June 29, 2012

Staying awake

These days of packing and hauling boxes are making me more tired than usual, sore too. If I didn’t set my alarm, it would be easy to stay in bed or at least lounge drowsily in a hot Epsom salts bath. Yet I know that too much sleep makes me even sleepier. 
If I didn’t meet with the Lord every morning, and if I didn’t spend time with other Christians, my spiritual life would ebb too. It would not disappear completely, but I would display less evidence of the Lord in my life and slide into a state of thinking and talking much as those who do not know Christ.
So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. (1 Thessalonians 5:6)
The New Testament warns Christians to stay alert. The admonition to “be sober” means be discreet, watch, pay attention, and in this verse is not about sobriety from avoiding too much alcohol. A similar Greek word is used for “fasting” —abstinence from food or drink, but like “sober”, it can also mean the mental attitudes that come with fasting for spiritual reasons. Being circumspect and vigilant come to mind.

Today’s devotional reminds me to guard against that sleepy, undisciplined life that dozes off instead of remaining engaged with God and the pursuit of godliness. I need to be vigilant. It is one thing to lose my battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil, but quite another to be unaware that there even is a battle. 

Spurgeon comments on how to stay awake. He focuses on the need for fellowship where Christians communicate together the ways of the Lord. He quotes a line from Pilgrim’s Progress where “Christian” and “Hopeful” journey toward the Celestial City and agree, “To prevent drowsiness in this place, let us fall into good discourse.”

In Christian circles, getting together for a coffee and chatting about life in general is often confused with fellowship. Biblically, and in my experience, fellowship is less like that and more like Spirit-filled people sharing the life of Christ with one another. This can be verbal where we speak of how God is working in our lives, or we pray together. However, fellowship may not be about words. Spirit-filled believers can express the attributes of Christ in other ways. Some examples are being patient, taking care of needs, teaching truth, comforting, and so on. All of these things encourage that spiritual wakefulness that God wants us to have. 

Spurgeon also says that if I isolate myself too much, I am liable to grow drowsy. Good Christian company can keep me awake. Yet on the other hand, if I spend too much time with sleepy believers, I’m often affected with the same affliction. We are united in Christ and need to be careful that we do not slide from that into being united in drowsy apathy.

This reality admonishes me. My wakefulness is as vital to them as theirs is to me. Each believer needs to be refreshed and encouraged to make effective progress in spiritual growth. While all of us are on the road to Heaven, genuine fellowship can ease and stimulate the journey and keep the love of Christ flowing outward from our hearts and into the lives of those around us.  

Lord, sometimes I get spiritually sleepy and tend to blame others for my decreased vitality. Instead of doing that, I need to be a source of vitality for others. Keep me awake, alert and obedient. Help me know when someone needs to hear words about Your goodness and love, or needs to experience actions that demonstrate Your grace. Grant me creative ideas to stay awake and help others do the same.

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