Students. You just sleep all the time, right? Crawl out of bed when everyone else is eating lunch and catch up on Netflix over your cornflakes. Now I know that that’s almost certainly stretching the truth, but there is undoubtedly a prevailing assumption from society that you’ll spend a significant portion of your degree asleep.
To be honest, it’s probably just jealousy from people who are looking back longingly at a more flexible period in their lives, but even in this misplaced assumption I think there is some prophetic significance in how a movement of students can flip the script and call a nation out of its slumber.
Sleep is often used in the Bible as a picture of spiritual dullness, whereas the idea of being awake points to an interesting perspective on Christianity. Life with Jesus, becoming aware of his kingdom, is like waking up from sleep – you become aware of and involved in a world that you were previously completely oblivious to.
When you fall asleep somewhere, you are physically present but emotionally, mentally and spiritually unaware. The lights are on but no one’s home. (As someone who specialises in falling asleep during sermons, trust me when I say that I know what I’m talking about here.)
And while the world might cast its lazy stereotypes over students, roll its eyes and assume that they spend all their time in bed, I think something different is brewing. Alarms are going off all around the nation and a whole generation is waking up to a new move of the Spirit. There is a new day dawning!
A great awakening is stirring on your campus. It’s going to transform culture.
And it can start with you.
So what does it look like to “wake up” as a follower of Jesus?
Stedman’s Medical Dictionary defines sleep as:
“a natural periodic state of rest for the mind and body, in which the eyes usually close and consciousness is completely or partially lost, so that there is a decrease in bodily movement and responsiveness to external stimuli.”
As I read that description, I sense the Lord highlighting three areas, three movements, that will characterise this awakening on the campuses of our nation.
Firstly, there is a move from “a lack of consciousness” to an awareness of God. This is a move of devotion. It will be like the story of Peter, James and John, with Jesus at the Transfiguration. Luke 9 tells us that, “Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory.” As we start to re-orientate our lives around devotion to God, seeking Him personally in the inner room of prayer and rooting ourselves in His word, we too will start to wake up and see His glory that is all around. When the prophet Habbakuk prophesies about revival, he tells us how “an awareness of the glory of the Lord will cover the earth” (Hab. 2:14). The glory is already there, we just need to turn our attention to it.
Secondly, where there has been a “lack of movement” there will come in its place an explosion of mission. People who are asleep are passive, they are unaware of anyone around them and are at the mercy of their environment. The onus of responsibility has shifted away from them onto others, and even though they might be entertained in a dream (or even crippled by fear in a nightmare) the “relationships” and human connection that they experience are ultimately a fleeting fabrication.
A life of mission, joining in with Jesus in the extension of his kingdom, is the complete opposite. We go from passive to active, we move towards our world rather than check-out and retreat from it. We take responsibility, even for problems that we didn’t create, and set about making places look more like they were always intended to be. Have a read of Isaiah 52. “Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion”, the prophet tells us. For your salvation has come. And it’s not just for you! This second move in our “great awakening” is all about finding our place in God’s masterplan for humanity; recognising the salvation we have received and the good news it is to the world around us, and then moving in response to that.
We go from passive to active, we move towards our world rather than check-out and retreat from it. We take responsibility, even for problems that we didn’t create, and set about making places look more like they were always intended to be.
Finally, the third movement is this: we go from “being unresponsive to external stimuli” to actually becoming a catalyst ourselves. We become a prophetic message: our lives present to the world an alternative reality of what life looks like, upsetting the balance through the kind of people we are becoming. In both Ephesians 5 (“…Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead…”) and Romans 13 (“…the hour has come for you to wake from sleep”), the writer Paul draws a line between waking up from sleep and living a holy life. It’s not about being perfect. You’re not, and never will be. It’s about cherishing what God cherishes and reflecting the glory of Jesus.
Maybe you’ve grown up thinking that words like “holiness” and “purity” are there simply to control your behaviour. But let me tell you, it’s so much more than rules and regulations; it’s sedition. It’s revolution. To a world established on the powers of darkness, our choice to live awake, to live in light, to reflect Jesus, aggressively undermines the lies that imperfect worldly structures are built upon. One of the greatest contributions you can make to the coming of the kingdom of God is to be aware of the holiness that Jesus won for you, and set your life on a course that seeks to honour and protect it.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”
– Isaiah 60:1-3
I wholeheartedly believe that a move of God in universities can reshape the very fabric of our society, that a transformed campus will in turn transform the culture. But no church programme, no resource, no outreach innovation is going to be the “silver bullet” that sees revival break out.
It’s over to us and our normal, everyday lives. It relies on us waking up to the reality that the kingdom of heaven is already at hand and that we all have our part to play in it. As you head out into this adventure of university life, I pray that you do so with your eyes open, your heart engaged and your spirit expectant for God to do immeasurably more than you could ask or imagine.
This article is taken from CAMPUS – Volume One. Order your copy now!