Lecture 9 – The Sleeping Baby: A Man With a Bed
The vast majority of people in the world are obsessed with their bodies. Notice how much is spent on healthcare, on cosmetics, on gym memberships.
In contrast, the Church of Christ has rightly emphasized the soul, our spiritual part. What’s the point in having a beautiful body if the soul is ugly? What’s the point in having a healthy body if the soul is sick? What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul (Mark 8:36)?
However, the Church of Christ has often emphasized the soul to the exclusion, or at least the minimizing, of the body. So much so, in fact, that neglect or demeaning or disregarding of the body is sometimes seen as a virtue or a mark of super-spirituality. That’s wrong and it’s dangerous because when bodily needs are denied, ignored, or opposed, other problems, spiritual problems inevitably and inexorably follow.
We need to recover the Bible’s theology of the body. That’s what I want to do here by looking at the body-ology of Genesis 1-3 and of 1 Corinthians 6:9-20. Then, by way of application, we’ll look at the specific bodily need for sleep.
I. A Theology of the Body
A. Genesis 1-3
1. We are Creatures
Many creationists live like evolutionists. They say that God is Creator and that they are therefore creatures but they live as if it all depends on the survival of the fittest, or the fastest.
How would you feel if you built a remote control model car for your children, only to come back home a few days later to hear that they had broken it by trying to use it as a plane? You’d say, “I gave you instructions, why didn’t you follow them?”
Similarly, God has given us instructions about how to live as creatures. To some of us God may be saying, “Why are you trying to live as angels or as disembodied spirits? Why aren’t you following my instructions?”
God publishes His instruction in various places in His Word, but also, especially in this subject area, in His World. Increasingly He is allowing scientists and researchers to discover how the body functions best. For example, yesterday I saw research that was headlined, “The more you sit, the sooner you will die!” That made me sit up! In fact it made be stand up!! That’s my loving Creator’s instructions coming to me via reliable research, which I read through the spectacles of Scripture. We ignore such gracious instruction at our peril.
2. We are Complex Creatures
The body is a complicated mix of physical material and physical forces: electricity, chemistry, physics, biology, plumbing, gasses, pumps, siphons, lubrication, buttons, switches, receptors, etc.
Then there’s the soul, way more complex than the body and completely inaccessible to empirical research methods. Although we have some Biblical data to mine and research, yielding us some basics about the soul’s capacities and abilities, so much about the soul remains a mystery.
Then you put complex body and complex soul together and what do you get – multiple complexities!
The complexity and interconnectivity of human nature, means that the health of the body affects the health of the soul and vice versa. And it also means that it’s not easy to figure out the contribution of each to our problems! One thing is for sure, we cannot neglect one realm and expect the other not to suffer the consequences.
3. We are Limited Creatures
Creatures, by definition, are less than their Creator. He is infinite; we are finite; He is unlimited, we are limited.
Hopefully none of us really think that we are unlimited. However most of us think we are less limited than we actually are. We certainly vastly over-estimate our physical strength, emotional stamina, moral courage, spiritual maturity, volitional muscle, and conscience steel.
Underestimating our limitations and over-estimating our abilities can only have one outcome – weakness, fraying, and eventually breaking. Try it with anything – your car engine, a towrope, your computer, etc. Underestimate the limitations and over-estimate the abilities and you will eventually blow the engine, break the rope, and crash the computer. Why do we think it’s any different with ourselves?
We must find out our limits – physical, spiritual, emotional, moral, etc. – and we may need someone objective to help us with this. And when we find them, we must accept and work within them.
4. We are Dependent Creatures
Even before the Fall, Adam and Eve were dependent upon their Creator. That’s how they were made. They leaned upon Him, sought help from Him, and sought to live in a way that pleased Him. Independence did not cross their minds…until they heard, “You shall be as gods…You won’t need God. You can do without God. You can be god yourself. You can depend on yourself, on your own wisdom and strength.” And what a disaster ensued!
Many of us are theologically dependent but experientially independent. We depend on God with our lips but not with our lives. We say we lean upon Him for everything but He rarely feels our weight. And disaster is often the result.
5. We are Fallen Creatures
As part of the curse upon us for our first parent’s first sin, death entered the creation and even the greatest creature – humanity. Death entered into our bodies, our souls, our minds, our wills, and our emotions. Death is at work in the youngest baby; as soon as conception occurs and life begins, so does dying and death. So, if you thought we were complex before, we are even more complex now.
Like all anglers, I’m fatally attracted by the latest “guaranteed” fish-catching reel. And of course, as we all know, the more complicated (and expensive) a reel is, the more likely it is to catch fish. Right?! Now complicated reels are great when they are working well; but when they break down, they make a much bigger mess than standard reels.
That’s why humanity is in a much worse state than any other creature; the more complex the creature the more mess when they break. Our bodies, our minds, our organs, our members, our chemistry, our physics, our plumbing, everything is in such a mess – each part of our humanity on its own and especially each part as it interacts with other parts.
But the best news is that our gracious and powerful Creator is in the business of re-creating. Our Creator has come down into our fallen world and lived as a creature to save His creatures and begin the process of making all things new.
B. 1 Corinthians 6
1. Your body is defiled by sin (vv. 9-10)
Although sin begin in our souls, in our hearts, we sin in and with our bodies. We can’t separate the soul from the body when we sin. That’s why we will be judged, as Paul says, for the “deeds done in the body” (2 Cor. 5:10). And that’s why Paul begins this section on Body Theology with what sin has done to the body. Sin has defiled our bodies, in some cases damaged our bodies (we’ll see this further in v. 18), and in other cases even destroyed our bodies.
2. Your body is saved by God (v. 11)
“And such were some of you.” Past tense. Something has changed here. You were that…. But you are now this. You were defiled, damaged, destroyed….But you are now washed, sanctified, justified.
Yes, we can take our dirty, damaged, dying bodies to God and he sets His Son and Spirit to work. He washes or regenerates us by planting the seed of new life in us. He sanctifies us by setting us apart for holy purposes. He justifies us.
And all this has a reference to the body as well. The seed of regeneration, of new life, also impact the body. The body is set apart to holy use. It is a full body salvation.
3. Your body remains vulnerable (v. 12)
“Washed, sanctified, justified! In body and soul! What liberty! What emancipation! All things are lawful to me!”
“All things are lawful?” Well obviously that can’t mean sin is no longer sin. The “all things” are referring to everything that God has left up to each person’s conscience. As God alone is Lord of the believer’s conscience, we are not bound to every whim and preference of other people, which in this context is especially food. “All things are lawful to me.”
But he is conscious of remaining weakness and vulnerability. Although I’m permitted to do this or that, it’s not beneficial or helpful to me. Although this is technically legal, I don’t want to end up as a slave again to an appetite or desire.
I am not free from temptation. I am not free from the need for daily discipline of my bodily appetites. I can see dangers out there, and I’m not going to flirt with them.
4. Your body is for the Lord (vv. 13-15)
God has given you a body to give back to Him. He did not give you a body so that you can give it to anybody and everybody in immoral sexual relations. He did not give you a body so that you can give it to overwork or sloth. He did not give you a body to serve your vanity. He gave you a body to give back to Him. The body is for the Lord.
And the Lord is for the body. He made it, cares for it, and maintains an eternal interest in it. Look, he even took a body, suffered in a body, and rose again in a body. He has a body to this day. The Lord is for the body. It is not of minor importance. Our future resurrection shows how much honor God puts on the body and how much we should honor in the meantime what He will honor for all time.
5. Your body is a member of Christ (vv. 15-17)
Now he gets more specific. In what way are our bodies the Lord’s? Our bodies are members of Christ and temples of the Holy Spirit. Let’s look first at the body illustration, then at the building illustration.
Our bodies are members of Christ’s body. Yes, our souls are members of Christ’s body. But so are our bodies! No less so!
How would you like it if someone loaned your hands to a maker of Hindu idols? How would you like it if someone loaned your tongue to a foul mouthed movie star for a film or two? How would you like it if someone loaned your eyes to a pornography addict? How would you like it if someone loaned your legs to a man who walks into a bar every day to get drunk? O you’ll get them all back again in a few months.
How would you feel when you got your hands back, tongue back, your eyes back, etc? We all know the answer, don’t we! Yet, Paul says, that’s exactly what we are doing when we take the bodies that belong to Christ, which are members of His body, and use them to sin, especially the sin of sexual immorality.
6. Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (vv. 18-19)
This is the season for DIY projects. Home Depot, Menards and Lowes are busy with everyone repairing, upgrading, and beautifying their homes and gardens, etc. No one is buying tools and equipment to damage and even destroy their homes. Of course not!
But as we have seen sexual sin damages our own bodies. No, worse than that, we are attacking the Holy Spirit’s home. It’s one thing to damage our own house; it’s another thing to attack the White House; but sin attacks God’s house. “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.” The presence of the Spirit, far from negating the body, is a divine affirmation of the body and God’s ownership of it.
Your body is not your body. Your body is God’s body. It’s His house. More than that, it’s his Temple, not just the place where He lives, but also the place where He is worshipped and served. It is His sacred place.
7. Your body was bought with a price (v. 20)
How would you respond if I came up to you and said, “Could you take a bit more care of my back please? You’re not sitting very well in your chair and I don’t want my back to suffer a herniated or prolapsed disc!” Or, “Do you think you could eat a bit less sugar and a bit more whole-wheat. It’s really much better for my digestive system.”
You might well respond, “Who do you think you are?” Or, “What right do you have to tell me what to do with my body?”
I might answer, “Actually. You are not your own. You don’t own your own body. I’m your body’s owner. I bought your body a few weeks back and I’m just taking care of what’s mine.”
That’s really what God is saying here through Paul: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. Therefore please take much more care of my body.” If I told you that your body was mine because I bought you, you’d have a few questions wouldn’t you!
“How much did you pay?” would be the first question, I would think. If I told you that I paid a dollar, you would probably conclude I was joking. You’d turn away with a contemptuous sneer. You know that your body is worth more than that. No one is going to get title to your body for that pitiful amount.
But if I told you I’d paid $100 million dollars, you’d stop. You’d begin to feel some sense of obligation. You’d begin to feel a transfer of ownership. You would begin to maybe say, “Well, okay then, what do you want me to do for you?”
But Paul is going further than that. He’s saying that God bought you with the price of His own Son. God became man. God grew as a man. God lived as a man. God suffered as a man. God died as a man. And all to purchase your body (Eph. 1:7; 1 Pet. 1:18, 19).
You’ve been bought with a price. Want to put a price tag on it? On that? On Him?
The more we calculate that price, the more ownership passes from my hands to His. The more I say “What will you have me to do?”
8. Glorify God in your body (v. 20)
God created us body and soul, and redeemed us body and soul, so serve him with body and soul.
My Spirit is God’s. That’s well established. But so is my body. My body is God’s body. Let Him do what He will with it.
Just as He says, “This is my body…take it” so we say “This is thy body, take it.”
What difference has God made to your body?
And I’d like to ask that question specifically in connection with sleep. What difference has God made to the way you sleep?
II. The Consequences of Sleep Deprivation
In a recent BBC article headlined The Arrogance of Ignoring Our Need for Sleep[footnote]James Gallagher, “The Arrogance of Ignoring Our Need For Sleep,” BBC.com website, accessed 5.15.2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/health-27286872[/footnote], leading scientists warned of the supreme arrogance of trying to do without sufficient sleep. We are sleeping between one and two hours less per night than people did 60 or so years ago and it’s having a devastating impact upon every part of our lives.
The American Psychological Association Reports that 40 million Americans suffer from over 70 different sleep disorders. 60 percent of adults report having sleep problems a few nights a week or more.
More than 40 percent of adults experience daytime sleepiness severe enough to interfere with their daily activities at least a few days each month. 37.9% reported unintentionally falling asleep during the day at least once in the preceding month, and 4.7% reported nodding off or falling asleep while driving at least once in the preceding month.
In the rest of this lecture, I want to highlight over 50 good reasons to sleep longer, then consider some of the reasons why we have got into such bad sleeping habits, and finally we’ll survey the Bible’s teaching about sleep.
A. Physical Consequences
- Just one week of sleeping fewer than six hours a night resulted in changes to more than 700 genes.
- Just one night of sleep deprivation was linked with signs of brain tissue loss.
- Infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep.
- Sleeping fewer than seven hours a night was associated with a tripled risk of coming down with a cold.
- Increases hunger, portion size, and preference for high-calorie, high-carb foods, with the resulting risk of obesity
Chronic sleep deprivation (less than 6 hours a night) associated
- Skin aging
- 4 x stroke risk for middle- and older-aged people
- 50% higher risk of colorectal cancers, and some links with other cancers too
- High blood pressure
- 48% higher chance of developing or dying from heart disease
- Lower fertility rates.
B. Sport Consequences
Elite athletes sleep more to improve performance
- Chronic sleep loss can lead to a 30-40% reduction in glucose metabolism
- Sleep loss means a 11% reduction in time to exhaustion
- 2 days of sleep restriction can lead to 3x increase in lapses of attention and reactivity.
- Maximum bench press drops 20lbs after 4 days of restricted sleep.
- Rested tennis players get a 42% boost in hitting accuracy during depth drills
- Sleep improves split-second decision-making ability by 4.3%
- Sleep extension provides swimmers a 17% improvement in reaction time off the starting block.
- Football players drop 0.1 s off their 40-yard dash times by sleeping more
- Roger Federer: 11-12 h; Usain Bolt: 8-10 h; Lebron James: 12 h; Tiger Woods: 4-5 h; Michelle Wie: 10-12 h; Rafael Nadal: 8-9 h
- “I think sleep is just as important as diet and exercise.” (Grant Hill)
- “Sleep is half my training.” (Jarrod Shoemaker)
- “If I don’t sleep 11-12 hours a day, it’s not right.” (Roger Federer)
- “A well-rested body is a healthier, more efficient, more capable one. This could be the hardest thing to accomplish on my to-do list, but it always makes a difference.” (Kerri Walsh).
- “Sleep is extremely important to me – I need to rest and recover in order for the training I do to be absorbed by my body” (Usain Bolt).
C. Intellectual Consequences
- Sleep flushes dangerous proteins from your brain, improving mental health. When you’re sleep deprived, you get a dirty brain.
- Sleep allows the brain to consolidate and store the day’s memories.
- Being exhausted zaps your focus, and can render you more forgetful
- Chronic sleep deprivation in adolescents diminishes the brain’s ability to learn new information.
D. Emotional Consequences
- Sleep loss produces apathy, irritability, weepiness, impatience, anger, flattened responses,
- Sleep loss can cause psychological damage because sleep regulates the brain’s flow of epinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin, chemicals closely associated with mood and behavior.
- People with insomnia are 10x as likely to develop depression and 17x as likely to have significant anxiety.
- The lack of sleep affects the teenage brain in similar ways to the adult brain, only more so. and can lead to emotional issues like depression and aggression.
- In one study by researchers at Columbia University, teens who went to bed at 10 p.m. or earlier were less likely to suffer from depression or suicidal thoughts than those who regularly stayed awake well after midnight.
E. Societal Consequences
Getting sleep is an act of loving your neighbor by keeping the 6th commandment.
- Sleep is increasingly recognized as important to public health, with sleep insufficiency linked to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, and medical and other occupational errors.
- Getting six or fewer hours of sleep triples your risk of drowsy driving-related accidents
- Just one bad night’s sleep can affect a driver’s eye-steering coordination
- The Cognitive Impairment that results from being awake for 24 hours is higher than the drunk drive limit in all states.
- And according to the NHSA, falling asleep while driving is responsible for at least 100,000 crashes, 71,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths each year in the United States.
- Young people in their teens and twenties are involved in more than half of the fall-asleep crashes on the nation’s highways each year.
- Exxon Valdez, Challenger Space Shuttle, Metro North Train in New York all linked to sleep-deprivation.
F. Financial Consequences
- Undermines creativity, problem-solving ability, and productivity
- Estimated to cost American businesses $63 billion a year
- The worst costs arise from the fact that sleep deprivation causes safety lapses and contributes to other health issues.
- Other people (customers/clients) are likely to register a sleep-deprived person as lacking energy and unhealthy.
- 32 billion dollars a year spent on meds, mattresses, candles, consultants, etc.
G. Educational Consequence
- 60 percent of grade school and high school children report that they are tired during the daytime and 15 percent of them admitting to falling asleep in class.
- Sleep deprivation is such a serious disruption that lessons have to be pitched at a lower level to accommodate sleep-starved learners.
- The United States has the highest number of sleep-deprived students, with 73% of 9 and 10-year-olds and 80% of 13 and 14-year-olds identified by their teachers as being adversely affected.
- In literacy tests there were 76% of 9 and 10-year-olds lacking sleep.
- Children who have more sleep achieve higher in maths, science and reading.
H. Moral Consequences
- A lack of sleep robs the fuel for self-control from the region of the brain responsible for self-control, whereas sleep restores it.
- Studies found that a lack of sleep led to high levels of unethical behavior.
- There was a difference of only about 22 minutes of sleep between those who cheated and those who did not.
- A lack of sleep leads to deviant behavior at work (like falsifying receipts), similarly because of decrements in self-control.
In The Gulag Archipelago, Alexander Solzhenitsyn lists sleeplessness as one of 31 methods that his captors used to break a prisoner’s will. “Sleeplessness befogs the reason, undermines the will, and the human being ceases to be himself, to be his own ‘I,’” Solzhenitsyn writes.
I. Spiritual Consequences
D.A. Carson wrote:
Doubt may be fostered by sleep deprivation. If you keep burning the candle at both ends, sooner or later you will indulge in more and more mean cynicism—and the line between cynicism and doubt is a very thin one….If you are among those who become nasty, cynical, or even full of doubt when you are missing your sleep, you are morally obligated to try to get the sleep you need. We are whole, complicated beings; our physical existence is tied to our spiritual well-being, to our mental outlook, to our relationships with others, including our relationship with God. Sometimes the godliest thing you can do in the universe is get a good night’s sleep—not pray all night, but sleep. I’m certainly not denying that there may be a place for praying all night; I’m merely insisting that in the normal course of things, spiritual discipline obligates you get the sleep your body need.[footnote]Don Carson, Scandalous, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 147.[/footnote]
An aside from John Piper’s 1995 lecture on Charles Spurgeon:
A personal word to you younger men. I am finishing my 15th year at Bethlehem and I just celebrated my 49th birthday. I have watched my body and my soul with some care over these years and noticed some changes. They are partly owing to changing circumstances, but much is owning to a changing constitution. One, I cannot eat as much without gaining unhelpful weight. My body does not metabolize the same way it used to.
Another is that I am emotionally less resilient when I lose sleep. There were early days when I would work without regard to sleep and feel energized and motivated. In the last seven or eight years my threshold for despondency is much lower. For me, adequate sleep is not a mater of staying healthy. It is a matter of staying in the ministry. It is irrational that my future should look bleaker when I get four or five hours sleep several nights in a row. But that is irrelevant. Those are the facts. And I must live within the limits of facts. I commend sufficient sleep to you, for the sake of your proper assessment of God and his promises.[footnote]John Piper, “Charles Spurgeon: Preaching Through Adversity,” Desiring God.com website, accessed 5.15.2014, http://www.desiringgod.org/biographies/charles-spurgeon-preaching-through-adversity.[/footnote]
III. The Causes of Sleep Deprivation
Question: What makes us reduce sleep? Why do we choose sleep deprivation?
If there are so many good reasons to sleep longer, why don’t we do it? Here are ten possible reasons.
You can’t plead this if you read the first part of this chapter. You now have no excuse. Most of us just don’t know or understand the deep and wide impact of sleeplessness upon us and others. If our schools substituted sleepology for algebra, we’d have a lot more healthy and much brighter kids.
Some of us do know, but still don’t do anything with that knowledge. We may not know all the science, but we see and feel the impact of sleeplessness upon us, yet still refuse to change. We lack the willpower to make the necessary adjustments to our schedule and lifestyle.
Our bodies thrive on rhythm and routine. Like all clocks, our body clocks like to be primed and set regularly. When our bodies know what’s coming next, they get into a pattern of injecting the right chemicals into our systems for work, for rest, for exercise, etc. If we are chopping and changing that all the time, our body chemistry goes haywire. That’s a huge challenge of course for variable shift workers; they’re really up against it and really have to work at this twice as hard to do half as well. In other words, don’t just give up on building rhythm into life, but do all that you can to build as much regularity as you can, especially in pre-bedtime routines.
When you’ve got teenagers crashing, banging, coughing, TALKING around the house till all hours, it doesn’t exactly motivate you to get to bed early, if you simply have to lie there fizzing while listening to the monsters in the basement. Maybe we can throw in the uncooperative wife or husband here too. Just as with money management, unless our wife or husband is on board and committed to adjusting bed-times, etc., there’s hardly any point in even trying. It will just lead to more frustration and annoyance.
The last thing many of us do at night is check our email/Facebook/Twitter, etc. Yet research has shown that the effect is similar to looking at the sun behind the clouds at midday! What message is our brain receiving when we do that just before trying to sleep? “Up and at ‘em, brain. It’s time to work (or play)!” Similar to the screens problem, when we stimulate our brains (and body chemistry) with films, TV news, computer games, Facebook, etc., even an hour or two before bed-time we’re asking for delayed and disturbed sleep. And we’ll get it.
6. Caffeine and alcohol
Both are stimulants and not only prevent sleep but reduce its quality. Caffeine’s half-life is 5-7 hours, meaning it takes that amount of time for half of it to leave our system. And remember, many soft-drinks contain caffeine too.
7. Exercising too late
I learned this the night before my wedding when I decided that the best way to sleep that anxious night was to go for a run along a Scottish beach at 10pm. Eight hours later, I was still wide-eyed but far from bushy-tailed. Of course, to this point we must also add “exercising too little.” If we just sit at a desk or in the car all day and then expect to be tired enough to sleep, we can expect some protests from our bodies: “Hey, you haven’t done anything with me yet!”
Worry seems to wake up when we are trying to sleep, and it’s often more powerful than our sleepiness. Learning how to cast our cares upon God and to trust him to care for us is far better and healthier in the long-term than sleep medications.
Perhaps this cluster of related factors is the biggest cause of sleep deprivation in our own culture. People look at the idea of spending about a third of life asleep, losing 20 years of their lives to sleep, and think, “I can make much more money, become much more successful, if I cut back on that.” Most people who try this gain time in the short-term but lose it in the long-term as health is gradually impacted and life is shortened. We all have only so much “fuel in the tank” and we either pace it out over a longer period of time or we put the foot to the floor and crash and burn more quickly.
We may have to go with less sleep for a special season of extra work or special ministry, but if that becomes our pattern and habit, we won’t be working or ministering well or for long.
We simply reject the loving God who graciously and wisely gives us the great gift of sleep (Ps. 3:5; 127:2). “No thanks,” we say, “Don’t need it, don’t want it!” But when we reject our Creator’s gifts and instructions we effectively uncreate ourselves and begin to disintegrate – physically, morally, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.
How about this for a verse to put above your bed: “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Ps. 4:8).
IV. The Cure for Sleep Deprivation
Question: How do I cure my sleep sins?
A. Better Practices
- Go to bed at the same time each night and rise at the same time each morning.
- Follow the same pre-bed-routine every night.
- Exercise through the day, not close to bedtime.
- Avoid large meals, caffeine, alcohol before bedtime.
- Minimize noise, heat, light
B. Better Theology
To emphasize how important sleep is to God, consider how many lessons God teaches us from sleep.
1. God reminds us we are merely creatures
God created us with a need for sleep, a need as great as our need for oxygen and food. As such, sleep is part of the God-ordained creator/creature distinction. It reminds us that God is God and we are not. It also warns us that if we rebel against God’s created order by depriving ourselves of sleep, we are effectively uncreating ourselves.
2. God gifts us with sleep
Sleep is not a necessary evil to be barely tolerated but a gracious gift of God. God doesn’t need it (Ps. 121:4) but He gives it to us (Ps. 127:2). As John Baillie pointed out in his essay “The Theology of Sleep” this verse “He gives to His beloved sleep” might also be translated, “He gives unto his beloved in sleep.” This translation “speaks not only of the blessedness of sleep itself but of the blessed things that are given us through its agency.” [footnote]John Baillie, “Christian Devotion: A Theology of Sleep,” luc.edu website, accessed 5.15.2014 http://www.luc.edu/faculty/pmoser/idolanon/BaillieChristianDevotion.html#sleep.[/footnote]
3. God reminds us we are unnecessary
By sleeping we are relinquishing control and reminding ourselves that God actually doesn’t need us, at least for the next few hours. When we close our eyes each night we are saying, “I don’t run the world, not even my own little life.” Even President Obama has to get into his pajamas every night, effectively confessing that God doesn’t need him, that there is a greater Superpower.
4. God Calls us To Trust Him
The Psalmist connects sleep to trusting God (Ps. 3:5-6; 4:8). Sleep is a test of trust: will we entrust ourselves and everything to God’s care, or will we continue to worry and vex ourselves all through the hours of darkness.
The Christian’s sleep should be different to the non-Christian’s. When and how long we sleep makes a huge statement about who we are and what we believe. As someone said, “unconsciousness is a pretty strong sign of dependence.” Sleep is intrinsically a humble thing to do.
5. God will chastise us if we refuse sleep
Science is increasingly discovering the damaging consequences of sleep deprivation. Yet millions are habitually choosing to reject this gift of God and depriving themselves of the sleep God has designed for their good. Research reveals the serious and severe physical, intellectual, emotional, relational and even moral consequences of this rebellion against God. But we shouldn’t need research to convince us of this – if we rebel against God’s order and refuse His gifts we can expect his fatherly chastisement.
6. God reminds us of death
For the believer, death is often described as a “falling asleep.” Our nightly sleep is a daily reminder of, and good practice for, death. Each night we are reminded of the time when we will close our eyes for the last time on this earth and open them in another place.
7. God reminds us of hell
I hate nightmares and have often wondered why God allows Christians to have such awful images, sounds, and horrors pass through their minds. Then, one day, I thought, “This is like a glimpse of hell – its darkness, its disorder, its terrors and torments.” Now I use these brief nightmares to remind me of the eternal hell I’ve been saved from and also to quicken and impassion my preaching to those who are still heading there.
8. God teaches us about the Savior.
“Jesus slept” is as profound as “Jesus wept” (Mark 4:38). It reminds us of Christ’s full humanity, that the Son of God became so frail, so weak, so human, that He needed to sleep. What humility! What love!
9. God teaches us about salvation
How much are you doing when you sleep? Nothing!
That’s why Jesus used rest as an illustration of His salvation.
Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matt. 11:28).
10. God teaches us about heaven
There remains a rest for the people of God (Heb. 4:9). That doesn’t mean heaven is going to be one long lie-in. It means it will be a place of renewal, refreshment, comfort, and of perfect peace.
Hope this helps you sleep more soundly – and have a sounder theology!
Fall 2006, and “Mission Accomplished” was turning into “Mission Impossible” as the USA was slowly yet surely losing the Iraq War.
General George Casey was persisting in the bloody “drawdown to handover” strategy, despite the engulfing disaster. Pete Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was desperate. Looking for a new strategy, he invited retired Army General Jack Keane (and former vice chief of staff) to a crisis meeting. Bob Woodward reports the encounter in The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008 (p144).
“How do you think we are doing?” Pace enquired. Keane was blisteringly frank and direct: “I would give you a failing grade.”
Visibly pained, Pace asked, “What do you think I should be doing?”
Keane’s advice was startling – tell General Casey to reduce his workload and take time off every day!
“George Casey is at this 24/7. He has nothing to nurture his life. He is completely immersed and isolated by one thing and only one thing. That’s this war. It has completely captured everything he does. His capacity at times to see clearly is always going to be limited and defined by his day-in, day-out experience and the fatigue he suffers.”
Keane said that he thought the obsessive work ethic of the senior military men was self-defeating. “Our generals fight wars today almost at a frenetic pace that is counter-productive,” he said. Compare that to World War II General Douglas Macarthur, who watched a movie every night, Keane said, or Army Chief of Staff George Marshall,
“He went home every night at a reasonable hour and rode a horse, for crying out loud. He sometimes took a nap for an hour and a half during the day. And these guys were doing big, important things. You know what our guys are like? They’re at their desks at 6.30 in the morning, and they stay up till midnight.”
It was a manhood issue, Keane thought. Because the soldiers were out there 24/7, the generals thought they better do the same. But the core issue was fresh, clear thinking about the tasks of war.
How many pastors could benefit from this advice!? It is so easy for us to be doing, doing doing; producing, producing, producing; more more more; longer, longer, longer. Yet are we losing battle after battle? And maybe even the war? Is our obsessive work-ethic self-defeating? Is our blinkered desire to prove ourselves real working-men to other working-men destroying our ability to think about the tasks of war in a fresh, clear way?
Many of us have learned from painful experience how vital it is to nurture our lives with daily, weekly, and annual rest and recreation. We can certainly find better things to do than watch a movie every night, and safer things to do than go horse-riding in our cities! However, if we are to avoid self-defeating staleness and sameness, we must plan our rest and recreation as religiously as our reading and writing, our preaching and evangelism. And maybe, just maybe, some rest and recreation could turn your present “Mission Impossible” into “Mission Accomplished!”