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
"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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
"Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some
do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame" (1
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
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.
Published in The Old Paths Archive
The Herald of Free Enterprise