Last night, Awaken City Church's youth group was officially given a name: Wake. I understand if you just groaned slightly because, at first glance, this seems to be just a lazy alteration of the church's name. In fact, that's why this name was passed over for so long. For some reason, it kept coming back to me, though. This prompted me to really think about the definitions of the word and look at its merits on their own. After some discussion, the leadership agreed that this name was a fit. Hopefully, you will, as well.
1. "To become roused from sleep" or "To become aware of something"
"Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."
Waking and sleeping are used many times throughout the Bible as images of death and life. Jesus did it himself a few times: when Lazarus died, Jesus asserted that he was simply sleeping (John 11:11), and when word came that a man's daughter died while he was in the middle of seeking healing, Jesus likewise said that she was only asleep (Mark 5:39). We were all dead to our sins until made alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-5). It could be said that Jesus wakes us from our spiritual sleep to be truly awake to the reality of God.
Once we are saved, it is God that reveals to us what is and is not acceptable, what is darkness and what is light (Ephesians 5:10-11). Through him, we become aware of truth to a more significant degree even after our salvation.
2. "To rouse from sleep"
So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
God will use us in his work to wake others. In this passage, Ezekiel had a vision of a valley filled with dry, brittle bones. God commanded him to prophesy, so he did. In his obedience, God used him in the spiritual work that was to be done.
If we saw a man telling a large pile of bones that they were going to come alive, we would likely think that he's crazy. And, of course, the bones would probably sit there being bones, not having an opinion of anything. "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." Outside of God, we are just as powerless in the work of salvation for others as we are for ourselves.
The Father sent the Son to offer salvation (John 3:16). The Holy Spirit convicts of sins (John 16:8-13). God doesn't need us for any step. Yet he wants to (and will) use us, anyway. If God wanted to actually raise an army from a valley filled with dry bones, he wouldn't need a human to make it happen. But he still asks for our participation, for our obedience in the work of waking those that are still asleep.
3. "The path or course of anything that has passed or preceded"
And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.
When the Israelites were wandering in the desert, God placed this pillar to go before them, to make a way for them. By following his cloud and fire, they knew the way that they should be traveling. They weren't traveling 24/7, of course. When they stopped to rest, God did not leave them behind. His sign stayed, although they would go to sleep with it in one form and have it in another when they woke up.
Likewise, we can trust that God is making a way for us. If we put our trust in him, and follow in the path he has made for us, we can be certain that we will never lose our way.
4. "The track of waves left by a ship or other object moving through water"
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men...
Just as it is impossible to move through water without creating at least the smallest of ripples, it is impossible to live your life without impacting those around you. The only question is if your impact will be for the benefit or detriment of those around you. Will your wake be like a speedboat's: able to launch a wakeboarded into greater heights than they could get on their own? Will your wake be like a cruise ship's next to a dinghy: able to flip them upside and wreck their day?
Our focus should be on pleasing our Heavenly Father with everything we do, in every moment of life, in every situation. By doing this, we are not a slave to our circumstances and emotions. Instead, we can be sure that the wake we are creating will be lasting and good.
5. "To keep watch or vigil"
Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
Toward the latter part of what is recorded in Matthew 24, Jesus told the disciples that his return would come unexpectedly using a variety of images. One is of a servant that is given a duty in his master's house. If his master shows up suddenly and finds the servant fulfilling what was asked and required of him, he will be given even more authority (Matthew 24:46). Jesus said that it would be significantly worse for the servant found to not be steadfast in his duties (Matthew 24:48-51).
We don't know how much time we have to make an impact for the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus could return at any moment. You or I could die before you finish reading this sentence. Someone could simply exit your life for a wide variety of reasons. Our lives are fleeting. Every moment, every decision counts.
If a watchman was put in charge of a post and fell asleep, it was very common for the punishment to be death. This may seem harsh, but his job was extremely important: he was the first line of defense against attacking armies. If he was asleep, starting to doze off or simply daydreaming, he wasn't likely to notice any danger, much less sound the alarm. This lack of dedication could lead to considerably more bloodshed. A good watchman remained awake and vigilant so he could spot any sign of danger.
We, as Christians, are to remain vigilant in our walk after God. He calls us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16). We can't be aware of the dangers to our spiritual walk if we are allowing ourselves to doze off between church services. We must wake.