Instead of sleepwalking through life, let us be awake and alert to the movement of God, preparing each day for the Second Coming of Christ.
The other day, I was reading in 1 Thessalonians 5 about the Lord’s second coming, a most familiar scripture:
You know as well as I that the day of the Master’s coming can’t be posted on our calendars. He won’t call ahead and make an appointment any more than a burglar would.
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:2 (MSG)
Then Paul goes on to say:
About the time everybody’s walking around complacently, congratulating each other — “We’ve sure got it made! Now we can take it easy!” — suddenly everything will fall apart. It’s going to come as suddenly and inescapably as birth pangs to a pregnant woman.
But friends, you’re not in the dark, so how could you be taken off guard by any of this? You’re sons of Light, daughters of Day. We live under wide open skies and know where we stand. So let’s not sleepwalk through life like those others. Let’s keep our eyes open and be smart. People sleep at night and get drunk at night. But not us! Since we’re creatures of Day, let’s act like it. Walk out into the daylight sober, dressed up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation.
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:3-8 (MSG)
Yes, these scriptures hit home. It’s as if Paul was writing directly to me in May, AD 2022. He is right: we are sons and daughters of daylight; we have been given the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth (John 16:13). There need never be any reason for us to stumble, fumble and grope around in the darkness, unless we refuse God’s light of day.
Certainly, Paul is talking to the Thessalonians about Christ’s second coming, no question. He was urging those believers to be alert then, and now two thousand years later. So, perhaps, given the laws of probability, in our day, we are certainly much closer to Christ’s cataclysmic second coming than they were. Therefore, shouldn’t these scriptures hit home for us all the harder?
Yes, we must be men and women, with our eyes wide open. I have heard several suggest that the days we are living through are latterly the last days and the Lord is really coming very soon. I am not going there; I am not putting any date in my calendar; Paul explains that’s not for us to do. But it is for us to be constantly alert for the possibility, most exciting as that is.
Testing One, Two, Three
Paul was urging his readers to be alert, and that includes us today just as much as his first-century audience. But what does staying alert mean? Paul described sleep and drunkenness as the opposites of watchfulness and attentiveness. In both those scenarios our senses are switched off, we can’t see or hear anything, and we can’t remember anything afterwards (am not advocating drunkenness, but it paints a brilliant picture of the dangers of not being alert).
How do we know if we are asleep or drunk? I propose three self-tests that we can run:
1. The conscience test: I believe that God has deposited eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). I believe that this is, if you will, the divine DNA in every one of us. When we hear or see something that is opposed to God’s order, this genetic material within us is hurt, reacts and responds to the violation. We literally feel it.
I am not only talking about our conscience’s reaction to our own flaws and mistakes, but rather our conscience’s response to external tragedies and mistakes that violate the heart of God. For example, how do we react to our governments enacting abortion rights up to full term? Are we so asleep or anesthetised that this no longer causes a reaction in our conscience?
2. The peace test: The Lord calls on us to test the spirits to see if they are of God (1 John 4:1-6). I think this test is a proactive one, different from the conscience one which is passive. We are called to actively test what we see around us to see if it lines up with God’s will. If it does, we will know His peace; if not, we will sense God’s disappointment, grief, sorrow, and pain.
I use the analogy of holding up a lens to the question under review. This lens is primary the scriptures, but I also believe it should include the confirmation of spiritual leaders around us whom we trust, and also the Holy Spirit within us that also needs to align with the first two. If we receive confirmation from all three, then the issue can pass the peace test.
3. The responsibility test: Am I taking responsibility for this issue or this situation? If we say, ‘that’s not my responsibility’, that may well be the case, but should we be taking responsibility? Let me use the example of bullying or harassment. If we see or hear of some bullying or harassment in our workplace, school or college, and we don’t speak up.
The situation may not involve us directly at all — it may involve none that we know directly or work with directly; but we have still become aware of it, and if we don’t speak up, then we are not taking responsibility. Just imagine if everyone in sight and sound of the situation spoke up and took responsibility, the perpetrator(s) would soon be outnumbered and brought to justice.
In our society today, it is so easy, so natural and so accepted that others should take responsibility. We have come to expect others to take responsibility. Think back to earlier times in history when there were no big state corporations and big governmental institutions. The family literally took responsibility for the family, the individual took responsibility for the individual. I propose the responsibility test, is a great way to judge if we are awake and alert or whether we are asleep or inebriated.
My concluding reflection is going to be a very hard saying (John 6:60). I believe, sadly, that there are many Christians today who are asleep. They don’t know they are asleep, naturally, especially as they can hear and see the world around them quite clearly. They are fully engaged with and conscious of many aspects of daily life, but they are blinded and unconscious towards many things that are coming on the earth (Luke 21:26).
My encouragement to us all is to pray that we stay awake (Matthew 26:40). Connect with anyone whom you perceive as having greater discernment of the things coming on the earth, and ask them to watch out for us, lest we drift into asleep again.
It grieves me greatly that so much of the Church of Jesus Christ, while under a wide-open sky, are still sleepwalking through life (1 Thessalonians 5:5). Let’s not grow weary in seeking to wake them up!
Photo by Kampus Production.