Summary: This sermon looks at how we fall into a spiritual slumber

A gentleman told of an experience that he had. He said, “I was recently driving all night to get to a far-away destination. By morning I still had some distance to travel, but was getting very tired. I decided to stop at the next city I came to and park somewhere quiet to catch an hour or two of sleep.

Unfortunately, the quiet place I chose happened to be one of the city’s major jogging routes. No sooner had I settled back to snooze when there was a knock on my window. Upon looking out I saw a jogger running in place, eager to ask me a question.


‘Excuse me, sir,’ the jogger said, ‘do you have the time?’

I looked at the car clock and answered, ‘8:15.’ The jogger said thank and left.

I settled back again, and was just dozing off when there was another knock on the window…and another jogger.

‘Excuse me, sir, do you have the time?’

‘8:25,’ I answered as nicely as I could, but I was getting frustrated. The jogger said thanks and left.

Now I could see other joggers passing by and I knew it was only a matter of time before another disturbed my much needed rest. To avoid the problem, I got out a pen and paper and put a sign in my window that read, ‘I do not know the time.’

I had just fallen back to sleep when there was another knock on the window.

‘Sir, sir? It’s 8:45!’”

I know that we can all feel his pain. We all have had experiences where we have wanted to sleep so bad but it just doesn’t seem to be in the cards. Whenever we drift off the phone rings or someone knocks on the door, or the kids come wake you up, or the preacher raises his voice. Sleep can be such a wonderful thing. But like anything, it has it’s time. There is a time to sleep and a time not to. As we continue in our series on Questions that Jesus Asked, in today’s text there were some disciples that couldn’t seem to stay awake. Now was not really the best time for them to sleep, but they couldn’t seem to stay awake.

Matthew 26:36-41

We all know that the Garden of Gethsemane was such a emotional time in Jesus’ life. We see that Jesus was overwhelmed with sorrow and trouble about what laid ahead. Now Jesus took his inner circle of three farther into the Garden with him. Although he had poured his life into all of the disciples there seemed to be a closer relationship with Peter, James and John. Jesus had formed a special bond with them. It was only these three disciples that had witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration. The other eight at this point remained farther behind, maybe even back at the entrance. Jesus went off and prayed and we remember the prayer well. “My father if it is possible may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he comes back to Peter, James and John and found them asleep. It was a time where he needed them to be watchful and in prayer. Jesus was facing an excruciating time ahead. He needed their strength, yet their concern just didn’t seem to be what it should have been. Jesus also knew that they would be coming for him at any time and he needed the disciples to be alert and on watch. Thus his question, “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” But not only that, the disciples would face temptations of many kinds themselves. They needed to be alert and in prayer not only for Jesus but for the difficult times ahead that they would face themselves. But they seemed to be oblivious about the dangers and temptations that faced them ahead. You see not only were they struggling with a physical sleepiness, but I think they were also in a spiritual slumber. This morning we will look at how we fall into a spiritual slumber. You see one way that we fall into a spiritual slumber is when we fall into a false sense of security. Like we said, Peter, James and John just didn’t seem to realize that they had some serious challenges and temptations that would be coming their way in the next few hours and days. Earlier Jesus had even warned Peter of the temptation that would be put before him. But if they realized what laid ahead they certainly didn’t act like it. Because all they did was kept nodding off and sleeping. Granted, they may have been physically exhausted, but I believe if they truly realized what was around the corner they would not have been able to sleep. Sometimes, we as Christians have a tendency to nod off in a spiritual sleep. The devil is around the corner and waiting to pounce on us. But we sometimes seem to live in this state of false security, forgetting that we need to be alert because the devil is waiting just around the corner with a temptation just for you. You see the devil, knows us very well. He knows our weaknesses and he knows the areas that are more of a temptation to us. He won’t waste his time trying to tempt us with areas that we have no weaknesses in. He’s going to try to hit us in our weak spot. But when we walk in spiritual alertness to that fact then he will not catch us off guard. That’s why Peter wrote in I Peter 5:8 “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Peter makes no mistake about it, the devil is our enemy and if you aren’t alert with the enemy they will blindside you. Our soldiers in Iraq are having to live each day in a state of alert because of the tactics of the enemy who want to destroy them. Everyday they have to be alert for roadside bombings, mines and every kind of device. To not live in a state of alert would cost them their very life. In the same way, we are in a spiritual war with an enemy that is seeking to destroy. If we get lulled to sleep and forget that this is really a spiritual war then we face a failure. We must not forget what Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the power of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” There is a battle going on. And listen to what Paul said after he wrote about putting on our armor. , “With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Once again we have a warning to be alert. But most of us in the church don’t live our lives like we are in a spiritual battle. Most of us live life not even thinking about the enemy that is waiting to pounce. When we don’t live in that alertness, when we have that false sense of security, it’s real easy to fall into a state of slumber in our spiritual life. Christ wanted his disciples not to sleep, but to keep watch and be alert.

But there are other things that lead to spiritual slumber in our life. And it is probably the most obvious way. We fail to pray as we should. Now I’ve always said that it was here in the Garden of Gethsemane that the battle was won. Because it was here, through prayer, that Jesus gained the strength he needed to go through what His Father wanted Him to go through. The temptation would be there to call down help from the angels. The temptation would be there to put those in their place who mistreated them. It was only through prayer that Jesus was able to do things the way His Father wanted them done. Jesus wanted his disciples here to be able to gain strength from their time in the garden as well. After he asks them about not being able to keep watch for one hour, he then said, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” We know that they failed to pray as they should. If you go down further in the text, Jesus returned and prayed more and then came back and found them asleep again. And you see their failure to pray showed up. We know of Peter’s failure, loud and clear. First of all, when they came to arrest Jesus, Peter cut’s off an ear the high priest’s servant. You see Peter’s lack of prayer stop him from understanding what God’s plan was. Of course Jesus put the guys ear back on and said, “Do you think I can’t call on my Father and have a ton of angels at my disposal?” But then later after Jesus had been taken into custody. The disciples were living in fear and dejection. And Peter is identified by someone as a follower of Jesus. But in fear Peter denies knowing him or being a follower of him. You know the story, three times Peter denied knowing Christ. And after the third time the rooster crowed just like Jesus said it would. And Peter remembered his conversation with Jesus and how he said that he would never deny him and that he would in fact die for him. Peter then went outside and wept bitterly. Peter had failed him. When the temptation came Peter failed all because of what he did before the temptation came. He slept when he should have been praying. You see the key to overcoming temptation in our life is what you do before the temptation comes. Spiritually Peter was in a slumber because he failed to pray as he should. You see we face the same thing in our life. When we fall to the temptations around us, often times, it’s simply because we fail to pray like we should. You can’t be spiritually awake and have a weak prayer life. If I allow myself to do without my time in prayer, it drives me nuts. And to be honest I feel more susceptible. When I did the series on Daniel a few years ago, the one thing that still stands out to me about it is Daniel’s prayer life. Because he allowed nothing to get in the way of his prayer time with God. Even when there was a law passed against it, every day faithfully he prayed to God. God honored Daniel in some incredible ways. Daniel had the strength to remain faithful and true through prayer. Oh, that we would be like Daniel, that we would allow nothing to get in the way of our prayer time with God. That we would be like Daniel and have a time set aside for prayer on a daily basis. There are too many Christians that pray at the end of the day before they go to bed. More times then not, they find themselves falling asleep while they are trying to pray. Prayer is not meant to be what we do with our leftover time. Prayer should be a crucial part of our daily life. Some of you might be saying to yourself, it hasn’t been that long since he’s talked about our prayer life. But let me ask you, has your prayer life changed since then? Prayer is the key to remaining awake spiritually. Without it we fall into a slumber and then we fall to other things.

After Jesus told them to watch and pray so that they would not fall into temptation. He then said to them, “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” What did Jesus mean by that. I think he meant there are times when in spirit we want to do the right thing. In our hearts, more than anything, you want to do what God wants you to do. But your flesh gets in the way. I think that Peter, James and John wanted to support Jesus and keep watch and pray. But physically and mentally they were so tired that they gave in to their body. They gave in to their flesh and they slept. Many of you know what it’s like to have the desire to do the right thing but for some reason you do the wrong thing anyway. Many of you may think to what Paul wrote in the Book of Romans. In Romans 7:15 he writes, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Paul was describing a literal battle. His new nature was battling his old sinful nature. It’s a nasty battle. But there are a lot of people who take what Paul wrote here and say, “Look, Paul had the same struggle and war that I have. He wants to do what is right, but unfortunately he does the wrong thing.” So they think, okay, Paul had this struggle and seemed to lose so I’m not so bad after all. And so they become to the point where they get used to losing the battle. They continually lose the battle of the flesh. But you see, I believe what they fail to realize, is that even though Paul had that struggle. I think Paul didn’t continue losing that battle day in and day out in his life. I think the more of his life that he gave over to the spirit the more he was able to be victorious over sin. Because listen to him in just the next chapter. “Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation--but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. Because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” You see the battle that Paul was talking about is a battle that will never end as long as we are in these human bodies. But to think that we are going to lose that battle is never the way that God intended it to be. God didn’t save us to live like losers. He did save us by grace, but He gave us His spirit so that we can live above sin and our desires. He wanted us to be able to experience the joy of a righteous life. If He saved us but didn’t give us what it took to live over sin we would never know what the abundant life is all about. Now does that mean that we will never fail again or become perfect? The answer is no. You see there are too many people walking in a spiritual slumber because they don’t know it doesn’t have to be that way. We fall into a spiritual slumber when we fulfill the desires of our flesh. I’m telling you this morning, wake up and realize that you can have victory over the sin that has been pulling you down. You don’t have to keep falling over and over again to the same temptation. One of the ways that we walk in the Spirit is by doing what we talked about in our last point. You see Jesus said no to his fleshly desire and yes to the Spirit and His Father’s desire through the power of prayer. Peter fell to his flesh because of his failure to pray. Living by the Spirit becomes easier when we are in daily contact with God. You can’t be a Christian that is alert and awake and ready to do great things for God if you are continually giving in to the flesh.

This morning as you examine your life maybe you realize you have been living your life in a spiritual slumber. It’s time to wake up, now is not the time to sleep. You have to be alert and realize that the devil is right around the corner waiting to tempt you. You can’t afford a false sense of security. We have to remember that when our prayer life is where it should be that we are never asleep at the wheel. Peter showed us the failure that comes from not praying as we should. We must depend upon the Spirit of God to give us the victory over our own sinful desires. God doesn’t want us to live that way. Something else that Paul said. He said, “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” You can’t be in a spiritual slumber and please God. Wake up!