So then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.
–1 Thessalonians 5:6
How do we maintain every day an awareness of what is happening to us and in the world around us? Paul gave us a real simple formula in 1 Thessalonians 5:6: “So then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.” In this verse, we find three short commands about how to maintain situational awareness. First of all, stay awake. Paul was saying, “Do not sleepwalk through life. Be alert to what is happening around you.” When I was in high school, a friend introduced me to the greatest invention: a little vial called “stink perfume.” It was the most foul-smelling stuff you can imagine. One night, I came home from a date. My brother Tim and I shared a bathroom, and he was always leaving my door locked. That night I jiggled the door, and it was locked again. I was so ticked off, I got my vial of stink perfume, crept around to his bedroom and poured out that entire vial on his pillow. He bolted out of bed immediately. He stayed awake the rest of the night, ready for me to come back in with another vial. That is what Paul was saying. Be on guard from attacks, not from your brother or sister, but from the enemy. If we are going to be effective, we have to stay awake.
Second, stay hopeful. Paul said, “Be alert.” What does that have to do with being hopeful? Being alert means understanding that if difficult times are coming, even better times are to come after that. In Luke 21:28, Jesus had just described all of the events of the tribulation that would lead up to His return. Did He say, “When you see these horrible things begin to take place, panic”? No. He said, “When these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” When we are alert to what is really happening, we can be excited because we know the return of Christ is just around the corner.
Finally, stay serious. Paul said, “Be alert and sober.” What did he mean by “sober”? He did not mean walk around with an expression on your face like you have been sucking on a pickle. He simply meant do not be frivolous as you understand what is happening and what is about to happen. A couple of years ago, former Vice President Mike Pence gave the commencement address at Liberty University. He said to the graduates, “As you go about your daily life, just be ready. Because you’re going to be asked not just to tolerate things that violate your faith; you’re going to be asked to endorse them. You’re going to be asked to bow down to the idols of the popular culture. So you need to prepare your minds for action, men and women. You need to show that we can love God and love our neighbor at the same time through words and deeds. And you need to be prepared to meet opposition. . . . But just know this: If, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you end up in the fire, there’ll be another in the fire.” Isn’t that great? That is what Paul was saying. Know the situation around you, and because of it, stay awake, stay hopeful, and stay serious.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Survival Tip #2: Gain Situational Awareness” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2019.
Mike Pence, “Remarks by Vice President Pence at Liberty University’s Commencement,” Lynchburg, Virginia, May 11, 2019, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-vice-president-pence-liberty-universitys-commencement/.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.