Do you know someone who repeatedly makes questionable or immoral decisions even though they should know better?
“This person loves Jesus, and they know what the Bible says. Why do they keep acting this way? Why do they keep sinning?”
Or maybe you are the one struggling with your morality. Perhaps you have started to notice that the Bible says one thing, and you are comfortable going in another direction.
“I know this isn’t what God wants, but somehow I keep doing it. I keep making decisions that don’t line up with my relationship with Him. WHY?”
When we find ourselves repeatedly doing unholy things, it is likely we have what John and Paula Sandford describe as a slumbering spirit. Our spirit has fallen asleep in certain areas, and it needs to wake back up.
What Does a Slumbering Spirit Look Like?
Only parts of the spirit sleep. Some people have more sleeping parts than others. If someone’s whole spirit were slumbering, they could not live.
When a person’s spirit is asleep, it is like they lose their morality. Not across the board, but in the parts where the spirit is sleeping. Their mind still works, and their emotions are operational, but their spirit is dysfunctional because it is in a sleep state.
The person could be incredibly anointed and even be ministering in the gifts of the Spirit, but because they are asleep in specific areas, they are incapable of functioning well in those areas. Maybe they lie, cheat on their spouse, or constantly spend money they don’t have, and whenever someone confronts them about it, they get defensive.
Many of the issues we see and are horrified by in the Church exist because so many spirits are slumbering! People in this condition are so entrapped in their lifestyles that it is like they are zombies that need to be awakened from the dead.
Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you. (Eph. 5:14 ESV)
If we don’t address the areas where we are slumbering, our heart hardens in those areas, and we end up doing the very things we tell people not to do. We know it’s wrong to lie, but we tell lies. Or we know it’s wrong to commit adultery, but we do it anyway. We feel bad when we get caught, but there is no true change.
Many Christians are basically sleepwalking in the spirit. The Holy Spirit might be saying, “This behavior doesn’t look like Me,” but they can’t hear Him. Just as a conversation between a husband and wife stops when one of them falls asleep, those with a slumbering spirit have difficulty hearing what the Holy Spirit is saying.
What Causes the Spirit to Fall Asleep?
Every person is conceived with a wide-awake spirit, but that spirit needs to be kept awake. That is the parents’ job. It falls especially to the father, who is meant to love and accept the child and encourage them in their identity. “This is who you are, and I value who you are. I’m not going to force you to be something you aren’t or don’t want to be.”
If being awake is too painful for a child’s spirit, it begins to fall asleep. This can happen when our parents don’t value us, when we are rejected, when we are forced to be something we aren’t, etc.
Becoming More Human
According to Romans 13:11–14, when our spirit is awake, we “put on” Jesus. He is visible in who we are, and we live according to His nature.
But when our spirit falls asleep, we put on the flesh and live according to what our flesh wants.
Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (ESV)
A lot of people make mistakes and joke, “Well, I’m only human.” But that is actually backward thinking. When we make hurtful, unethical, or immoral decisions, these things come out of our inhumanity, not our humanity.
St. Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” A slumbering spirit is the result of not coming into our full humanity. To be human is to have an awakened spirit by which we identify and empathize with others. We are able to become one with them, and we cherish the beauty in them even more than our own life (John 15:13).
To be fully human can be defined with one word: Jesus. We all have sinned and fall short of God’s ideal, but He wants to save us from our sins and restore us to a right relationship with Him. That is the fullness of humanity—the very thing we were created for. So, as we become more like Jesus, we become more human.
How to Awaken a Slumbering Spirit
Escaping the trap of a slumbering spirit doesn’t happen because of a person’s mental stamina or their decision to suddenly start obeying all the rules. “From this day forward, I am going to do what I’m supposed to do, no matter what.” No.
A slumbering spirit needs two basic things: to be loved to life and to do fun things it enjoys. Let’s look at each of these more closely.
- A slumbering spirit needs to be loved to life.
Ideally, healthy parents raise healthy children, and the spirit doesn’t ever drift into slumber in any area. If a person’s spirit is slumbering, it needs what it didn’t receive during childhood: it needs to be loved to life. If the parents can’t do this for whatever reason, then the Church needs to do it.
All of us need good, strong, healthy friendships with people who are patient and won’t give up on us.
- A slumbering spirit needs to do fun things it enjoys.
What makes your heart feel joyful and alive? What do you enjoy doing?
- Hanging out with friends
- Going on hikes
- Spending time out in nature
- Reading great books
- Listening to music
- Writing poetry
- Fixing up old cars
- Having deep conversations with friends
If your spirit is slumbering, regularly doing at least one thing it enjoys can start to wake it back up.
Legalism says, “I don’t need to do things I enjoy! I’m powerful and strong without enjoyment!” But legalism is actually one of the big reasons a person’s spirit falls asleep in the first place.
What Does an Awakening Spirit Look Like?
As our spirit begins to shake off its slumber, here are two things that can happen. First, we begin to notice the beauty around us. The beautiful things seem more real. “Wow. I never noticed this before!”
Second, we will become more sensitive to how we are hurting other people. In the past, we might not have noticed how our actions affected them—but now we notice! And it bothers us. We don’t want to hurt them anymore.
Waking Up Is a Choice
Waking up a slumbering spirit comes down to our choice. Do we want to be healed in this area? Do we want to come alive again and have our heart start to beat again?
No one can force us to wake up, but we can be invited to life. That is why relationships are so important. We need to put ourselves in environments that welcome us and invite us out of slumber and into the light of Christ.
Awake, O sleeper! Awake. There is beauty all around you, and you will be able to see it when your heart is beating again.
Does this subject interest you? Much of this article was adapted from John and Paula Sandford’s book Awakening the Slumbering Spirit. If you want to learn more, click here.
You can also purchase their teaching on the subject (as part of the Transformation Series). Click here.