“So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. I Thessalonians 5:6-10
In the Vietnam War one of my difficult tasks as a Rifle Platoon Leader was keeping the soldiers in my platoon awake when they were on guard in the enemy occupied jungle where we were bivouacked for the night; sleep often meant death. On the other hand, insomnia is a wretched thing, though in Vietnam on guard duty it would have come in handy! Billions and billions of dollars are spent on sleep aids all over the world every year. We require sleep; sleep is necessary to life and sanity. This Bible passage speaks, however, of TWO kinds of sleep; physical and spiritual. Most people who are asleep spiritually have absolutely no idea they are. Physical sleep deprivation is all too obvious. Everyone knows when they are sleep deprived and they let you know it too! Very few know until they are in deep crisis, and not even know what to do then, that they are immersed in deadly spiritual sleep. It is not that there is no fair warning about this disease; the Bible literally shouts throughout its pages, “Wake up, wake up, before it is too late! The dreadful consequence of spiritual sleep descends in a moment on all those who are blissfully “enjoying it just like “a thief in the night or “a pregnant woman going into labor. (I Thessalonians 5:1-3) No one can precisely predict when they will be precipitously awakened to literal terror with no means of escape (Psalm 73:18-20). The pain of insomnia is no comparison!
Most people whether professing Christians or of some other religion, whether practical or intentional atheists or agnostics, would never describe themselves as asleep. In fact, they would vehemently deny it saying they are the ones awake to a modern world and life; awake to science, awake to antinomianism, awake to the reasonableness of denying the existence of absolutes, awake to the freedom of living life without restraint, awake to the meaning and practice of tolerance (except the tolerance, of course, of those who disagree with them). This does not describe a free person; rather a prisoner to their own vices, possessing a woeful inability to be satisfied in relationships in any permanent fashion, always requiring some means of escape from the realities of their lives. One can truly hear the “spiritual snore of the society as we see it crumbling around us; families breaking apart, violent homicidal responses to trivial things, mental instability, abuse of women and children, slave trafficking, oppression of all kinds of people throughout the world, truth repeatedly violated and stumbling in the streets. Yes, spiritual sleep has descended almost universally on a world oblivious to the promised return of Christ. Most deny spiritual sleep because they have no idea what it is.
There is the spiritual sleep of willful ignorance; ignorance of spiritual truths, ignorance of the existence of God, of a moral universe where spiritual principles govern, and there are consequences of immoral behavior; ignorance of the reality of sin, its curses and its antidote. There is the spiritual sleep of addictions; illegal and legal substance abuse, to include medical prescription abuse, even legal marijuana abuse; alcohol or sexual addictions, entertainment, and its opposite, boredom addictions; anything to avoid reality, living life mired in illusions and fantasy, not knowing or experiencing life’s true beauty, freedom, and hope of eternal life. If these addictions describe you or someone you know, an awakening from sleep must be jump started soon; for procrastination, according to this text, is disastrous, the action of a fool. This text describes a spiritually awake person as one who is self-controlled, no addictions or abuses are tolerated or required; alert, with their spiritual senses firing on all cylinders (the meaning of being filled with the Spirit- Ephesians 5:17-18); clear-headed, knowing what and Who truth is; practicing faith and love as protectors of their inner being; and possessing the assurance and hope of their own salvation, as a helmet protecting their brain without need of sedation.
I know a dear friend who has struggled with the horrific malady of being bi-polar for much of her life. She is down to two meds (some prescriptions are necessary when chemistries are out of whack, but not too much, nor too many which numbs alertness and self-control, and the ability to walk in intimate fellowship with Jesus Christ) and beautifully radiant in a life of ministering to others with faith and love, and visibly and verbally possessing the sure hope of salvation (I Corinthians 13:13).
Spiritual sleep and lethargy is rampant in this world; just be sure that it is not invading your life and deceiving you of its presence. It is a sleep that will kill!
Sign up for our monthly newsletter and weekly devotional