Early in the Morning

clouds

 

Richard Hollerman 

A Matter of Priorities 

Do you glorify God in the morning? 

Do you begin the day with joy, worship, hope, and expectation? 

How can you walk with God early in the morning? 

What familiar Bible characters arose early in the morning?

It may surprise you to discover the many references in the Bible to people who arose early in the morning for various reasons.  This may be of interest to us since contemporary people seem to value sleeping longer in the morning, particularly on the weekends.  Since people had no electric lights in the past, they would generally go to sleep earlier than we do, thus they were prepared to awaken earlier to begin their day.  Besides this, it seems that diligent and responsible people simply wanted to get up early and begin their daily activities.

I’ve not always been a “morning person” but kept a more traditional schedule in the past.  At one time, I worked entirely  through the night, thus my sleeping time was very irregular—as well as unhealthy.  At other times, I worked until 10 PM, or 11 PM, or even 1 PM.  I would immediately go home to bed, but I just couldn’t get up as early then as I do now.  At another time, I had to begin work at 6 AM, and the only way I could fit in a one-hour run, a shower, and a substantial breakfast was to rise around 3 AM or 3:30 AM—much earlier than I would have preferred!

Sleeping schedules are different for different people.  I had a friend who would rise about 2 AM and went to work in the middle of the night.  Admittedly this is very different from the average person.  We are told that the average American gets about seven to seven and one-half hours of sleep a night.  If this typical person goes to bed at 11 PM, he would rise around 6 or 6:30 in the morning.  But some professions (nurses, police, firemen, all-night store workers, and others) regularly work through the night, then must sleep during the day.  (Studies do indicate that late night workers have more health problems and those who work all three shifts have the most health issues.)   Some of the disciples of Jesus had been fishermen and they worked through the night (Luke 5:4-5; John 21:3-4), thus they must have slept during the day.

In New Testament times, the work day began about six in the morning.  For example, the landowner “went out early in the morning” to hire laborers.  They began at 6 AM and worked until 6 PM—a very long day according to modern standards!  Today, most jobs begin about 7 AM or 8 AM or even 9 AM, then people are able to get off around 3 PM to 6 PM.

Those who Arose Early in the Day

 

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Let’s notice now how leading people of the Bible often were early-risers.  This surely is more than coincidence.  When we look at Scripture, we discover that men and women valued the early morning and took advantage of it to accomplish their goals.  Notice the following examples:

1.     Abraham “arose early in the morning” to check on the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:27-28).

2.     Abraham “rose early in the morning” to send Hagar on her journey, having received instructions from God to do so (Genesis 21:14).

3.     Abraham “rose early in the morning” to fulfill God’s command to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice (Genesis 22:3).

4.     Jacob “rose early in the morning” to set up a pillar at Bethel (Genesis 28:18).

5.     God told Moses, “Rise early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh (Exodus 8:20; cf. 9:13).

6.     Moses “arose early in the morning” to build an alter to sacrifice to God after he wrote the law of the Lord (Exodus 24:4).

7.     Moses “rose up early in the morning” to climb Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments from God (Exodus 34:4).

8.     Joshua “rose early in the morning” to lead Israel across the Jordan River (Joshua 3:1).

9.     Joshua “rose early in the morning” to lead Israel around the city of Jericho (Joshua 6:12).

10.  Joshua and Israel “rose early at the dawning of the day” to march around Jericho on the last day before God brought victory (Joshua 6:15).

11.  Joshua “arose early in the morning” to deal with the unfaithfulness of Achan (Joshua 7:16).

12.  Joshua “rose early in the morning”  to conquer the town of Ai (Joshua 8:10).

13.  Elkanah and Hannah arise early in the morning” to worship and travel home from Jerusalem (1 Samuel 1:19).

14.  David “arise early in the morning” to travel to the Israelite battle where he killed Goliath (1 Samuel 17:20).

15.  King Hezekiah “arose early” to go to the house of God to offer sacrifices after the finding of the Law of God (2 Chronicles 29:20).

16.  Ezra the priest read from the book of the law to the people “from early morning until midday” (Nehemiah 8:3).

17.  The Lord Jesus Christ arose “in the early morning, while it was still dark,” and left the house to pray in a secluded place (Mark 1:35).

18.  Jesus rose and went to the temple “early in the morning” to teach the people (John 8:2).

19.  The women followers of Jesus, “at early dawn,” went to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus (Luke 24:1; cf. v. 22; John 20:1).

These passages make it clear that many people described in the Scriptures awakened early to begin their day or to accomplish an important task.  Even Jesus rose early in the morning to pray!

We may find it difficult to awaken early because we go to bed so lake.  The ubiquitous electric lights enable us to keep awake all night long if we wish!  It is one thing if we find late nights productive, but it is another thing if we stay up to waste time.  (Television has radically changed the way people look at sleep and the way they use their nighttime hours.)  If we stay up until very late for no good purpose, then say in bed until late in the morning, we may fall under the warnings against slothfulness:

·       The “sluggard” (lazy and slothful person) turns in his bed (Proverbs 26:13).

·       The lazy man loves sleep too much (Proverbs 19:15).

·       The one who sleeps too much will suffer harm (Proverbs 20:13).

·       The one who sleeps too much may become poor (Proverbs 24:33-34).

·       The one who sleeps too much may become a chronic sluggard (Proverbs 6:9-11).

·       The one who sleeps at the wrong time acts shamefully (Proverbs 10:5).

Although late-sleeping can be a habit (and addiction) that is hard to break, it can be broken with the right motivation and the help of God.  It is helpful to examine the life and ways of the ant: “Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise” (Proverbs 6:6).  “The ant illustrates the basic characteristics which are lacking in those who are slothful—initiative, self-direction, respect for seasons, the ability to finish jobs, and the foresight that is necessary in planning for the future” (Research in Principles of Life: Advanced Seminar Textbook, Institute in Basic Life Principles, p. 238).

It has always helped me to remember that the faithful men and women of the Bible were generally early-risers.  Since I have always had an earnest desire to serve the Lord, learn from the Lord, and work for the Lord, I could see the futility of wiling away unproductive hours in bed when there was a massive amount of work to do for the Lord waiting for me each day!  As the song by M.W. Spencer puts it, “There is much to do, there’s work on every hand” (Lord, Send Me).  Life was too exciting and meaningful to throw away time needlessly!  We must remember, of course, that we do need sufficient sleep to maintain good mental, emotional, and physical health, thus lack of sleep is not necessarily a virtue.  But some people do get too much—which also results in poor health and an extreme waste of precious time!  To cite the little verse that has much meaning:

Only Just a Minute

I have only just a minute, 

Only sixty seconds in it. 

Forced upon me— 

can’t refuse it. 

But it’s up to me to use it. 

I must suffer if I lose it, 

Give account if I abuse it.

Just a tiny little minute, 

But eternity is in it!

Slothfulness or lack of respect for time can be a problem to most of us.  “Anyone can become its victim.  Its gradual development begins unnoticed; and if left unchecked, slothfulness will disable those who obey its promptings.” (The following portion is found in Advanced Seminar Textbook, mentioned above.)

Latent slothfulness

Latent slothfulness is the inward tendency to reject God’s requirement for diligent labor.  This tendency requires instant obedience [to God’s will through the Spirit].

Initial slothfulness

Initial slothfulness is selecting the soft choices in daily decisions.  This type of slothfulness requires accountability to others for the completion of projects.

Disabling slothfulness

Disabling slothfulness is allowing little surrenders each day to become a habitual way of life.  This slothfulness requires the discipline of going without food in order to clarify goals and reach objectives.

If necessary, be accountable to others for getting up at a given time.  Resist the temptation to get just a little more sleep.  Do not even learn how to use the “doze” button on your alarm clock.  When you wake up, get up!

Life is a race against time.  We will only win the race if we realize the following:

·       Time is limited.

·       Death is certain.

·       The second coming of Christ is even more certain.

·       The maximum number of productive years is established by God.  “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years.  Or if due to strength, eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).

·       Days must be counted.  “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

·       Time requires accountability.

·       Time is entrusted for God’s work.  “Night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4).

·       Time is unrecoverable.

(This ends the portion taken from the Advanced Seminar Textbook, pp. 238-239.)

Scriptures on Diligence

I’ve found that not only the above principles but various scriptures are helpful as we consider the value of time and the need to use every available moment for the Lord.

·       “Not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11). The ESV puts it: “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”  Let’s be diligent and zealous in our activities.  Let’s be fervent in spirit through the Holy Spirit.  Let’s serve the Lord continually and not get sidetracked by the numerous worldly activities that compete for our attention.

·       “Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).  Instead of sleeping our life away, instead of sluggishly going through life, instead of being filled with lethargy, let’s make the most of our limited time.  Let’s have something to get us out of bed in the morning! Let’s live for eternity!

·       “We desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:11-12).  Notice especially the fact that we are to be “diligent” and not “sluggish.”  We are to imitate those who have faith and patience and thus inherit God’s promises.  In the Christian life—the life lived with and in Christ Jesus—there is no place for a lackadaisical attitude.  We are to be diligent and earnest in our walk with the Lord.

I’ve often been encouraged by the example of various ones who seemed to have indefatigable zeal in their life commitment.  We may not admire or appreciate aspects of their life, but we can yet strive to accomplish something for the Lord ourselves.  It has been said that John Wesley, who lived into his 80s, traveled a forth of a million miles on horseback, wrote dozens and dozens of books (some of which were written on horseback!), and would rise at 4 AM and preach his first sermon by 6 AM!  Martin Luther, likewise, was a voluminous reader and writer and produced much in his lifetime.  John Calvin also accomplished a massive amount of work in his short life.  Although we believe that all of these were false teachers and should not be followed in many of their teachings, we can see that it is possible to devote ourselves to the Lord’s work ourselves and do much for Him and His glory.

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Practical Pointers on Early Rising

Perhaps you are the head of the house, as the husband and father, or maybe you are a single mother.  Or maybe you are a single person, having never married.  In these cases, you have more freedom to set your own schedule and keep it.  If you are in other, more restricted, circumstances, your options are more limited; yet, you can still do something.  I would recommend the following suggestions:

1.     Search the Scriptures to learn more about what God wants of you and your life.  Discover the lifestyle that the Lord would have you adopt and think through how you may initiate it (Ephesians 5:15).

2.     Repent of all of the compromises you have made in the past. If you have been lazy in the work of the Lord or in your life in general, now is the time to repent of this.  Then humbly and openly confess this compromise to God, seeking His forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:9).

3.     Do all you can to begin a healthy lifestyle.  This would include renouncing junk foods, having a better and more nutritious diet, losing weight (70 percent of Americans are overweight), beginning an exercise program, and maintaining a healthy way of living.  (See our upcoming book, Helpful Hints on Health and Why I Don’t Eat Junk Food!)

4.     Plan to get to bed earlier.  This depends somewhat on your life situation, of course (whether you are married, are living in a family situation, have Christian or unbelieving family members, etc.), and whether other family members are supportive of your well-intentioned plans.  But you can’t get up early unless you go to bed earlier.

5.     Do all you can to sleep better.  Read articles on insomnia to see what can be done to promote better and deeper sleep.  You can do much to promote restful sleep.  With a good night’s sleep, you will be able to get up earlier.

6.     Awake earlier and with enthusiasm.  If you have gotten to bed earlier and received a good and sound night’s sleep, you should be able to rise much earlier than in the past.  Personally, I awake early (presently, I try to wake up about 4:30 in the morning), do a few minor exercises, take a one-hour brisk walk (while praying and praising or listening to Bible teaching), do a few more exercises, take a refreshing shower, and then have a good, nutritious breakfast.  This enables me to begin the day with the Lord.  You can use your own individual schedule, according to you needs, your work schedule, and the family schedule.

7.     Try to get your exercise in at this time.  Physical activity will promote good health and also awaken your body for the day’s activities.  This can be done later—maybe after you return from work—but studies show that those who exercise early in the day are more likely to continue with the program.

8.     Eat a nutritious breakfast that will promote health.  This should give your body the energy that it needs to run properly throughout the morning hours.  Remember that our Lord prepared food for the seven apostles and said to them, “Come and have breakfast” (John 21:12).

9.     If you lead a family, begin the day with the Lord.  Our family situations are somewhat different.  But if you are a man who leads the family or a woman who leads her family without a husband, you can use the morning time to focus your attention on God and His Word.  Guide the family in “family devotions” or Bible reading and prayer.  This may be as little as ten minutes or as long as perhaps an hour.  This will mean that you—as head and leader—will need to get up much earlier than the rest of the family, especially if you exercise and shower and if you prepare the breakfast yourself.

Have we been able to implant some seeds of thought into your heart in this little booklet?  Does this make sense?  We think that it makes a lot of sense, especially as we compare this faith-filled, godly, righteous, Christ-centered, Bible-based scenario to the common American scenario of getting up at the last moment and rushing out of the house in ten minutes.  Fill your morning with the Lord instead of letting Him out of your life and the life of your family.  Begin the day with Godly priorities and the remainder of the day will go better!  Remember these Scriptural verses:

·       “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:6).

·       “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I wait for Your words” (Psalm 119:147).

·       “In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch” (Psalm 5:3).

·       “I, O LORD, have cried out to You for help, and in the morning my prayer comes before You” (Psalm 88:13).

·       “My soul waits for the Lord, more than the watchmen for the morning; indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning” (Psalm 130:6).

Quotations on Early Rising

You might find the following quotations from various speakers and writers to be interesting.

·       “Cultivate the habit of early rising.  It is unwise to keep the head long on a level with the feet” (Henry David Thoreau, 1817-1862).

·       “Few ever live to old age, and fewer still ever became distinguished, who were not in the habit of early rising” (J. Todd).

·       “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” (Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790).

·       “Next to temperance, a quiet conscience, a cheerful mind and active habits, I place early rising as a means of health and happiness” (source unknown).

·       “Lose an hour in the morning, and you will be all day hunting for it” (Richard Whately).

·       “The sun has not caught me in bed in fifty years” (Thomas Jefferson).

·       “The time just before dawn contains the most energy of all hours of the day.  This has helped me become an early riser and an early doer…. When I wake to see that it’s light out already, I feel like the world has started without me” (Terri Guillemets).

·       “I love the sweet smell of dawn—our unique daily opportunity to smell time, to smell opportunity—each morning being a new beginning” (Terry Guillemets).

·       “I used to love night best but the older I get the more treasures and hope and joy I find in mornings” (Terri Guillemets).

 

 

 

 

 

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