1 Thessalonians 5:6
So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.
Yesterday, Suanne and I took a little trip to International Falls, MN. It was a trip of 220 miles one way. It took us about four hours to reach our destination. Our motivation was that we have always wanted to visit International Falls and we will probably never be closer than we are right now. So, we jumped into the car at 8:30 AM and headed out of Cavalier, ND toward Minnesota.
We had a great day, even though it rained for a better part of it. We had lunch in Warroad, the walleye capital of the world. We drove through Baudette and Roseau before we finally came to International Falls. Along the way, we followed the Rainy River, which is the boundary between the US and Canada. While in International Falls we visited Voyageurs National Park, Rainy Lake, and the Largest Smokey the Bear statue in the world. On our way home, we stopped to see Lake of the Woods, although because of the overcast skies we could only see a little part of it. It was a full day.
As we headed for home, the sky was overcast and dark. We drove in rain much of the way, sometimes hard rain. As the sun began to set behind the dark clouds, I knew that I would have to be particularly vigilant, because it was the time when the deer are on the move. We had seen several deer along the side of the road and so I knew that I had to keep my eyes open. Sure enough, as I was traveling at 60 mph, a deer appeared in my headlights, crossing the road in front of me. Fortunately, I saw it in time to hit the brakes and not the deer. Later, well after dark, two coyotes ran across the road in front of me as well. The last two hours of our trip I was constantly scanning the sides of the road watching for any sign of movement. We made it home without any trouble, but my muscles were pretty tense. The entire time, I was reminding myself to stay alert.
As we travel through this journey of life, the Bible tells us to stay alert as well. If we lose our focus, or get distracted, we can easily run into trouble. Just as I had to watch for deer along the sides of the road, there are at least three things that the Bible tells us we need to be alert to.
We need to be alert to the attacks of Satan. We all know what it means to be distracted while we are driving. We can get so enamored with the scenery around us that we fail to adequately watch the road in front of us. So it is with our journey of life. Satan is a master of distracting us from the dangers that lay in our way. Satan is always looking for an unguarded moment in our lives when he can spring and attack us. Peter reminds us that we need always to be alert to the danger that Satan poses.
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
We need to be alert to the way we live our lives. We don’t need Satan to attack us in order for us to get off course. We are very capable of doing that ourselves. How many car accidents have happened not because a deer jumped out in front of the car, but because the driver was distracted by something within the car, like their cell phone or an animated conversation with a friend. Many of the accidents that happen on our spiritual journey happen because we have lost our focus. We have become overconfident or overly fearful. We may have just become complacent and taken our spiritual life for granted. There are many ways that we can lose focus and hit the ditch spiritually.
In Ephesians 6, Paul instructs us to put on the full armor of God so we can take our stand in this world. Part of being well equipped is staying focused. So, at the end of that passage he includes a call to stay alert.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:18)
One of the greatest dangers while driving is being too tired and falling asleep. In a similar way, if we are not taking care of ourselves spiritually, we can become spiritually weary and fall asleep. In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul challenges us to stay awake and alert as we journey through life.
So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. (1 Thessalonians 5:6)
There is one other area where we need to remain alert, and that is concerning the return of Christ. The idea of Christ’s return has, in many ways, been placed on the back burner today. Yet, Jesus thought it was so important that He spent some of His last hours warning His disciples to be ready for His return. (Matthew 24-25)
I have heard of cases of people falling asleep in an airport and missing their flight. In a spiritual sense, many people are sleeping, when it comes to preparing for Christ’s return. Although we do not know when Christ will return, we know that He will. Jesus challenges us to always be alert to that possibility. We are to live every day as if He could return today. We need to be ready for Him when He comes.
Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. (Mark 13:33)
As darkness descended last night, I did my best to stay alert to any danger that might cross our path. As spiritual darkness continues to descend on our world, we need to be all the more aware and alert.