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The sermon you preach in your sleep

1 January 2014 | by David Murray

The sermon you preach in your sleep

When was the last time you heard a sermon on sleep? We spend about 30% of our lives doing it, and nothing impacts our lives more than doing it, yet… pulpit crickets.

Have Christians mastered this so well that we don’t need to be instructed on it? ‘Instruction on sleep? Are you serious? Is it that complicated? You close your eyes. Darkness. You open your eyes. Light. What’s to learn?’

Yet few things are as theological as sleep. Show me your sleep pattern and I’ll show you your theology, your anthropology, your soteriology, your ecclesiology, and even your eschatology! For example, some pride themselves on sleeping only about five hours a night. What does that preach?

I don’t trust God with my work, my church, my family: I believe God is sovereign, but he needs all the help I can give him. Although Christ has promised to build his church, who’s doing the nightshift? I believe in the Holy Spirit but if I don’t work on my sermon after midnight, people won’t be saved.

I don’t respect how my Creator has made me: I am strong enough to cope without God’s gift of sufficient sleep (Ps. 3:5; 4:8). I refuse to accept my creaturely limitations (Ps. 127:1-2).

I don’t believe that the soul and body are linked: I can neglect the body and my soul will not suffer. I can weaken my body and not weaken my mind, conscience, and will. Alan Dericksen says that ‘lost sleep impairs decision-making capability, undercuts productivity, and contributes to expensive adverse health effects, including elevated risks of cardiovascular and gastrointestinal conditions.’ But that’s only true for wimps, isn’t it?

I don’t need to demonstrate my rest in Christ: Although the Bible repeatedly portrays salvation as rest, I’ll let others do the resting. I want people to know how busy, important, and zealous I am. That’s far more important than the daily demonstration of Christ’s salvation in when and how I rest.

Sleep reveals my idols – what I substitute for sleep – whether it be football, the internet, ministry, or work. Sleep reveals my corruption – those utterly weird, dark, and perverse dreams. Sleep reveals my anxiety – insomnia, restlessness, tension.

‘But what about eschatology? You said that sleep reveals your eschatology.’ Yes, that’s because God has connected our sleep patterns with our end, with how long we will live and when we will die.

Although people often point to famous Christians ‘who only slept one hour a week’ (I exaggerate – slightly), many of them died quite young, often 10-20 years before the average. We only have a limited amount of fuel in our tanks, and that fuel will run out eventually. If we drive at 90mph with hardly a rest break, that fuel is going to run out much quicker than for those who do take their mortality seriously, look after their engines, and drive economically.

What sermon are you preaching in your sleep?

David Murray is Pro­fes­sor of Old Tes­ta­ment and Prac­ti­cal The­ol­ogy at Puri­tan Reformed The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary. This article first appeared on his blog and is used with kind permission.

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