Wake-up call


Ring! Ring!

Do we call ourselves Christians when, in reality, we are indistinguishable from the world?

We awoke at the same time and stared at one another with bleary eyes. Who could be calling us when it was still pitch-black outside?

My friend and I were vacationing in Vanuatu. It was the first time either of us had been there and we loved it! We soon forgot about clocks, stopped looking at our phones and fell into the rhythm of “island time”. 

“It’s the world’s happiest country,” one local told me. “Yes there is poverty and unemployment . . . it is not perfect. No country is perfect. But our people are very happy.”

After a week of Bislama lessons, learning how to weave with coconut palm branches, a traditional Melanesian feast, splashing in the azure water and climbing up Mt Yasur to see an active volcano, we were pretty happy ourselves.

“I never want to leave!” my friend declared on the last night of our holiday. “Let’s just stay here forever.”

We fantasised a while about staying in Vanuatu but eventually acknowledged it was just that—a fantasy.

“Don’t forget to set your phone alarm. We need to get up early tomorrow,” I reminded her.

And that was the last thing I remember saying before the phone began to ring. 

I answered it sleepily. “Hello?”

The voice on the other end of the line was urgent. “Are you catching the early flight to Sydney? You need to wake up! The ferry is waiting!”

Wait, what? Why hadn’t the alarm woken us up? I looked over at my friend, who was already drifting back into sleep mode.

“Wake up!” I exclaimed, shaking her frantically. “We need to leave. The ferry is waiting for us and we still need to check out!”

The next few minutes were a whirlwind of frenzied activity as we scrambled into our clothes, splashed water on our faces and gave our bungalow a cursory once-over.  

When we boarded the plane we breathed sighs of relief. We’d made it. We were finally on our way. And it was all thanks to the wake-up call.

Needing that wake-up call reminds me of the parable of the 10 virgins in Matthew 25:1-13. It begins with the word “then”—a continuation of the previous passage, Matthew 24, about the signs of the second coming. 

This parable holds a solemn message for God’s people. All of the virgins were expecting the Bridegroom. They knew He was on His way but that didn’t stop them from falling asleep. Perhaps they missed the signs sent to wake them up, just as my friend and I missed hearing her alarm. Perhaps the initial excitement wore off as time went on.

The Laodicean church in Revelation 3 is admonished for being lukewarm and blind to the seriousness of their spiritual condition. As far as they are concerned they have everything they need. In reality, they are miserable, wretched, poor and naked. And they sound a lot like believers today. 

There is a growing complacency among Christians—especially those of us who have been raised in Christian homes. Many of us live in countries where we can worship freely in church, access the Bible with the swipe of a finger and share the gospel without fear of imprisonment. Yet we make comments like: “Nah, I don’t read the Bible. It’s too boring.” “I don’t have time to do devotions.” “I’m not going to Sabbath School—I’m sleeping in.” “Why should I give a Bible study? That’s what pastors get paid to do.” We shy away from talking to other people about God or standing up for what we believe in. We’d rather “fit in”.

Do we call ourselves Christians when, in reality, we are indistinguishable from the world?

My friend and I didn’t think about Australia when we were in Vanuatu. Why would we? We were surrounded by natural beauty, eating delicious food and making friends with some of the nicest people we’d ever met. But the wake-up call reminded us that that beautiful place was no substitute for our real homes. 

Jesus is coming soon. He wants to take us to our real home: heaven. Are we ready for Him to return? Or do we need a wake-up call? As Romans 13:11 says, “ . . . it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed”.

Vania Chew is acting editor of Adventist Record.