As a general rule in life, I have found that most people do not enjoy getting up in the morning. Of course, there are are those few morning people that spring out of bed at 4am with perfect hair and smile, ready to face the day, but in general it seems like a good portion of the population struggles with getting out of bed. That snooze button is just so tempting!
Unsurprisingly, I also do not like waking up. Don’t get me wrong, I love being awake during the morning, smelling the fresh air, and watching the sun rise (in fact, I rarely sleep past 8am), but actually having to wake up can be torturous. I cannot stand being pulled out of the warm embrace of my covers and the fantastic dreams floating through my mind in order to face the realities of the world. My entire body is filled with revulsion for a split second every time the bright rays of sunshine yank me from my graceful slumber. With all this loathing, one would think that I would choose to sleep in if I had the chance. But even on the days when I have the opportunity to sleep in, I do not. Why?
I don’t want to miss a single thing in life. Even though life may seem harsh compared to the dream world of sleep, it is still incompatibly beautiful and I would much rather face genuine trials than be stuck in a dreamy mirage forever. So, with the expectation of living life to the fullest, I try to set my alarm for 7am every morning.
Regardless of how much or how little we enjoy the mornings, we all know we have to wake up eventually, and most people have proven methods they use to get themselves out of bed at a certain time every morning. Some people set loud and abrasive alarms, while others only need a gentle sound or a bright light to wake them up. Some people, like myself, are able to get out of bed after the first alarm, while others intentionally set five or six alarms with the anticipation of snoozing most of them. And then there are the ways that parents wake their children up (there is no end to creativity in this department): Some parents shake their kids awake, others turn on lights, yank off covers, and make lots of noise. When I was younger, my mom would wake me up by setting my guinea pig on top of me; (this was surprisingly effective- My guinea pig loved to chew on hair, so if I didn’t wake up fast enough I would end up with a bob!) It never failed to make me smile as I woke up.
I also have a friend whose mom used to wake her up by sprinkling water on her face! Talk about a rude awakening! When I asked her how on earth this tradition got started, she explained: “I used to be a light sleeper and I would be awakened by any little thing, but as I grew older, it became progressively harder to wake me up. I would turn off alarms in my sleep, and I started shutting out lights and tuning out noise until the only effective way my parents could get me to snap out of sleep was to drip cold water on my face.”
This week, as I was thinking about what my friend had told me, I came across a passage in Revelation 3 that grabbed my attention, because I was reminded that individuals are not the only ones who need a wake up call in the mornings; churches do as well:
“To the messenger of the church in Sardis write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.Revelation 3:1-3
Here in Revelation, the apostle John is given a vision in which Jesus himself speaks to the seven major churches of the time, offering them praise for their good works, and commands to change any ungodly behavior in the church. To Sardis, the fifth church, he gives a command that is relevant to the church of the world today: Wake Up!
How many churches today are just like Sardis, having a reputation as places of life, but which are truly filled with dead bones? How many churches are dwindling in size and power because their worship has become hollow and they have stopped relying on God to move? How many churches today have deeds that are ‘unfinished in the sight of God’? To how many churches is Jesus crying out, “Wake up! Don’t miss out on what I am doing!”
I would wager that their are more churches like Sardis than we think.
Just like my friend started out as a light sleeper, churches that are just planted can be awakened more easily; they are praying people, more in tune with the voice of their Father. But as a church grows, it has a tendency to become set in its ways, to become prideful in what God has accomplished through it, and little by little, the things that used to awaken the church from apathy are no longer effective. The whispers of the Holy Spirit are silenced. Wise counsel is ignored. The people become apathetic, treating church like a golf club or social group. So the question is, what does God have to do to wake up his church?
Whether he uses circumstances to shake us up, allowing (and in many cases, sending) disease, tragedy, famine, and political unrest, or whether he uses individual believers to spark a revival in churches, his message is always the same. In this passage in Revelation, God warns churches that if they stay asleep, they will die; they will not only miss the work God is doing today, but they will be shocked at the coming of Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-8 echos this same warning:
“Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.”1 Thessalonians 5:1-8 (emphasis mine)
Here, Paul warns churches that Jesus is coming back any day, and they need to be awake and ready, lest they be caught off guard. There is no time for sleeping churches in God’s economy. There is no time for us to wrap ourselves in comfortable blankets of tradition and hit the snooze button when the Lord calls for action. We don’t have time to live in a dreamland of past successes when there are broken people in our own neighborhoods that need help right now!
Where are the Pastors who will pray on their faces at the altar for revival in their churches? Where are the church members who will surround their leadership in prayer and support? Where are the students who will share Christ with their friends at school because they can’t bear to be silent about the God who saved them? Where are the Mothers and Fathers who will raise up their children to follow the Lord?
Church, we have been sleeping for long enough. It is time for us to be unified in faith and love. It is time for us to seek the Lord. It is time for us to wake up.