I remember watching my son Joshua fight off sleep twenty years ago as clearly as I remember yesterday. His eyelids looked like they weighed a hundred pounds each and took every once of his strength to keep open. His head nodded up and down until finally he could fight no more. Plop! His nose was suddenly buried in the pile of mashed potatoes on his plate. Robin and I laughed, sat him up and carried him, like a sack of grain, up the stairs to his crib. Once he was asleep there was no waking him.
What age do we stop fighting sleep? When is it that we welcome it and even look forward to it?
In adolescence we sleep late but stay up later. As twenty-somethings we begin to require more and more recovery time to bounce back from social late nights. We love recovery sleep. In our thirties we begin to look forward to earlier nights and bow out gracefully saying that we have to get our kids home to bed.
Ah sweet sleep. We love to sleep. When we can’t sleep it affects our mood, our health, our work performance and our relationships. Sleep is important. Sleep, in the right time, is vital. But sleep at the wrong time is dangerous.
Approximately 6 years ago I was diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea. It was my wife who first recognized that something was wrong. I could not watch a movie with my family without falling asleep. My tolerance for people suffered and my motivation was fading fast. When I began using a CPAP machine all of that changed and my old self returned. I was sleeping at the wrong time.
Ephesians 5 talks about followers of Christ sleeping when they should be awake. It tells us to wake up and see things in the light of Jesus. It talks about the dangers of sleeping through all that is really important in life to the point of being dead to it.
What happens when we wake up?
- We want to become imitators of God
- We focus on living a life of love.
- We live life different.
- Our language is soaked with thankful words.
- We want to find out what pleases the Lord.
- We expose injustice and speak against it.
- We live wise.
- We are concerned with making the most, the best, of every opportunity.
- We seek to understand what the Lord’s will is.
- We want to be in tune with the Holy Spirit.
- We speak to one another to encourage and build up.
- We sing and make music in our hearts to the Lord.
- We are able to give thanks to God for everything.
- We put others needs above our own.
I have been a sleeper for so many years. My goal has been to get what I want, stay comfortable and advance my cause. I have lived conditional trust meaning I have thanked God when I got my way and whined and complained nonstop when I didn’t. Those who opposed me bore the brunt of my politicking and campaigning. If they did not agree with my agenda than surely they were out of tune with God. Rather than unify, most of us tend to move to divide and conquer so that we can win what we want. I bet the same is true for you.
In my 25 years of ministry I’ve seen some rip-roaring church fights. Most have centered on trivial matters that had absolutely no impact on our charge to reach the lost. People have fought about kitchen cabinets, carpet colors, paint choices and church signs. They’ve fought territorial battles and laid claims on various rooms in the church building. It has made me sad to witness the attacks and sadder to see people walk away from our family.
Another significant piece of the sleeper conflict pie has come from those people who have convinced themselves that the ministry truly is dependent on them, their talents or their money. I’ve seen wealthy individuals withhold their tithe until things “straightened out” and they got what they wanted. I’ve seen brothers and sisters go from serving the body joyfully to a place of frustration and a “they’ll never make it without me” attitude. Regardless of the ministry, I have never witnessed a ministry fold up after they left. I’ve never seen a ministry become anything but more healthy after refusing to be held hostage by the wealthy giver.
The matter is not the disagreements. The matter is the condition of our hearts and our conduct as believers in the midst of disagreements. Acts 15 tells us of a sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas. It shook them so much that they parted ways and went on different paths. When I have tried to figure out who was at fault in their fallout, I have had to conclude that each was right. Each had very good points and a good rationale. Each was justified. They separated and carried the ministry of the gospel to different areas. Some argue that their frustrations lead to the gospel advancing more quickly. But what strikes me most is the way they parted and how warmly Paul speaks of Barnabas in other writings. It is possible to disagree and part ways and honor God through the process.
Wake up oh sleeper! The Lord is telling me to see what is truly important and to trust Him in everything. He is reminding me to be more concerned with building up my brothers and sisters than I am with getting my own way. He is inviting me to imitate Him and reflect His heart.
Lord, wake me up to what is truly important to you.