Frequency Week 4 . Sleep

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There’s a secret ingredient when it comes to tuning into our Guide. Something you do every day, but if you miss the power of it, it’s going to be harder to hear your Guide.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.”  Psalm 127:1-2 NIV

Today we are talking about sleep, more specifically, why we should view sleep as a spiritual discipline. When you hear, “spiritual discipline” most of us think of prayer, Bible reading, fasting, giving, going to church and so on. Often what happens, is people don’t do those things because they think they don’t have enough time.

The reason we don’t pray or read the Bible, is not that we don’t have enough time. It’s that when we do have the time, we don’t have enough energy.

Reading the Bible, praying and fulfilling God’s purposes for your life is hard. If you’re not well rested, if you’re tired, you can’t even do it. You can’t have a serious conversation or read challenging material while you’re tired.

You simply cannot live a spiritually rich life on a sleep deficit.

There are all sorts of ways you can live on a sleep deficit. You can live a successful career life on a sleep deficit or a life of accomplishment on a sleep deficit.

There are all sorts of activities you can do on a sleep deficit. You can watch TV, check email and check things off your to-do list when you’re tired. Connecting with God is one thing you can’t do when you are tired.

God wants us to follow Him. God wants to meet with us, and we can’t stay awake.

There’s a chance to make real spiritual progress, but we’re too tired, so we do a lower activity, a less important activity.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.”  Psalm 127:1-2 NIV

The Psalmist uses the word “vain” three times. Why is this lifestyle of getting up early and staying up late and getting as little sleep as you can, vain according to the psalmist?

There are things in our lives, in this broken world that fight against sleep, like kids, school, jobs, health problems or physical pain.

The psalmist here, is talking about a mindset that says, “I’m going to disregard sleep, I’m not going to value it, I’m not going to recognize it as a gift from God and I’m going to try and get by on as little as possible.”


Why is Trying to Sleep as Little as Possible, Vain?

1. All the big stuff is out of your control.

God is in control of all the big stuff. That’s what He means when He says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, it’s in vain.” 

You can work as hard as you want, but at the end of the day if God doesn’t want the house to stand, it’s not going to stand.

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:34

The mindset of the person who tries to get as little sleep as possible is, “It all depends on me.”

We start to believe that it’s all up to us. That if we don’t keep working harder and harder every day and every week, we are going to fall behind and are not going to have enough. All of the big stuff is out of your control anyway.

If God wants it there, it’ll be there. If God doesn’t want it, it won’t be there. That’s the first reason why it is vain and pointless, to sleep as little as possible.

2. Even if you are successful, you’ll be eating the bread of anxious toil.

“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil…” Psalm 127:2 ESV

The bread of anxious toil doesn’t taste very good. This is the human problem. We accomplish everything we set out to accomplish. We live in the neighborhood we wanted to live in, we build the house we want to live in, the perfect job that fulfills all our passions and somehow it doesn’t feel the way we thought it would feel.

It doesn’t matter if you get everything you want if you’re so anxious and tired all the time that you can’t enjoy it.

If you have this attitude of, “It all depends on me,” who cares if you reach all your goals, because you will just be eating the bread of anxious toil.

3. It’s massively counterproductive.

Productivity is not the number of things you get done. Productivity is doing the right things.

When you are tired, you won’t know what to say no to. You won’t have the right perspective. When you’re tired you have no self-disciplines and your emotions are out of control. It takes rest to decide what the right things are and you can’t do those things when you’re tired.

So many people experience relapse because they were so tired of the fight. It’s hard to fight against cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, porn, food, affairs and all those things, when you’re tired. Instead of moving forward, we relapse and do things that reverse our progress.

We’re talking about vanity, and the sense of it being pointless. The other meaning of the word vain is concerned with appearances, pride. That applies here too. We brag about the little sleep we get like we’re stronger than others and the Bible says that’s just vanity.

You can brag about it all you want and tell yourself you’re getting more done, but it’s vanity.


How to Sleep More and Better

More and more people’s sleep is being aided by some type of pill or some other form of sleep inducement. There are all sorts of articles online and in magazines with practical tips on how to sleep more and better. Things like going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, room temperature, make sure to work hard during the day so you’re actually tired at night.

All of that can help, but today, let’s focus on the spiritual side of getting more sleep, getting better sleep.

  • Release control.

Why did God invent sleep in the first place?

Sleep reinforces the difference between us and God.

The core of all sin is believing that we are God. When we release control, we are recognizing we are not God.

“He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”  Psalm 121:3b-4 NIV

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” Isaiah 40:28 NIV

God doesn’t need to sleep and we do.

Sleep is a constant reminder that I am not God and I am not in control.

We’re not in control of other people or what happens in the world. Every 24 hours no matter who you are, we have to become like a little baby. Blind, weak, helpless, vulnerable. It’s humiliating if you fight it. It’s humbling if you embrace it. If you embrace sleep, instead of fighting it, it becomes an act of surrender.

Sleep is an act of worship.

We fight for control of our lives all day long. We fight to control the people around us and their decisions and sleep is this act of surrender and this act of worship. Many people would love to sleep more and better, but they can’t because their mind continues to race, because they haven’t trusted God with their lives.

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8

Peace comes from trust in God.

In the Bible, there’s this time when Jesus is sleeping during a giant storm. How? Because He trusts His Father. How can we release control and trust in God?

When you google, “practical ways to fall asleep” you are going to hear in multiple places, meditate. These sources couldn’t be more right and more wrong at the same time.

How to release control: Consciously Meditate

Most of the time what the magazines and self helpers are talking about is the Buddhist or eastern religious practice, where you sit and focus on your breath. You won’t be able to focus on your breath for 20 minutes, but every time something pops into your mind other than your breath, you release it and focus on your breath again, and it works.

It’s not only an ancient Buddhist practice, it’s an ancient Christian practice as well. But the word mediation has been absolutely highjacked. The enemy can’t create anything so he distorts what God has created.

The Christian practice of meditation is a lot better, because focus on something more than your breathing. You focus on God. There are different versions of this. You can focus on a name of God, like the name Father or Provider, you pray a short prayer over and over again. One of the oldest ones is, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”

But again, you’re not going to be able to. You can’t even do it for 10 seconds. Other thoughts will rush in. We think that’s a bad thing, that those thoughts are the enemy. This is the breakdown in our perspective of Christian prayer and meditation. We don’t think we can rest, because we get so distracted.

Distractions aren’t the enemy, they’re the point.

When you pray, what distracts you? What other thoughts are coming in? Take those distractions and now you know what to pray about. Don’t just pray about the things you are conscious of, pray about the things that are decieving you.

Paul, a New Testament writer, told us to put on truth first, because we get deceived. So we sit there and think and distractions come pouring in…those are the things we release to God.

Don’t start worrying about it or figuring out what to do with this problem, just say, “God this is yours to deal with, I release control to you and I can’t do anything about it.”

If you do that, your sleep quality will begin to change.

  • Remember the resurrection.

One of the things about sleep is this connection it has to death. There’s an African proverb that says, “Sleep is the friend of death.”

Schopenhauer said, “Every day is a mini life. Every time you wake up it’s a mini birth, and every time you go to sleep it’s like death.”

There’s this sense in which sleep is great practice for death, because the same God you have to trust to watch over you as you sleep, is the same God you’ll have to trust in the end when you die.

The connection between sleep and death, is that there is one thing that will keep you awake at night. It’s wondering if your soul is in danger.

Remember this childhood prayer? Now I lay me down to sleep I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.

It’s a very dark prayer, but parents felt like this is where it’s at. This is the essence of peace. The essence of being able to sleep soundly is trusting God with your soul.

How do you get to the point where you trust God with your soul and not fear death?

The way the Christian is able to not fear death is by realizing that death is nothing more than sleep.

Jesus is the one who introduces this terminology. He told His disciples,

“’Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.’ His disciples replied, ‘Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.’ Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.'”  John 11:11-15 NIV

After the resurrection, the early Christians figure out that his resurrection is not a one off event, but it’s actually what happens to everyone who believes, they start using the same terminology about all Christians who have died.

In the New Testament, Paul talks about different people falling asleep. We pass over that like he’s being polite, but it’s not a euphemism. It’s a very particular and profound statement of faith. We know this, because of the places it’s not used.

After Christ, the term of fallen asleep is never used for an unbeliever, someone who rejected God. For them, it’s just died. It’s over. The phrase fallen asleep is never used with respect to Christ himself. It never says Christ fell asleep, even though he was eventually raised. Why? Because Christ died the death of an unbeliever.

The thing that makes death so awful is the separation from God and in some sense, that’s the definition of death. That’s what Jesus went through. He didn’t just fall asleep. He was separated from God. He died, condemned and with sin on his shoulders. Not his own sin, but our sin.

Because He died in condemnation in our place, we don’t have to experience it. There is no final death of being separated from God. What other’s call death, is falling asleep and waking up, resurrected for a believer.

Remembering that Jesus has already died the final death of condemnation in my place enables me to sleep soundly.

If you can remember the final death of condemnation has already been undergone by someone else in your place, then it will enable you to sleep soundly.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. Do you have any more thoughts about the message on recognizing God’s voice and testing an impression through the Bible, Christlikeness, Godly counsel and peace?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

This week, we concluded the Frequency series with the thought, “I simply cannot live a spiritually rich life on a sleep deficit.”

“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.”  Psalm 127:1-2 NIV

Read: Isaiah 40, Psalm 127 and John 11:1-44

Application

  1. What stood out to you in this message? What was timely for you to hear?
  2. Have you ever reached a goal and been too busy, anxious or tired to enjoy it?
  3. Have you ever made a bad or wrong decision because you were too tired or overwhelmed?
  4. How can sleep be an act of worship?
  5. How did this message change the way you think about the word meditation?
  6. When life slows down, what do you tend to worry about? Family? Money? Work?
  7. Christ died the death of an unbeliever. How can that help us to sleep soundly?

Tell Someone Else

How could this message help or encourage someone else?

 

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