When I am driving in storms or heavy traffic on unfamiliar roads, I have intensity and focus. For the minutes, hours, or however long that drive might take I am so focused that I will be exhausted when I arrive at the destination. What things in this life command that kind of attention? I have never been in war however I imagine this kind of focus would be required. Focus and intensity becomes acute I imagine in anything that is life altering or involves trauma? Maybe a fight in the court system if unjustly accused? Or someone who is assaulted might become focused and aware of the surroundings if ever in a similar situation. Strangely enough Paul asked for that kind of attention of his Churches.
6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 1 Thessalonians 5:6 ESV
Be awake, focused, and in control of oneself. Be aware and observant. Be intentional about life is what Paul is telling us. But that is not how most approach life. For example would you describe life as leisurely drive in sunny weather or is it an intense battle in traffic on a dark rainy night? Or how many of us might describe our life as someone who called Uber while we stare into our phones oblivious to the direction being taken? Social media scrolling, games on our phones, binge watching entertainment, and the like are distractions that allow us to ignore real life right at our feet. Do not sleep through life it is short and dangerous. Paul in asking the church to be awake is pointing to the example of Jesus right before his arrest. Jesus was in high anxiety and he asked that Peter and John be awake to pray with him.
38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” … 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:38;40-41 ESV
What is it that keeps one on alert? It is an anticipation that something might happen and there is a need to be prepared for something at an unknown time. That focus and dedication is not easy. Paul wants the Church to be ready but ready for what? Paul’s reason for asking the church to be awake and prepared is an echo of what Jesus has already taught.
32 [Jesus speaking] “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. Mark 13:32-33 ESV
3 [Paul speaking] While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 1 Thessalonians 5:3-4 ESV
Christ will return at an inconvenient time. Many, in fact most, will not be ready. Everything will not continue as it has since the beginning. Be alert and be aware that the world promotes distraction and avoidance of conversations about Christ. Remain focused on living a life directed by Christ. And if you have not already turned your life over to Christ for salvation on that day when he returns now is that moment before it is too late.
16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 ESV