Awake from Sleep!—Why? How?
WHAT the firemen of Saint-Laurent-du-Pont saw when they managed to pry open a padlocked emergency exit of a local dance hall caused two of them to faint. Bodies, 145 of them, “in ghastly contortions of agony. Fists were literally fried against the locked door.” Government investigations revealed such criminal neglect of fire laws that the local mayor and another official were suspended by the French government.
Protesting these suspensions, a Deputy from the area pleaded in the French National Assembly: “Let the dead sleep in peace.” But France-Soir, a leading French daily, in a front page editorial replied: “We are not trying to disturb the dead. We want only to wake up the living.” No question about some persons having been asleep as regards their responsibilities to protect the lives of their citizens, and with what tragic results!—Time magazine, November 16, 1970.
Yes, there is more than one way a person can be asleep, even as the Bible shows. It speaks, of course, of literal sleep. (Eccl. 5:12; Jer. 31:26) It also speaks of death as a sleep, for in death a person is unconscious of what is going on, or of threatening dangers, even as in literal deep sleep.—John 11:11; 1 Thess. 4:14.
But of particular interest to us at this time is the fact that the Bible also refers to “sleep” as did France-Soir, in the sense of being unaware of danger or being negligent as to your responsibilities, as were certain officials of the Saint-Laurent-du-Pont area. The apostle Paul warns against this very thing at Romans 13:11-14: “Do this, too, because you people know the season, that it is already the hour for you to awake from sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than at the time when we became believers. . . . Let us therefore put off the works belonging to darkness and let us put on the weapons of the light. As in the daytime let us walk decently, not in revelries and drunken bouts, not in illicit intercourse and loose conduct, not in strife and jealousy.”
So Paul here urges all of us not to fool ourselves. If anyone tends to enjoy things that lead to loose, immoral conduct—whether in conversation, entertainment or in his personal actions—he needs to wake up. He needs to face up to the fact that we reap in harmony with what we sow. (Gal. 6:7, 8) For a time he may seem to get away with loose conduct. But God does not sleep, and it is with him that we have an accounting. Does your life show that you are awake in this regard?
Because so many do engage in “illicit intercourse and loose conduct, . . . in strife and jealousy,” the apostle further counsels: “So, then, let us not sleep on as the rest do, but let us stay awake and keep our senses.” (1 Thess. 5:6) Surely persons who carry on wickedness do not ‘keep their senses.’ To such Paul further commands: “Wake up to soberness in a righteous way and do not practice sin.” No question about it, to be practicing sin is to be morally asleep.—1 Cor. 15:34.
Why is especially now the time to keep awake? Because of the times in which we are living. When you read news reports about war, food shortages and earthquakes, what do they mean to you? Many people react with indifference. They do not like the conditions, but they do not get excited about them. Do you see any special significance in the events of our day? The Bible foretold the “last days” of the entire wicked system of things, when men would be ‘lovers of themselves, lovers of money, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, without self-control.’ Do you know your Bible well enough to be able to say whether the things that are happening now fit these prophecies? Are you awake to the significance of our time? Jesus likened these days to those of Noah. Back there ever so many perished because they were not awake to the fact that they were living at the end of a wicked system of things. And concerning these very days Jesus warned: “Keep looking, keep awake.” Your life depends upon your being wide awake.—Matthew, chapter 24; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; Mark 13:33.
What will aid you to wake up and to stay awake? Heeding the good advice Jesus gave: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare.” To keep from overeating and heavy drinking you must learn to exercise self-control, and to avoid being weighed down with the anxieties of life you must learn to trust God and heed Jesus’ words: “Keep on, then, seeking first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other [needful] things will be added to you.”—Luke 21:34, 35; Matt. 6:33.
A spiritual stimulant to staying awake is an intelligent and purposeful study of the Bible not merely a routine reading of it. Very essential also is meeting regularly with fellow Christians. Christians come together to ‘incite one another to love and fine works,’ and certainly to be incited to do something is to be awakened if one is asleep.—Josh. 1:8; Heb. 10:24, 25.
Jesus counseled his followers living in our day to stay awake and keep making supplications. (Luke 21:36) In the garden of Gethsemane he likewise associated prayer with staying awake, saying: “Keep on the watch and pray continually, that you may not enter into temptation.” Yes, prayer, uttered earnestly, in faith and in Jesus’ name, also helps Christians to stay awake and be on guard.—Matt. 26:41.
In these perilous last days of this wicked system of things it is imperative for you to stay awake if you would not be one of the victims trapped in the fire of the coming “great tribulation,” a holocaust far more consuming than that at Saint-Laurent-du-Pont. To help you to do so is one reason why this journal is being published and why it is called Awake!