But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.
News commentators often report that America is one of the most sleep deprived nations in the world, while The National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (NCSDR) states that up to 70 million Americans cope with sleep disorders and as a nation, we spend up to 3.6 billion on prescription sleep medication!!! And yet, despite our sleep deprivation, the devil has effectively lulled the church into a deep spiritual slumber, one that threatens our very existence, …but God.
As I thought about this disheartening situation, I was reminded of the parable of the sower (Luke 8: 5-15). In this parable, a farmer went out to sow his seed. We know that some seed fell on the path and was trampled and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on rock and withered for lack of moisture. Others fell among thorns, grew up with it but eventually were overrun and choked to death. And still other seed fell on good soil, and yielded a crop, one hundred times more than was sown.
In this space, between Jesus Christ’s ascension and Jesus Christ’s return, the parable comes alive for believers. God’s word sown in our hearts and lives is threatened by so many cares, temptations, philosophies, life and faith alternatives. It is while the farmer, is away, that we find all kinds of weeds, thorns, rocks and other seed-stealers swooping in. America, history reminds us, was founded on Christian principles and yet looking at America today, one has to wonder, what happened to us? But it’s not just America, it is humanity in general. Looking at the news headlines from around our world today one has to wonder, what is going on?
Spiritually speaking, humanity has fallen asleep. We have allowed our hectic schedules, plans, programs, appointments and secular-like thinking to tire us and lull us into a kind of spiritual stupor. We may have trouble falling physically asleep, but the accompanying exhaustion of our merciless existence has lulled us into a deep spiritual slumber. One that denies how far we have strayed from the path Jesus mapped out for us.
The Lord says to the disciples in Matthew 26:41, "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” Paul tells the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 “Pray without ceasing….” Jesus himself modelled a life of prayer, often pulling away to be alone with God, in order to find guidance, direction and strength to do God’s bidding. Prayer is the prescription for spiritual slumber. Prayer is the antidote that exposes the weeds, the rocks, the thorns that choke our spiritual alertness. But how can we pray, when we are sleepy or sleeping? Consider your own prayer life. How would you rate it, vibrant or lethargic?
I stumbled upon a book published by Cleon Skousen (1958). It is titled, “The Naked Communist.” The book articulates 45 goals for America by communist Russia. Here are some eye-opening goals:
15. Capture one or both of the political parties in the United States.
21. Gain control of key positions in radio, TV, and motion pictures.
24. Eliminate all laws governing obscenity by calling them “censorship” and a violation of free speech and free press.
25. Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography and obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio, and TV.
26. Present homosexuality, degeneracy and promiscuity as “normal, natural, and healthy.”
27. Infiltrate the churches and replace revealed religion with “social” religion. Discredit the Bible and emphasize the need for intellectual maturity which does not need a “religious crutch.”
28. Eliminate prayer or any phase of religious expression in the schools on the ground that it violates the principle of “separation of church and state.”
40. Discredit the family as an institution. Encourage promiscuity, masturbation and easy divorce.
41. Emphasize the need to raise children away from the negative influence of parents. Attribute prejudices, mental blocks and retarding of children to suppressive influence of parents.
These goals should be cause for pause. Are you surprised that so many of them have already been achieved? If you’re still wondering when all these things happened, or why they happened, they happened while the church was sleeping? These goals were achieved while the church was overdosing on the spiritual "Ambien" of social religion.
But: here is the good news: The parable of the sower does offer hope. Some of the seed fell on good soil, and yielded a crop one hundred times more than was sown. Translation: But God... there is always a remnant and therein lies our hope! No matter what the state of the church might be today, Jesus has decreed, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18b).
Be encouraged, don’t give up. God’s ways are higher than our ways and what he has decreed will come to pass. In these days before the farmer returns for the harvest, ask God to help you stay alert, and to recognize the enemy’s lies in our generation. Continue to read the word that it may be lamp for your feet and a light to your path (Psalm 119: 105). Then practice the word so the world will see your good deeds and glorify God in heaven (Matthew 5:16). Besides, it is impossible to be spiritually lethargic, when your lamp is burning bright.
Dear Father in heaven, keep our minds and our hearts focused on you and on your Word, that we might gain wisdom for these times. We pray for believers around the world; awaken us, Oh God, that we might be faithful ambassadors of your Word to a restless and seeking generation. And may this Word that you have sown in us, continue to grow and yield a harvest of souls for your Kingdom. Let it come alive in our homes, in our churches, in our work spaces, and in our relationships. Stir us out of our lethargy and give us a faith that is relevant for these times. Expose the enemy by the light and power of your truth. In Jesus’ name. Amen.