’ve been, where we’re going, and whether we’re on course.
We are on a journey within and unto the Kingdom and glory of God (1 Thess. 2.12). Making sure that everything about us lines up with and is dedicated to that calling would seem to be a good idea.
But how do we carry this out?
An effective self-watch consists of three elements: Planning, prayer, and partnering with a soul friend.
Prayer is a good place to begin. The Spirit of God can search us and help us to know what’s in our minds and hearts (Ps. 139.23, 24). Waiting on Him in silent prayer is a good way to experience that searching. Part of all our prayers should involve such listening to the Lord. The end of the day is also a good time for seeking the Lord in prayer concerning our activities of the day just spent.
But it can also help to take some time to review the previous week, month, or year, waiting on the Lord and listening as He commends, convicts, corrects, and instructs. Monitoring your time and activities for a week or so can also help you see the extent to which you are seeking the Kingdom in all things, and show you ways you can improve your time usage.
Having a soul friend can also help – someone who is committed to caring for your soul as for his own (2 Cor. 12.15), who will talk with you, pray with you, encourage and exhort you, and even, when necessary, point out areas where you seem to be straying from the path of righteousness.
It’s also an important part of a self-watch to try to plan and budget your time before you get to it. At the beginning of each week and each day, look ahead to the activities and people you expect to engage, and begin praying about your thoughts, affections, priorities, words, and deeds, so that you use them in a manner that allows grace to flow freely from within you. Watch your time before you get to it, and you’re much more likely to use it wisely (Ps. 90.12; Eph. 5.15-17).
Longer-term planning – projects, goals, areas of needed growth – should also be part of our self-watch regimen, committing our time and lives to the Lord for the long haul, and not just the short.
This may seem tedious; actually, it can be very rewarding, and most useful in helping us live closer to the Lord in real and practical ways.
We are to keep a healthy self-watch going at all times – and to persist in this – so that we can know more of the glorious benefits of the saving mercy of God. What’s your strategy for keeping watch over your life?
1. What can you expect if you do not exercise a consistent self-watch?
2. Where can you improve your self-watch, beginning today?
Psalm 139.23, 24 (Ripley: Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah, O My Soul)
Search my heart, O Lord, and know me, as You only, Lord, can do.
Test my thoughts and contemplations, whether they be vain or true.
Let there be no sin in me, Lord, nothing that Your Spirit grieves.
Lead me in the righteous way, Lord, unto everlasting peace!
Search me, O God, and show me where I need to work harder at the self-watch, so that…
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T. M. Moore
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Walker, p. 101.