Matthew 26:40 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.
I could have died. It was a few years back and I was driving back to Dallas from a friend’s wedding in College Station. Wanting to enjoy time with my college friends for as long as I could, I decided to start my return trek after they returned—which unfortunately turned out to be a little after midnight. For those unfamiliar with that particular drive through the Lone Star State, that would put me back home sometime around 4:00 a.m. This was not particularly wise for a guy with some moderate sleep difficulties.
For the first hour or so I was still feeling the euphoria of wedding and old acquaintances. I enjoyed most of that first hour in silence, appreciating the moon, stars, and uncluttered highway. I reflected on the past, considered the present, and hoped for the future.
The adrenaline tapered off about an hour and a half into the expedition and I suddenly realized that I was exhausted. Two hours away from home and my body was trying to shut down on me. I was absolutely worn out. Not the temporary waves of tiredness that might wash over you and quickly pass away; I was about to pass out.
I turned on the radio and tried to sing along at the top of my lungs. (BTW, I do that even when I am wide awake…I have this weird disease.) I rolled down the window and literally drove Ace Ventura-style for a few minutes to feel the wind in my face. Nothing helped. I actually slapped and pinched myself a few times just to wake up. I stopped to get some gas station coffee. I tried talking to myself—yelling, holding my eyes open with my fingers. I stayed awake, but the exhaustion was in no way abated. I swerved my way to my desired destination and collapsed into bed.
If you have been driving for any significant period of time you have probably had similar experiences. Hopefully you do not make a habit of sleep-deprived driving, but I would imagine that most of us have crossed that bridge a time or two. We all have our own ritual of coping and staying awake. Some crank up the air conditioning to freeze themselves awake, some call friends to talk to, some follow my preference of the self inflicted face slap. A friend of mine tries to invoke a sugar rush by downing Dr. Pepper and little chocolate donuts. We all have a way to try to beat back the exhaustion.
Rewind two thousand years to a dark night outside of Jerusalem—the moon and stars shining down in a garden on a hill. Three men sit and wait as their friend has disappeared into the olive trees. The long journey to Jerusalem has taken its toll on their bodies. Conversation tapers off until the silence is deafening. One of them yawns and then another yawns. The darkness is heavy in the air. Eyes slowly begin to close and heads sway. Suddenly a voice calls out “So, you could not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” They are snapped out of their short lived slumber in a sudden rush of short-lived shame. Their friend disappears again into the trees. But the darkness is so strong and the flesh so weak. Again, one of them yawns and then another. Eyes slowly begin to close and heads sway…
Fast forward to today. Each of us is driving home, but the road is long (some longer than others) and the night is exceedingly dark. Our eyes grow tired, our mind struggles for oxygen and we groan for breath. We swerve and struggle to regain control.
It is here that we must fight to stay alive. How do we ward off the sluggishness of sin and awaken the Spirit? Slapping our faces will not help, the radio is no remedy for our condition and Dr. Pepper offers no cure for what ails us.
God has given us means of grace for the mortification of the flesh and vivification of the Spirit. Not caffeine, nor air conditioning, but prayer and Scripture and fasting and meditation. These are a few of those remedies known as the disciplines. They are not magic, but they help.
Consider the fervency of your fight against fatigue to keep from driving off the road. Apply that same degree of discipline to your spiritual life. Think about how desperately you desire to guard your body, how every thought and movement is directed to one end—the preservation of consciousness for the sake of your life. Multiply that passion in pursuing the good of your soul.
I do not know exactly what refreshes your soul from the fatigue of the flesh, but I know that we must do something. We must watch and pray lest we be overcome.
Sin is real and as long as we inhabit this age, it will seek any foothold which it can gain. It lulls you with the sweet lullaby of slumber, all the while seeking to cast you into the dark precipice which surrounds us. How will we watch and pray? Will we watch and pray? Or will we simply let sin roll over us?