It is Time to Wake Up

"Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light" (Ephesians 5:14).

God tells us to wake up. We all need physical sleep, so there is nothing wrong with sleeping at the proper time. But when it is time to wake up, it can be disastrous not to do so.

"The Herald of Free Enterprise" was a car ferry plying between Dover, England and Zeebrugge, Belgium. The whole front of the ship opened so cars and lorries could be loaded onto the lower decks.

One winter night, with the vehicles loaded and 563 passengers on board, Captain David Lewry put to sea. It was dark, 7 pm. All went well in the sheltered harbour. But one mile out, when they hit high seas, the ship capsized in 90 seconds and sank within five minutes. It was the 6th of March, 1987. One hundred ninety-three people drowned.

The ship put to sea with its front loading doors wide open. There was no indicator light on the bridge. The captain assumed that the seaman responsible for closing the doors had done so. Instead, he was asleep in his cabin. Because assistant bosun Mark Stanley was asleep on the job, one hundred ninety-three people died. 1

In Proverbs we are warned about sleeping too much or at the wrong time.

"Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with bread" (Proverbs 20:13). It is not wrong to sleep, but it is wrong to love sleep. Sleep is not an end in itself, but is a means to an end. We sleep for rejuvenation so we can work again the next day.

"He who gathers in summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame" (Proverbs 10:5). There are occasions when no extra time may be taken for sleep. When the grain is ripe and the weather favorable, the harvest must be brought in without delay, or a whole summer's work can be lost to decay.

One fall, when I was fifteen, I helped with the harvest in Saskatchewan. We shovelled grain from early morning till late at night. Three hearty meals were none too much. The night's sleep was soon over and a new day's work began.

Even if we are not farmers, we all have our times of harvest, times when hard work must be done without delay.

"How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep?" (Proverbs 6:9).

"A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest; so your poverty will come like a prowler, and your want like an armed man" (Proverbs 24:33,34).

"Slothfulness casts one into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger" (Proverbs 19:15). There are different kinds of sleep. This "deep sleep" of slothfulness is not physical sleep. It is a lazy lifestyle in which one does not meet his responsibilities.

We are also warned not to sleep spiritually. And if we are asleep spiritually, we are told to wake up. The Bible is our spiritual alarm clock. And just because we get out of bed to go to services on Sunday, does not necessarily mean we are awake spiritually. Most of the wake-up calls in Scripture are addressed to believers.

God told Jonah to preach to Nineveh. He took a ship for Tarsus instead. God was angry with Jonah and sent a storm. The ship was overwhelmed by the waves and was sinking. The others were praying to their non-existent gods to no avail. What was the prophet of God doing?

"But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep. So the captain came to him, and said to him, 'What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish'" (Jonah 1:5, 6). A pagan had to wake up the prophet of God and tell him to pray.

God wanted Jonah to warn Nineveh that they would perish if they did not repent. Jonah did not want to do it.

Of what value is a lazy watchdog? "His watchmen are blind, they are all ignorant; they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber" (Isaiah 56:10).

Ancient cities posted watchmen on the walls to warn of approaching danger. God appointed Ezekiel as a spiritual watchman: "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: When I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul" (Ezekiel 3:17-21).

As Christians, we too are watchmen. We must warn the lost of impending destruction. We must call them to repentance. Do we run away like Jonah? Do we sleep like lazy watchdogs?

When Jesus was in the garden, praying to His Father, knowing that His hour of suffering had come, He asked Peter, James and John to stand guard.

"Then He said to them, 'My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch'" (Mark 14:34).

"Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, 'Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.' Again He went away and prayed, and spoke the same words. And when he returned, He found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him. Then He came the third time and said to them, 'Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough! The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners'" (Mark 14:37-41).

Do we sleep when we should be praying?

The night is dark. But then the sun comes up and a new day begins. It is time to wake up. We remove our night clothes and put on our day clothes. This imagery is used in Scripture to describe our spiritual awakening from the darkness of sin.

"And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in licentiousness and lewdness, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts" (Romans 13:11-14).

A new day is dawning. We must lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. We are to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27). "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Revelation 7:14).

"Awake, awake! Put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city!" (Isaiah 52:1).

"And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: 'Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.' See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:11-16).

"But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him" (1 Thessalonians 5:4-10).

"Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame" (1 Corinthians 15:34).

Jesus said: "Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming -- in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning -- lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!" (Mark 13:33-37).

Roy Davison

1 Note: The enquiry afterward did not find Mr. Stanley severally responsible because it was adjudged that the ferry company was grossly negligent in not having an indicator light on the bridge even after one had been requested and a superior seaman was supposed to check that the doors were closed. Yet Mr. Stanley, who was 28, was the only one who acknowledged his share in the responsiblity. He was burdened by memories of the incident the rest of his life. He passed away on 20 July 2016 at the age of 58. Condolences indicate that he was a kind and respected member of the community. An interesting detail is that Mr. Stanley had purchased a new alarm clock with instructions in a language he did not understand. He thought he had set the clock but had failed to do so.

The Scripture quotations in this article are from The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers. Permission for reference use has been granted.

Published in The Old Paths Archive

The Herald of Free Enterprise