We all need sleep.
It can be difficult to stay awake and even more difficult to wake up.
It can be difficult to fall asleep, even though you are bone tired.
Swirling thoughts, snoring partners, 3am worries, painful bodies and unhappy children can all inhibit our ability to sleep.
The next day we walk around like zombies, minds sluggish, responses slow and irritability levels high.
And then there are the torn edges of sleep.
A mid-afternoon slump. A lulling doze. A twitch of a muscle. A slight nodding of the head onto the chest.
A sudden small snore.
When reality hovers in the distance and the dream becomes more real.
Are you sleepy?
But a different sleep. A sleep that distracts. Distorts.
A spiritual sleep.
Jesus asked His disciples to stay awake with Him, while He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew the battle had begun and He wanted them to remain alert and pray.
But they didn’t. And as Jesus was brought before the High Priest and two false witnesses, Peter denied his allegiance to Jesus.
The bible warns us: watch and pray. Stay alert. Don’t become sluggish. Don’t fall away from Christ in a midlife afternoon slump.
“Therefore, let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.”
Awake O sleeper!
What happens to us when we sleep?
Our body rests, sometimes 8 hours of night can pass and we can be blissfully unaware of a world altered by time.
Life continues while we sleep.
But because we don’t see, we can be lulled into a false sense of security.
Into our own personal reality.
When I first came to know the Lord in my early 20’s, I had my first wake-up call.
Everything looked different. I had a reason and purpose for life.
I felt fully alive. And that was the truth.
I had woken from the sleep of sin and death and I had been given new life in Jesus.
Since then I have had other wake up calls from God.
They are not pleasant. And that is His mercy to me.
Wake up calls from sin. Wake up calls from deception. Wake up calls from a comfortable nap of daily living in a world under the sway of the evil one.
It is easy to drift off from God slowly.
When a storm is seen on the horizon, you are prepared for the fight. Your heart is anchored in Him. The strong wind blows and nothing can move you!
You have victory in Christ!
But there comes a warm, sunny day and the gentle breezes from life can rock your heart and move the anchor so gently, that you are unaware of a slow pull towards dangerous waters.
Do you notice a hardness in your heart, a soft voice of persuasion to take offence or carry weariness against the battle?
Spiritual grogginess: developed from a rebellious thought that is given reign.
But having tasted the sharpness of being alert, the conviction of holiness, the clarity of spiritual sight, that is where I would prefer to stay.
Perched on the walls as a watchman, ready to blow the horn and sound the alert.
Teaching our children
And so, to Gideon. Our next hero of faith in our children’s curriculum.
He was a man who knew how to blow a horn!
But he didn’t start in that position, ready to stand against the enemy.
He was found in a winepress, threshing wheat. Hiding from the enemy so he could put food on the table for his family.
He was no warrior, no priest, no leader.
But the Lord God saw him differently. He saw a man who had not given up and hidden in the caves with many of his fellow Israelites. He saw a man who was trying to make bread under God’s discipline instead of trusting the pagan god Baal.
He saw a man who was trying his level best to stay awake in a slumbering, apostate nation.
Israel was in a deep sleep.
A whole generation had forgotten about the one and only true God, the creator of heaven and earth. They had forgotten their amazing rescue from slavery. They had forgotten how and why God had provided victory over the land.
Everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes.
It was more convenient to tolerate the pagan idols. It made getting on with the neighbours so much easier and loving.
Business was better too when everyone co-operated under the same vision and purpose.
Family life was settled and content if the kids were happy with their friends and fulfilled in their new way of life.
Why upset the applecart just to make a point?
But the Israelites were the apple of God’s eye. He could not allow this to continue.
The Lord’s loving mercy and discipline provoked the enemy, the Midianites, to prod the dozing nation awake.
I don’t like being prodded awake. It hurts my flesh and is annoying. Even worse than the phone alarm.
But the Israelites kept sleeping. Despite their food being stolen from under their noses.
They covered their ears with their soft pagan god pillows. They rolled over and snuggled down into the caves of refuge.
They hid anyway they could, to avoid the pain. They dozed just a little bit longer and enjoyed the warmth of the cover of lies.
So, God found Gideon: threshing wheat, separating the chaff from the grain in a place created for pressing grapes.
It was a hole in a ground where delicious fruitful wine could be squeezed from pounding, punishing feet.
A place of discipline and judgment.
Gideon was waking to God’s heart.
I want to remain awake. Do you?
Waking up the church
I watch what is happening today politically, socially, spiritually and I hear echoes from the past.
I hear oppressed families tolerating blindly the latest new restrictions on their livelihood. I hear parents claiming that greater steps against the German Jews would not be permitted.
“Aren’t we German after all?” they consoled themselves.
I listen to these voices from the past. I hear that this will never happen again.
Yet as we are lulled into a warming lapping sleep, new voices today call for the same anti -Semitic hate disguised as anti- Zionism or anti- Israel.
I hear rumbles & grumbles against Christianity disguised as pro tolerance for all.
I hear of political aims to prevent Christian children from speaking about Jesus in the school yard.
I feel a conspiracy of compromise with a society that is aimed at dismantling our Christian foundations and promoting the pagan god of self.
I sense a chill in the air.
A few years ago, I visited an underground church in a country where Christians are regularly persecuted for their faith.
They are not allowed to worship openly. They are not allowed to carry bibles or tell others about Jesus.
But my, did they love the Lord! I heard of several stories in which a family member became a believer and quickly shared the gospel with his family. They even tore down the family idols. They were not lulled by peace and safety. They knew they could be killed for their faith.
They were well and truly awake and alert.
The Lord was with them in such a way, His presence was tangible.
It was a church ready, prepared, living on a knife’s edge. Uncomfortable.
Ready to worship Him despite all their difficulties.
Full to overflowing of their first love and ready to give testimony for their hope in Christ.
Growing in numbers despite the physical and spiritual battle against them.
Ready to give up their lives for the sake of the Gospel.
It is difficult for a persecuted church to remain asleep.
When I returned to Australia and my church, it was a culture shock.
Where was our hunger, our desperation for only Him?
Life was too easy. Too comfortable.
I know that when I am dozing or fully asleep, that is my greater reality.
I am not sharp. I am slow and dull to what is happening around me. As I drift off, the knocking on my door is an irritant to my peace.
I prefer the comfort of my chosen bed, my life choices, my priorities and my ways to live the best life here and now.
How did Gideon respond when the Angel of the Lord called him?
He knocked down the family’s altar to Baal. He set up an altar to the Lord and worshipped Him.
What will cause us to make a stand like Gideon and tear down the pagan altars in our own lives? What enemy will the Lord use to prod us awake?
“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”
If you are awake, you can see and hear clearly.
If you are awake, you can climb from your lukewarm bed and stand up.
If you are awake, you can follow Him.
Ready to be called as a witness to testify for Him by the blood of the Lamb.
Ready like Gideon to blow the trumpet and crack open the light of the world.