The beginning of Ephesians 5:14 says, "Awake, you who sleep!"
There's a man I know (and, I know he doesn't mind me saying this) who, because of a medical condition, falls asleep almost immediately as soon as he sits down. And, I have preached several sermons with him sleeping right through every single one. The first time that happened, I was a little disturbed by it. But, then, someone explained to me that he does have this medical condition and it never bothered me again.
Not all of us have that same excuse, do we? Not all of us have a medical condition which makes us sleep whenever we sit still for more than a few minutes at a time. As a matter of fact, less than 0.002% of the population has narcolepsy (source: Stanford University School of Medicine, 1989). So, when we fall asleep in the worship assemblies, there's a pretty good chance that we could have avoided that.
And, just for a moment, I would like to bring up a few practical things we can do to avoid falling asleep during the worship assemblies.
1. Get plenty of sleep. Now, while that may sound like a ridiculous thing to say, the American medical Association estimates that 60% of Americans don't get enough sleep on a regular basis. As a people, we don't sleep well. We have to get up early and we like to stay up late. We give ourselves poor sleep schedules. And, because of this, we have poor sleep patterns. And, because of this, we have less restful sleep. This causes us to be less alert, less focused, and less productive during the hours of the day we are awake. We need to get plenty of sleep if we're going to stay awake during worship services. And, I'm not talking about just on Tuesday and Saturday nights; I'm talking about getting yourself in a good and regular sleep schedule and doing your best to stay on it. And, work your sleep schedule around worship times (Matthew 6:33). If you know that you need to be at worship assemblies at 9AM or 9:30AM on Sunday mornings (and, you always want to be, at least, 15 minutes early), and you know that it will take you roughly so long to get yourself and your family ready to go and roughly so long to get there, start from the time you need to wake up and count eight hours back and you'll find the time you need to go to sleep every night. For me, right now, that's 11PM. I'm not saying that's what yours should be; I'm just saying that this is what mine is. Find the best time that works out for you and your family and make it your schedule. Understand that there will come times when it needs to be adjusted, but do your best to keep your schedule. If you do this, you will get a more restful sleep and this will help you stay awake in worship assemblies.
2 & 3. Now, getting on a good sleep schedule is going to mean that we are going to have to forgo other things. And, this brings us to points #2 and #3: Realize and Sacrifice. Some times, I don't think we understand what our worship assemblies are supposed to be. I've actually stopped calling them "church services" because it gives the impression that the primary function is to just service the people. And, while we do have a responsibility to provide each other spiritual edification (Hebrews 10:24-25; Ephesians 4:11-16), our primary function in whatever we do, espcially when it comes to our worship assemblies, is to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31). I think we don't understand that because we don't realize that God is there in our midst when we gather together in His name (Matthew 18:20). Some times, we get the notion in our heads that God is just sitting up in Heaven, looking down at us like we're an ant farm. That's the wrong way to think about things because, when He is a very real Presence everywhere, especially in our worship assemblies. You know, if we knew that this coming Sunday morning, Jesus was going to physically walk into our worship assemblies, wouldn't we make ourselves well rested so we could take it all in, the day Jesus came to our congregation?! Yet, God/Jesus IS there every time we assemble to worship in a very real way. And, if we realize this, then making those sacrifices will be so much easier. I mean, what is more important that God and Jesus? Is your job, your retirement, that movie or TV show, that football game, that concert, hanging out with your friends, or anything else more important than your worship to God? It shouldn't be. And, while many of us would say that those things aren't as important, what do our actions say? I'm afraid that, with many of us, our actions betray just how spiritually weak and immature we truly are. If we need to sacrifice some things to get a good sleep, then, let them be the less important things and let us never forsake our Lord and Savior and our worship to Him! And, getting back to the main message, if we realize this and make the appropriate sacrifices, getting a good night's sleep to where you're not falling asleep in the worship assemblies wouldn't really be a problem.
4. Well, one last thing we can do is this: Participate in the worship assemblies. When I say that to people, they'll say things like, "I can't participate in the worship services" and they'll give a number of reasons (eg, "i'm afraid to get up infront of people," "I'm just not talented in that way," "I'm a woman," etc). None of those things are what I mean when I say "participate in the worship assemblies." What I mean is be focused and productively active during worship. And, I'll just point this out right here: if you're not focused and productively active, then what you're doing is not really "worship," is it (Isaiah 29:13)? But, what I mean by participating is that you are not just physically there, but that you are mentally there, as well. Again, this is where having a good sleep schedule come in helpful. Give yourself plenty of time to wake up mentally and give yourself plenty of time to be at services before they begin to make sure that you are mentally "there" and not thinking about the guy who "made you late" by driving 40mph in a 55mph zone. So, don't just be there physically, be there mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Also, when the preacher is doing the preaching, open your Bible and turn to those passages (Acts 17:11); engage your mind in the thougths, ideas, principles, and concepts that are being presented (Colossians 3:16a; Philippians 4:8) and, then, engage your body of the application of those things (James 1:22, 25; 2:14-26). Take notes. And, don't just take notes on the sermon, but on the prayers and songs which are being offered up to the Lord, on the Lord's Supper, on the giving of our means (keep a little journal of just whether or not you're cheerful in your giving or not or something small like that), and even take notes on the announcements (write down the names of the people you need to call, email, visit, and/or pray for during the week or Gospel meetings you plan on attending). When the song leader gets up, take out a song book and think about the words while you sing (1 Corinthians 14:15). And, remember that the Lord is right there, so belt out every off-key note to tell God just how happy (James 5:13) and thankful you are to Him for all the amazing love He has shown to you and all mankind. When someone leads a prayer, follow along and repeat those words to yourself and understand those words and make them your words (1 Corinthians 14:15). When the Lord's Supper is being obseved, take your mind back to the cross and remember the love Jesus showed in that great sacrifice (Romans 5:6-11) and proclaim that death and resurrection with each emblem. And, when you give, don't just toss your check in the basket, but think about the many different ways God has blessed you and think about how the congregation can and will use that money to spread the "good news" of how great and how good God truly is and all the good that will come from that work. So, participate in the worship and, I'll guarantee that you'll be too busy to fall asleep in the worship assemblies.
Are any of these things too difficult for us to do? No, of course, not. Will it take some effort on our part to employ these practical applications? Yeah, there's no doubt about that. But, will it be worth it? You better believe it! So, "awake, you who sleep" and worship the Lord with your awakened heart (Colossians 3:23) "for He is good" (Psalm 106:1)!
I love you all.
I love you