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Evangelism and Physical Fitness: Solutions to Sleeplessness

26 Jul

Last week in “Sleep and Evangelism”, we took a look at a few of the medical benefits to sleep and how it affects our daily lives (including our ability to effectively share the Gospel with those around us).  We discussed the role it plays in healing our bodies, spurring creativity, and improving our memories. Clearly, God had a purpose when He created sleep.  So what do we do if we aren’t getting enough?  Here are some good ideas:

  1. Take a good look at your schedule.  If your day is packed from dawn to dusk or filled with tasks that keep you awake until different times each night, you’ve likely found the reason for your restlessness.  Prayerfully consider which activities are really important… then let the rest go.  Remember that there is a time and a season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8), so even if you have to let an opportunity fall by the wayside now, it doesn’t mean that it will remain there forever.  If reducing your workload isn’t possible, try creating a sleep schedule that will at least help you get to bed at the same time each night.  Just adding a dependable rhythm to your slumber can make a huge difference in its quality![1]
  2. Put the electronics away.  Studies show that the light emitted by devices like laptops, iPods, and television sets actually prevents our bodies from emitting the hormone melatonin… which helps us fall asleep.[2]  Try putting these devices away an hour before bed.  Then use the spare time for ritual pre-bed tasks like reading a devotional or brushing your teeth.
  3. Eat right and don’t eat late.  While going to bed hungry isn’t good, neither is going to bed too full.  Try making dinner your last opportunity to eat each day.  And don’t only make it your last meal, make it a healthy one.  You may be surprised at how much your diet and eating habits impact your slumber![3]
  4. Exercise.  Even a little conscientious stretching can set the rhythm necessary for a good night’s sleep.  Before you panic about needing to pump iron before bed, however, take a look at the National Sleep Institute’s 2013 poll.  Participants indicated that restful nights weren’t dependent on when during the day they worked out, just that they did![4]  A simple decision to take the stairs instead of the elevator or ride your bike instead of catching the bus can make a big difference.
  5. Count sheep… or better yet, say your prayers.  While it might sound disrespectful at first, prayer can play a vital role in taking our minds off the concerns that plagued us during the day, placing our focus back on God… exactly where it belongs!  This helps to shut down the ever-turning wheels of our brains, allowing us to relax and get the sleep we so desperately need.

These, of course, are only a few suggestions.  If you’d like a few more, take a look at the articles footnoted in this post.  You’re sure to find some great ideas that will set you on the path to getting the sleep you need if you’re going to live a life that brings glory to God!

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Evangelism and Physical Fitness: Sleep and Evangelism

19 Jul

Sleep is a natural part of our bodies’ rhythm, a need hard-wired into us by our Creator.  Overindulging the need is sinful, but ignoring it is equally so.  Last week in “Evangelism and Physical Fitness”, we took a very brief look at what the Bible has to say about the important role that sleep plays in our lives.  Far from being a random commandment, God’s concern for our rest has a solid basis in human physiology.  Scientists have told us much about the value of sleep in our lives.  Here’s a look at just a few of its benefits along with some thoughts on how those benefits help us to be better evangelists!

  1. Our bodies do much to repair the ravages of the day while we slumber.  Muscles damaged by use are knit back together and injuries are healed.  The result is that those who get regular, quality sleep heal faster and are more capable of performing the physical tasks necessary for a productive life.  This is important to us as “spiritual warriors” because no combatant, no matter how skilled, is able to fight a battle that they don’t have the energy to show up for!
  2. Our bodies and minds are deeply interconnected, so it should come as no surprise that what influences one often times influences the other – and sleep is no exception.  It is during sleep that memories from the preceding day are consolidated.  This helps us to better recall information when it’s time to take a test or put a new skill into practice.  The value of this should be evident.  Those who wish to find success in school, the workplace, or as evangelists, need to be able to remember and use what they have learned.
  3. Sleep decreases irritability.  People who receive sufficient rest are more capable of viewing situations in a logical fashion and have shown an increased ability to control their physical responses.  (Indeed, it appears that driving tired may be far more dangerous than driving drunk![1]  Now imagine going through an entire day like this!)  The result is that more rest generally equals less erratic action both physically and emotionally.  The end product is an improvement not only in the quality of our work, but also in the quality of our relationships – something of vital importance to the evangelist.  After all, what good is sharing the Gospel if our lives don’t reflect the patience and love of Christ?
  4. Sleep improves our ability to pay attention to what happens around us when we are awake.  We are more likely to notice details and recognize potential dangers in advance.  The result is that we remember more of what we see or study.  As Christian warriors, this attention to detail is vital to our ability to recognize opportunities to share the Good News of the Gospel with others.  It also increases our ability to learn from each experience.
  5.  Sleep spurs our creative problem-solving abilities.[2]  This means that we’re less likely to commit the “insanity” of trying the same thing over and over, expecting different results each time.  It also means that we’re more likely to think of new and more efficient ways to accomplish the tasks at hand – whether those tasks involve creating a better model for customer service, developing a more efficient robotic hand, or finding the most appropriate way to address a skeptic’s questions.

Obviously, the benefits of sufficient sleep are enormous!  So what should you do if you aren’t getting enough sleep?  We’ll take a look at some solutions next week.  Meanwhile, feel free to share your own experiences with sleep enhanced/deprived evangelism in the comment box below!

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: The Biblical Value of Sleep

12 Jul

In our fast-paced society, resting often gets the short shrift.  There are only twenty-four hours in the day and most of us wake up each morning with plenty of work to fill every one of them!  There are chores to be done, studies to be completed, relationships to be developed, and work to do.  Because of this, it really isn’t that surprising that nearly 41 million American workers (and many more American students) aren’t getting enough sleep![1]  Indeed, according to one recent survey, up to 83% of us aren’t getting quality rest on a regular basis.[2]  We know it’s bad for our health, but is it actually unbiblical?  And how does this lack of sleep influence our ability to fight our spiritual battle?

The Bible actually has quite a bit to say about the value of sleep and, while we might be drawn to passages like Proverbs 6:4-11, 10:5, and 19:15 to justify our lack of sleep, it is laziness, not sleep deprivation which the author is attacking.  Indeed, Scripture has much to say about the sweetness of sleep, particularly the type of sleep which is derived from a life lived in line with God’s commands.  Take, for example, Proverbs 3:19-24:

“The LORD by wisdom founded the earth, by understanding He established the heavens. By His knowledge the deeps were broken up and the skies drip with dew. My son, let them not vanish from your sight; keep sound wisdom and discretion, so they will be life to your soul and adornment to your neck. Then you will walk in your way securely and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.”

Or what about Proverbs 19:23?

“The fear of the LORD leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.”

The Apostle Paul asked the Corinthian church, “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”  (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)  Obedience to this command requires us not only to consider issues like our sexual practices and what we eat, but also how we care for our bodies in other ways through physical activity… and lack thereof.

God took special care in ordering our days to give us time for sleep and rest.  (Take a moment to look up the creation account in Genesis 1 or the Sabbath commands of Exodus 16:22-30, Exodus 20:9-11, and Deuteronomy 5:12-15 for greater details concerning the important rhythm of work and rest which God intended.)  For Christians, this means that we take the time to ensure that we are getting the rest we need.  But this isn’t just a random command; there are practical medical reasons for rest and those medical reasons can have a strong influence on our ability to effectively share God’s love with others.  We will take a look at a few of these reasons next week.  Meanwhile, take time to share a few of your own thoughts on the value of sleep in the comment box below!

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