February 25, 2014

Heart and Soul: Devotional

Sometimes we have stupid thoughts—I do. Sometimes the light in us is darkness. How great!

“Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Eph. 5:14, KJV). The words came to me in ironic context. More often than not, when I awaken in the middle of the night, I repeat texts to myself. So I was not asleep, I thought. I was not unconscious. I was conscious, aware, analytical: The text was not simply ironic; it was unrealistic, impractical, a lesson in self-righteousness.

Unrealistic because if I’m consciously hearing you tell me all this, it suggests that I’m not really asleep as you claim. Either I’m hearing you because I’m conscious, or I’m oblivious and you’re just on a crazy rant, saying anything you want to nobody in particular. And impractical because nobody raises themselves from the dead—how much sense is there in a command to arise from the dead? And it advocated works righteousness because you have to get all these things done before Christ gives you light. But if you have to resurrect yourself first . . .

I went back to unconsciousness without resolving my dilemma. But I remembered it after I awoke again. I did some checking. I noticed that Ephesians is not the first scriptural injunction to get up (Isa. 51:17; 52:1; 60:1).

Troubles With Sleep

Isaiah 60:1 says: “Arise, shine, for your light has come.” The verb for “arise” is “stand up”; but in Isaiah 52:1 it’s “Awake, awake; put on thy strength” (KJV). Isaiah 51:17 intensifies the “wake up” focus on you and combines it with the “stand up” one: “Awake, awake! Rise up.” How does this get through to you if you’re unconscious?

Then there’s Romans 13:11: “It is high time to awake” (KJV).

There is more to sleep than unconsciousness. The trouble with sleep is losing consciousness. All of life is because God speaks.

I thought of that—high time to awake. It was even more unrealistic and impractical. Because whereas Ephesians is a command, Romans is an epistle. In Ephesians and Isaiah somebody may be shouting at you, “Get up, you sleeper!” But in Romans, you’re reading a discussion about the appropriateness of waking up now. How can you read about waking up if you’re asleep?

That’s when I decided that maybe there is more to sleep than unconsciousness. There is conceit, and contempt, and dishonesty, and gall, and presumption. There is the conceit that empowers me to judge the text and decide whether it’s realistic or impractical, instead of submitting as a servant to the word of my Master’s authority. There is the dishonesty (or self-deception) that says “I am not sleeping.”

My dearly beloved mom in her rocking chair on Friday evenings was neither dishonest nor self-deceived. She was just exhausted. She’d doze off and almost fall over, then wake up and try to continue reading. She wanted to be with the family on Friday evenings, but she had worked harder than all of us through the week, and especially on Friday. We’d encourage her to go to bed, and she’d say, “I’m not sleeping.” Thinking of her, I decided that the trouble with sleep is losing consciousness.

On the one hand, there’s the gall of Laodicea that dares to contradict whatever the Faithful Witness says: He says I’m far below the poverty line; I say I’m a one percenter; He calls me wretched, but I know I’m fine; for Him I’m naked when I’m clearly dressed up; He admonishes me for sleeping when I’m quite awake. So there’s more to sleep than unconsciousness.

My sleep may be my arrogance or presumption. Or it may be, on the other hand, my exhaustion. I’ve worked hard all day, all week, all year, all of my years of service, and I’m still at the wheel, pushing 65, 70 years or miles per hour, trying to get home, exhausted, veering across lanes.

The trouble with sleep is losing consciousness. That’s when you need Jesus to speak and say “Wake up” so you don’t go on and kill yourself, and somebody else you never met until your car meets them unexpectedly.

How Waking Up Works

Back with the text: What about “Arise from the dead”? Actually, Jesus does command people to arise from the dead. And though they are dead, they hear and get up. If I am awake, it is not because I have life in myself that allows me to be conscious and analytical, and critique my Master’s word. Those who wake up don’t wake up from bed or from the dead because they have obliging instincts or because their alarm clock went off. Life is by God’s “Let there be.” All of life is because God speaks (Ps. 33:6, 9). That is where everything begins.

My capacity to hear the Word is because of His original creation. My ears may be full of wax, or I may be drowsy, but my capacity to hear is uniquely because of His commitment to speaking. If He had not spoken, I would not be. All of life is because God speaks.

Further, as Ellen White informs: “Whatever is to be done at His command may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings.”1 When He commands “Awake, you sleeper,” it is His very command that gives the strength and life to arouse and stand and be conscious. All of life is because God speaks.

Ephesians 5:14 is not a works righteousness deal in which I start off being good and He takes over and finishes off. All of life is because God speaks—ordered life and crooked life; Haiyan havoc in the Philippines and Gabriel’s life in glory; Satan and his hosts of horror. If God did not sustain them all, they would not be.

God upholds everything by His powerful word (Heb. 1:3): grains on Cain’s stalks, and galaxies in Stephen Hawking’s skies. “It is not because the mechanism once set in motion continues to act by its own inherent energy that the pulse beats, and breath follows breath. Every breath, every pulsation of the heart, is an evidence of the care of Him in whom we live and move and have our being. From the smallest insect to man, every living creature is daily dependent upon His providence.”2

Evil is a sponge and a parasite on good, and investing our life in its service makes a scandal of “God is love.” But Calvary answers all that. God speaks by silence for six hours of eternity; His Son’s head falls to His chest, and His death answers every last jeering word and leering look of the devil and every other scorner. And we, and earth, and the whole universe, all wake up for real when three days later He speaks at the exit from death: “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). All of life is because God speaks.


So whether I’m earnest and losing consciousness, or sinking into a slumber of sin, or presumptuous and dead already, and denying it, I need His word to rise and live. He knows I need His word. So He speaks: “Awake you sleeper; arise from the dead. Let me give you life.” And if I arise to life it is because He has spoken: All of life is because God speaks.

  1. Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1900), p. 333.
  2. Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1903), p. 131.