If you’ve ever been the driver on a long road trip, you know what it means to be lulled to sleep by the hum of your car. Your eyelids get heavy. Your body deceives you, saying, “Rest.” Then, suddenly, you jolt awake as your tires hit the side of the road. Adrenaline surges and you think, That was close! Maybe, like me, you roll down the window, to let the cold air wake you up. We do whatever it takes to stay awake because we know falling asleep would be disaster.
That’s the same exhortation the apostle Paul gives the church. We may be tempted to sleep, to get comfortable in our faith. But, Paul warns: “So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober” (1 Thess. 5:6).
Many in our world today are spiritually asleep at the wheel . . . even Christians. We are allowing ourselves to be lured into a nap by the lullabies of this world. Rather than spending time in God’s Word, we become consumed by carnality and sinful practices. In his letter to the church at Thessalonica, Paul urges Christians to wake up and live with the expectancy of the Lord’s return, saying it will be like a “thief in the night” (v. 2).
As Christ-followers, we must make every effort to stay awake and aware, anticipating what is to come. We act differently than the world because we are expecting the return of Jesus. Paul compares spiritual wakefulness to preparing for a battle, describing the things we need to “put on”: faith, love, and hope (v. 8). Faith reminds us that we cannot live for what we touch and see, but for what God has promised. Love, given to us by God, should overflow to those around us. Hope reminds us that although life may be tough, suffering is not a part of our eternal existence. The more we suffer in this life, the sweeter the coming of Jesus becomes.
I am thankful this battle does not depend solely on us; God is at work, in and through us. Paul ends his first letter, and I end this column, with these words of encouragement: “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it” (vv. 23–24)