TONY ELDER: Don't doze through an opportunity to share God's Word with others

I don't know about you, but I'm still having problems adjusting to the recent time change. It's affecting me at both ends of the day. I'm waking up an hour sooner than necessary each morning. And due to the earlier onset of darkness, I find myself getting sleepy before my usual bedtime at night.

As a matter of fact, my propensity for dozing off in the evenings has caused me to make greater use of my digital video recorder (DVR). Normally I'll set it to record a TV program only if I know I'm going to be away from home, watching another show, or otherwise preoccupied during that time period. But recently I've decided that it would be wise to record some of the shows I actually sit down to view.

The reason for this change is that far too often lately while in the middle of a program, I have found myself suddenly waking up to the realization that I had fallen asleep for a few minutes. So by making use of the DVR, I can always go back and replay whatever it is I may have missed.

Sometimes I wish we had such DVRs for life. It would be nice to get a second chance after having been guilty of dozing off and missing some important opportunity. Have you noticed in the Bible how often you encounter exhortations to watch, be vigilant, or wake up? I'm afraid that we have a tendency to fall asleep in our minds and spirits and we can't blame the time change for our failure.

I wonder if Peter, James, and John often wished that they could replay those last hours with Jesus before His arrest. They literally dozed off instead of using the time to pray. When Jesus found them sleeping, He encouraged them to "watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation" (Matthew 26:41).

But most of the time when the Bible warns us to watch and stay alert, it's not cautioning us about physical sleep, but rather about spiritual complacency, loss of focus, or carelessness. Sometimes we fail to be vigilant and find ourselves giving in to a temptation in that moment of weakness. If only we hadn't let down our guard. If only we could go back and do it over and do it differently.

Unfortunately at that point it's usually too late. We have to live with the consequences while seeking forgiveness from the Lord.

But such moments of sleepiness in our resolve and spirit can afflict us in other ways, too. Sometimes I think we doze off and lose sight of who we are and what our purpose is.

In one of His parables in which Jesus emphasized the need for vigilance, He compares us to servants who are left to carry out their responsibilities but who have to guard against the prospect of falling asleep on the job (Mark 13:32-37). It wasn't that they were giving in to the temptation to do something wrong, but they were failing to fulfill their mission to do good.

We would all probably have to admit to times when we woke up and realized that we had just missed a great opportunity to share God's Word with someone or the chance to show His love to a person in need. In some cases, we may get to make up for our momentary lack of attention, but other times it turns out to be a lost opportunity that we can only regret.

It isn't a great loss if I miss a few minutes of a TV show. But for our sake and the sakes of others, we can't afford to fall asleep while fulfilling our duties to Christ.

The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by e-mail at RevTElder@aol.com.