“Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead.” Acts 20:9
Ever unintentionally fallen into that blissful state of slumber whilst in public, and then woken with a jolt, wondering what had happened while you were sleeping? You subtly wipe the drool from the side of your mouth, pray you weren’t audibly snoring, and attempt to seamlessly catch up and reintegrate. The worst— when it happens in church. The absolute worst— when you accidentally fall through a window and die. True story.
Poor Eutychus. A young guy, just trying to catch some z’s. The apostle Paul was in the midst of a lengthy preach (like HOURS UPON HOURS), and we’re not told if Eutychus had been dragged to the service by his parents, or if he was there to eagerly glean some truth, but the fact is, he stayed awake as long as he could, but by midnight enough was enough. We’ve all been there. I remember many Sunday evening services like this— you have already done a l-o-n-g church stint all morning, you have eaten way too much roast beef and Yorkshire puddings for lunch, swiftly chased by sandwiches and trifle for tea lest you starve, and then you have to literally pinch your own arm (hard) to keep your eyes from closing as you listen to the soothing cadence of the evening preach. I guess the pinching tactic didn’t work for Eutychus…
Why is it SO hard to stay awake sometimes? When we try to pray, or attempt to stay focused on the message being preached, or reach a place where our corporate worship is ablaze and genuine? When we are at home and have the best intentions to follow a Bible devotion plan, or journal our thoughts, or get through a challenging book? Why is it so much easier to take a nap?
Spiritual sleeping is a dangerous pastime, and we do it well. In the comfy western world, we Christians are in dire need of some shaking. It’s a scary thing to even write, because we rather like our non-confrontational, peaceful, easy-going faith. But while we are sleeping… WE ARE MISSING OUT ON SO MUCH.
Matthew Henry’s commentary suggests we should do “what we can to prevent our being sleepy, not compose ourselves to sleep, but get our hearts affected with the word we hear to such a degree as may drive sleep far enough.”
“…get our hearts affected with the word…”
To be affected by the Word of God, we need to be physically and spiritually awake. Wide awake. There has to be a hunger, a drive, a desire to follow where God leads, to obey His command, to seek His face. The Bible isn’t an optional extra for our faith-walk— it isn’t a reference book to check in with, whenever the need arises. It’s our daily bread. Our sustenance. And when we are truly IN the Word, we won’t be caught napping on a windowsill.
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
Our story with young Eutychus has a happy ending (as long as you are good with being remembered as the guy who fell asleep while Paul was preaching, back-flipped through a third-storey window, and died.) I’m sure there was a ruckus when the packed household of believers realized what had happened to Sleepy, but Paul was on the case immediately. By God’s grace, a miracle was performed when Paul “fell on the dead body and embraced it” (verse 10), bringing the boy back to life. Don’t you just love it when God uses even the most unfortunate of events to bring glory to Himself? What a crazy miracle! I can only imagine the rejoicing and praise rising up from that house. The activities of that particular night were told and re-told for generations. Just like we are doing right now…
Need a wake-up call? I know I do. Regularly. The Almighty doesn’t need me to be awake and fully engaged in order for His perfect plan to evolve. He has the power and authority to do anything He pleases with whomever He chooses. But I’d hate to miss out on the blessings and the blast of being who He wants me to be simply because I’m in sleeping/ lazy/ fearful/ apathetic mode!
As a pastor’s kid, I was totally guilty of switching off during sermons by “Dad”. It’s a bit of a PK thing. And it’s one of my biggest regrets now, because he was and still is a phenomenal preacher. Missed opportunities to lean in and glean from God’s Word. Since then, there have been seasons of distraction with babies and fidgety kids and worrying about the worship and concerning myself with the mechanics of the service. Bottom line— there will always be excuses, but it’s down to little ol’ ME to not zone out or take a nap or daydream when the opportunity is right before me to hear God’s Word revealed. I take so much for granted!
Don’t be a Eutychus… you never know what you might miss while you are sleeping…
A work in progress,