Watchfulness: Recovering a Lost Spiritual Discipline

Here is a brief excerpt from the book, followed by endorsements from Don Whitney, Derek Thomas, Steve Lawson, and others. 

The Value of the Heart 

Watchfulness is needful because the heart is valuable. According to A. W. Pink, keeping the heart is “the great task which God has assigned unto each of His children.”[1] In the words of Solomon: “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). Solomon is not talking about the blood-pumping organ in your chest, but the control center of your life. He is talking about your soul. 

Your heart, or your soul (the biblical words are synonymous), is the most important part of you. It is command central. It is the seat of your thoughts, affections, and desires. In The Holy War John Bunyan pictures the heart as the central palace in the city of Mansoul: 

There was reared up in the midst of this town a most famous and stately palace; for strength, it may be called a castle; for pleasantness, a paradise; for largeness, a place so copious as to contain all the world. This place, the King Shaddai intended but for himself alone, and not another with him. . . . This place Shaddai made also a garrison of, but committed the keeping of it only to the men of the town.[2]
Jesus said the soul is more valuable than the world: “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26). He also taught that your words and deeds flow from this central part of your being: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). Who you are in your heart is who you are. The various streams of your life flow from the fountain of your heart. If your heart is not watched, then your life will be a mess.

The problem is that our hearts have become sick, diseased by the deadly contagion of sin. In the words of the prophet Jeremiah:

The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it? (Jer. 17:9)

Until purified by God’s cleansing power and changed by God’s transforming grace, our hearts are incapable of true godliness. The good news for believers is that God has, in fact, changed our hearts: “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). Into the darkness of our benighted minds, God brings light. Into the chaos of our inner worlds, He brings order. The Lord of new creation speaks the words of life and light to our dead, darkened souls. He cleanses our hearts through faith (Acts 15:9). 

But even after new birth, our hearts must be kept. They must be guarded from fleshly desires that wage a relentless guerrilla warfare against our souls (1 Peter 2:11). Sin’s dominion over us is broken, but its seditious influence remains. The heart must be watched, for “the heart hath a thousand wiles and deceits.”[3] Sin still dwells within.

In his book Soul Keeping, John Ortberg compares the soul to a beautiful, crystal-clear stream high in the Alps that strengthened and refreshed a mountain village. The stream was fed by mountain springs, which were tended by an old man called the Keeper of the Springs. His job was to remove branches, leaves, and other debris from the springs, lest they pollute the stream.

One year the village decided to fire the old man and spend their money elsewhere. With no one tending the springs, the water became polluted: “Twigs and branches and worse muddied the liquid flow. Mud and silt compacted the creek bed; farm wastes turned parts of the stream into stagnant bogs.” Though no one noticed at first, eventually the village was affected. Some people got sick. Kids no longer played in the water. Its crisp scent and sparkling beauty were gone.

Finally, the council of the village reconvened and rehired the old man to clean up the springs. After a time, “the springs were cleaned, the stream was pure, children played again on its banks, illness was replaced by health…and the village came back to life.” “The life of a village,” Ortberg writes, “depended on the health of the stream.”

Are you keeping your soul? Is your innermost soul a palace cleansed and prepared for the dwelling of the king? Are the thoughts, words, and behaviors flowing from your heart pure and refreshing? Or have you neglected your watch? “The stream is your soul. And you are the keeper.”[4]


If you love your Bible, if you love the Puritans, and if you love your own soul, then this little book is a banquet awaiting you to come and indulge your spiritual appetite! Brian Hedges has woven together a wonderfully edifying book on a forgotten spiritual discipline – watchfulness. He has created a tapestry rich in Scripture and the masters of the inner life: Owen, Bunyan, Flavel, Boston, M'Cheyne and others. I can well imagine this little volume sitting next to my Bible to be read along with morning devotions or for family worship. May the Lord Jesus use this wonderful little book to help His people become more watchful.
—Brian Borgman, Pastor of Grace Community Church, Minden, NV | Author, Feelings and Faith: Cultivating Godly Emotions in the Christian Life and co-author with Rob Ventura of Spiritual Warfare, a Biblical and Balanced Perspective

In a sea of antinomian easy believism, Watchfulness is a five-alarm fire bell calling us all to work out our salvation with fear, trembling, and effort. It’s about time. In twenty years of ministry, I have not read a single article, let alone book, that deals with the urgent issue of watchfulness. This book is long overdue and desperately needed.
—Todd Friel, Wretched Radio | Author, Reset for Parents: How to Keep Your Kids from Backsliding

Watchfulness is a book for all types of Christians. Whether you just met Christ yesterday or you’ve been walking with Him for dozens of years, this book is a helpful reminder that we must diligently keep watch over ourselves, and each other. I recommend without hesitation that you pick this up and start implementing it today. Hedges has done the Church a great service with this gem!
—Jason M. Garwood, Teaching Pastor of Cross & Crown Church in Northern Virginia | Author, Be Holy: Learning the Path of Sanctification

Channeling the likes of Owen, Bunyan, M’Cheyne, and Calvin, Brian Hedges cares for the Christian’s soul with the expertise of a seasoned pastor and a wise shepherd. He instructs the reader in the needful and often neglected spiritual discipline of watchfulness. If you would enjoy Christ more, safeguard your soul with greater effectiveness, and live the faith-filled life more intentionally, devour these pages. It will do your soul good and sow seeds for a life of devotion to Christ.
—Jason Helopoulos, Associate Pastor, University Reformed Church, Lansing, MI | Author, A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home

Many Christians today are unaware of one of the most fundamental spiritual disciplines necessary to advance in the Christian life, namely, watchfulness. By drawing from the vast riches of Scripture and the writings of Puritan divines, Brian Hedges shines a much needed light on this often neglected subject. This book will elevate your pursuit of personal holiness as it brings to the forefront of your mind the eternal benefits of watching over your heart and being alert for your enemy.
—Steven J. Lawson, President, OnePassion Ministries, Dallas, Texas | Professor of Preaching and Director of Doctor of Ministry Program, The Master's Seminary | Author, A Long Line of Godly Men series

Doctrine is easier to learn than godliness. Yet true doctrine is according to godliness. Brian Hedges faithfully guides his readers to cultivate godliness through ‘watchfulness’ by answering the questions what, why, how, when, and who. Drawing particularly from the insights of Owen, Bunyan, and M‘Cheyne, he makes the dead speak to us with a fresh voice on a neglected topic for the refreshment of our souls.
—Ryan M. McGraw, Morton H. Smith Professor of Systematic Theology, Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary | Author, The Foundation of Communion with God: The Trinitarian Piety of John Owen

We need constant reminders to be watchful lest we fall. And when these reminders come clothed in grace and pastoral sensitivity, they are all the more welcome. Brian Hedges has put together a small gem of a book that urges us to greater care and watchfulness. Gospel-driven exhortation and warning to busy Christians. Timely and necessary.
—Derek W.H. Thomas, Senior Minister of First Presbyterian Church, Columbia SC | Chancellor’s Professor, Reformed Theological Seminary | Teaching Fellow, Ligonier Ministries | Author, How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home

In the volume you are holding, [Brian Hedges] has brought together the biblical teaching on watching over our souls and seasoned it with insights from great works by godly men who were both passionate and practical about watchfulness. This book is needed. It fills a space on the subject of the Christian life that has been empty far too long.
—Donald S. Whitney, Associate Professor of Biblical Spirituality | Senior Associate Dean for the School of Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky | Author, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life


[1] A. W. Pink, Guarding Your Heart (Pensacola, Fla.: Chapel Library, 2010), 9.

[2] John Bunyan, The Holy War (Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 1993), 20.

[3] Owen, The Nature, Power, Deceit, and Prevalency of the Remainders of Indwelling Sin in Believers, in Works, 6:175.

[4] John Ortberg, Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 13–14.

No comments: