There are at least two kinds of sleep: the one in which a person is exhausted by pouring himself out in ministry to others (Lk 8, see verse below); the other in which a person is dull and lazy, serving only selfish interests (Jonah 1, see verse below). In Jonah, we have an example of the latter, while in Jesus we have an example of the former.
Spiritual sleepiness lays one bare to any number of perils. An interesting cross-reference is that of Sisera, captain of Jabin’s troops, as he flees for his life (Judges 4, see verse below). A false sense of safety and security allows him to fall into a deep sleep, to his peril. There are lessons to apply for those of us who battle spiritual sleepiness.
How does one know if he/she is in the grip of spiritual sleepiness? Just compare yourself to Jonah.
1. Do you place high priority on feathering your own nest (or, find a nice, quiet, dry spot in the hold of the ship in the midst of a horrendous storm) with little thought of the predicament of others?
2. When challenged to pray, do you actually pray? Jonah was commanded by the Commander to arise and pray. He arose, but he didn’t pray, just as God had told him to arise and go to Nineveh. He arose, but he didn’t go to Nineveh.
3. Do you spout theological truth that is patently untrue when it comes to your life? Jonah said that he feared the Lord. But it is obvious that he did not fear the Lord. He got his description of God down real nice. But there was a gap between his doctrine and his practice.
4. Would you rather die than do God’s will? That sounds extreme, but that is where we find Jonah. He could have fallen on his face and repented, saying, “Turn the ship around. Let’s go home.” But he didn’t repent. “God hurled the storm at me. Pick me up and hurl me right back at God.”
Spiritual sleepiness a) lulls us into losing any sense of concern for the souls of men, whether of sinners or sailors. Spiritual sleepiness b) drowns out a sense of the reality and fearsomeness of God. Spiritual sleepiness c) seriously fogs the claim of God upon one’s life to serve Him according to His will, as He sees fit.
And spiritual sleepiness is not merely an OT problem. The church at Sardis is warned of their death-like sleepiness, and given pointed instructions:
“You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.” (Revelation 3:1-2 ESV)
I know that my works are not complete in the sight of my God. The works of our local church are not complete. Nor are the works of the Body of Christ throughout the world.
Verses from Above
(Luke 8:23-24 ESV) “and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!””
(Jonah 1:5-6 ESV) “But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god!”
(Judges 4:20-21 ESV) “But Jael the wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand. Then she went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple until it went down into the ground while he was lying fast asleep from weariness. So he died.”