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I wanted to share a little bit of what I’ve been learning and how it literally shifted previous paradigms on day-to-day topics. It has caused to be much more intentional in my approach toward the seemingly mundane and as a result, I have a greater appreciation in how God uses small things to point us to Himself.
I downloaded the sermon series “Sanctifying the Ordinary” for free back when I was in high school because I thought the subjects the messages addressed were very pertinent to everyday life. Oddly enough I put it off for three years and though I have grown much since then (praise be to God), it still resonated with my soul. The series outlines four different topics that people, even Christians, deem as “ordinary,” but God uses for His glory. The sermons are titled:
- A Biblical Understanding of Sleep
- A Biblical Understanding of Eating
- A Biblical Understanding of Work
- A Biblical Understanding of Leisure
The message that related the best to my life (or that I was most ignorant in), was a Biblical understanding of sleep. I want to share some thoughts I now entertain much more frequently thanks to these faithful ministers.
Some Thoughts on Sleep
People who know me know that the first thing I’m willing to give up is sleep. If I have a test the next day, I’d much rather sacrifice sleep than studying time. If I want to socialize and not discipline myself in how I spend my time, I simply push my bedtime back to finish the things I need to do. I tend to forsake sleep in favor of discipline because I wake up at 7:45 a.m. regardless of how much I get the night before so I can spend time in God’s Word to start my day. Even my stomach has greater priority than sleep!
The message on sleep was delivered by C.J. Mahaney, and he implored his listeners to “see with new eyes” – to see the mundane and sanctify it according to God’s intent. The message wasn’t so much about how much sleep one should get, but focused more on God’s intent for sleep. Before the message sleep had indeed become a mundane routine, so much so that I forgot that I spend on average one-fourth of my day asleep, while the average person spends one-third of their day, and thus their lives asleep. Why should God create man to sleep? Wouldn’t kingdom work be so much more effective if we were awake all the time?
After listening to the message, I saw sleep with new eyes because it serves as a powerful daily reminder that I am a creature. What generally defines an animal or a human? They sleep and eat. This wasn’t from the sermon but I love this passage I recently read through from Psalm 121, on which I want to discuss in light of my reflection and the message.
1I will (A)lift up my eyes to (B)the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2My (C)help comes from the LORD,
Who (D)made heaven and earth.
3He will not (E)allow your foot to slip;
He who (F)keeps you will not slumber.
4Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
From this passage we can ask a series of questions.
- Does sleep have anything to do with God and His attributes?
- What does sleep have to say about man?
- What does it say about sleep in general?
Does sleep have anything to do with God and His attributes?
The psalmist is looking to the heavens for help in his affliction because he has placed his confidence in a God of considerable power, one who “made heaven and earth.” Interestingly enough, the acknowledgement of God on His throne offering assistance is followed by reassurance that the one who keeps us will not slumber. God does not sleep. I’d imagine even a child could tell me this, but what a profound truth it is! Though God rested, He does not sleep as we do. Students while studying are prone to fall asleep even though they have the best intention of staying awake but we can have confidence that God, who has written His law on the fleshly tablets of our heart, will not suddenly allow us to be snatched out of His hands because He was caught in careless napping. We know that God’s purposes will be carried out while humans are prone to fail even with good intentions. All the passages about eternal security would be at risk if we had a God who ever said “a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest (Proverbs 6:10).” We also do not have to fear that we will be tempted beyond what we can handle because God is continually using all circumstances to refine His people. The idea that God works continuously according to His will to carry out all things perfectly points to a God who does not sleep as His creation does. Simple yet weighty.
What does sleep have to say about man?
As mentioned earlier, sleep reminds me that I am a creature. I am not God. I may be able to live without sleep for a day or very minimal sleep over two days, but eventually my body will force itself to sleep. Though it is a clear distinction and well known fact that God does not sleep while man does, I think it is not fully appreciated and thus many people do not approach sleep intentionally. I know my views toward sleep lacked any biblical basis before I stepped back to consider the implications.
It has often been said that in order to establish discipline in certain areas (i.e. reading, praying), to start with a specific time and place where one can regularly go to do things. I’ve heard of people praying in the shower because they do it every day so they can get into cultivating joy in communicating with the Lord. I’ve tried it, and it personally does not fly with me for reasons that will go unmentioned on the internet. The point is, regardless of what kind of human you are, whether an early bird or a night owl, you sleep. You may not shower but your body will not function well without a few hours of shut-eye.
Sleeping or anticipating sleep is a great opportunity to reflect on the fact that we are creatures. We are not God nor can we ever become like God, for the very fact that we must sleep and eat forever separates us from the Father. We are dependent on things for our survival. I know as my mind drifts on the subject I remember that I am a series of things: a wave in the ocean, grass that grows one day and is cast into the fire the next, a vapor in the wind, and a being that lives under the sun whose life amounts to vanity apart from Christ. I am reminded that my righteousness is like filthy rags and that my sin sentences me to death apart from faith. The list goes on. I am so small and yet God takes great pleasure in seeing me conform to the Son’s image by exercising His perfect patience. It is so much easier to complain when we’re weary or fatigued, but it can be counted as a blessing to remind us of our place before God.
Sleep on our part is an act of faith. We must have confidence before the throne while awake and while resting, to know that God will be working in our lives and throughout the world even though we are not consciously aware of it. Sometimes our pragmatism, whether in academics or ministry, leaves us with the selfish desire to stay awake all the time because we think we’d be more effective stewards of what God has given to us. We forget that God is working for His kingdom whether we are awake or sleeping. We forget that we are but vessels to be used as instruments in the hand of the Almighty. We forget that God is not served by human hands as if He needed to be repaid but takes joy in sanctifying His sleepy creation. Sleep reminds us that we are finite and that our time spent on Earth is limited.
What does it say about sleep in general?
We spend nearly one-third of our lives asleep. Perhaps God is trying to make a point to remind us of one of the many insurmountable differences separating man from His Lord. To imagine that God would not only walk this earth, but also eat and sleep is something that should boggle our minds, another one of the many paradoxes that meet in the incarnation of Christ. Sleep often represents vulnerability, and it serves as a daily reminder that we can’t control the entirety of our lives though we often try to our failure. Christian or not, sleeping hints to us that we are dependent on things outside of our control to sustain us in daily living.
I would write about eating, work, and leisure, but I fear this post would be much too long and you would be bored. I doubt many people made it to this point. My exhortation to you would be this: consider what it means to be a creature before you sleep each night! It will remind you of your position before God and no doubt, help keep you humble.