The Slumber of Christianity
The Death of Our Dreams
John is forty years old and by all earthly standards a successful
man. He's happily married, has raised four children, and
owns a landscaping company that easily affords him a comfortable
life. He's also a godly man as best I can tell.
We leaned against his blue Ford F150 in my driveway after
discussing what trees would look best in my backyard. Dusk
was upon us. I took a breath and sprang a question I've asked
many godly men lately.
"Do you ever feel like all you do is work for a payday that
never seems to arrive?"
He adjusted his Rockies baseball cap and looked at me past
graying brows. I knew immediately that the question had struck
a chord. Not surprising-the question always strikes a chord. I
"I mean, think about it. Has your payday ever really arrived?"
"No, not really," he said.
"But you have money. A decent life ..."
"So what does it take to find true happiness?" I asked.
"You've lived the life, so tell me. How does someone like me
He thought a moment and then looked at the horizon introspectively.
"In the small things. A good marriage, a good family,
a good job. And church, of course. A relationship with God. In
the end, that's what counts."
"This world hands us all kinds of challenges, and without
God's strength I don't think we stand a chance. Like they say,
his strength is made perfect in our weakness. That's the key to
"But your ship has never come in, so to speak," I said. "Life
is mostly a struggle. No big payday yet. It's always just around
the corner; am I right?"
"Well ... I guess. I don't really know what-"
"You ever see The Matrix, John?" I interrupted.
"Sure. Good movie."
"What if we're asleep, like Neo was in The Matrix?" I asked.
"What if the reason we can't find any lasting satisfaction in
life is because we're all asleep to a truth that would change our
"That's the advantage Christians have," he said. "That's what
"No, John. What if Christians are asleep? What if we're
missing the point of our lives here on earth? What if the church
is asleep to a truth that would wake us from a deep slumber?
Ever think about that?"
John just stared at me.
But that didn't surprise me either. Christians often just stare
at me when I first talk to them about the slumber of Christianity.
John is the victim of a slumber that holds hundreds of millions
of Christians in the dark, unaware of their own demise.
Perhaps you know of this slumber; perhaps you don't. Either
way, any living soul who is even remotely concerned with enjoying
life this side of death needs to know about a terrible shortsightedness
that has lulled Christians by the millions into a deep
sleep. Their life in God simply isn't as thrilling as it once was,
and they've settled for that disappointment.
At its very roots, Christianity is a faith that once loudly proclaimed
hope for the downtrodden and a staggering dream of
great reward for all who believed. But in the epic battle over
mankind's souls, the dream of eternity's bliss has been buried
in the rubble of misguided teaching. The stunning dreams we
once all dreamed have become casualties of war.
The Rolling Stones had it right: I can't get no satisfaction.
Though I try and I try and I try ... I can't get no satisfaction.
I would add another phrase: Even though I'm a Christian, I
can't get no satisfaction. Though I try, and I try, and I try, I
can't get no satisfaction.
The band U2 cried out in their Joshua Tree album: But I still
haven't found what I'm looking for.
I would add more: I go to church; I've been forgiven for my
sins, but I still haven't found what I'm looking for.
Have you ever wondered what
happened to the dream that once
urged you forward without regard
for how difficult the path might
Have you ever wondered why
you no longer approach life with
the giddy happiness that once
possessed you as a child? Think
back to those early grade-school
years, when the simple fact that it
was Friday sent a thrill through your mind. Saturday was coming,
and the adventure set before you was enough to make the
last few classes drift by in a hazy blur.
Think back to the days leading up to your birthday, when
all you could think about was the day you would be king or
queen for a few hours. There would be a party and a cake and
a new bike or a new doll to celebrate.
Think back to the weeks leading up to Christmas. Your anticipation
for that final hour when you would tear into the packages
under the tree kept you awake many nights. You counted
the presents more than a dozen times, and you dreamed a hundred
dreams of what might be hiding in those boxes.
Your recollection of the true thrill you once felt may be
deadened by your slumber, but if you purposefully retrace your
memory, you'll recall those dreams you had. Why is it now so
difficult to feel any giddiness at all over the adventure that lies
As you grew older, the childhood dreams of Saturdays and
birthdays and Christmas were replaced by lifetime dreams that
you were sure would fulfill you. You dreamed of having children
who would play happily in the backyard and a spouse
who would sit with you on the porch and laugh at their antics.
You dreamed of making enough money to spend countless
hours leisurely enjoying a relaxed life, or taking in the wonders
of the world on many extended vacations.
You dreamed of a soul mate to cuddle in the mornings while
the rich aroma of coffee wafted gently through the room.
Or perhaps your dreams were more ambitious or more adventurous.
A significant ministry in which thousands would depend
on your brilliant guidance, or a career that would pay large dividends,
filled with peers who would stand in awe at your value
and skill. A large house handsomely decorated, with a Porsche
parked in a three-car garage, maybe two Porsches, or a Porsche
and a Hummer. The winning Powerball ticket that would set you
finally and completely free to buy a yacht and an island.
These are the common dreams of many.
Whatever your dreams, they were well drawn and they fueled
your ambition. They were why you followed the path you
eventually took. You went to college because an education was
necessary to satisfy your dream of becoming a physician. Or you
skipped college to marry the man or the woman who was sure
to fulfill other dreams. You leveraged what earthly possessions
you owned to purchase your first home or to buy your first car.
At some point, however, you began to suspect that those
dreams might not satisfy you as you assumed they would.
Although you dreamed of children, you're struggling with infertility,
or you have children who fill your days with worry and
You dreamed of leisure and vacations, but as it turned out,
you make barely enough money to pay the bills, much less go
on extended trips around the world. There is very little if any
leisure time in your life.
The dream of pastoring a church has long since faded or
been dashed by the very church you intended to serve. The
education required to launch you on that brilliant career as a
physician became too expensive to complete, and you settled
for far less. In the morning it's body odor, not the aroma of
coffee, that awakes you. The Porsche parked in your three-car
garage is actually a Corolla parked in a one-car stall.
Or, worse, you have fulfilled your dream of becoming a pastor,
but have found that pastoring brings more burdens than satisfaction.
You do have a brilliant career but can't seem to find
any time to enjoy its rewards, and when you do find time, the
rewards are far less satisfying than you imagined. You do own a
Porsche parked in a three-car garage, but it long ago lost its
appeal. In fact, you've achieved every dream you once conceived,
and they've all fallen short. There is nothing left to dream of. You
are in the full throes of a midlife crisis.
If you haven't reached the point where you realize that all
the promises of life fail miserably, you will soon enough.
Even a cursory glance at our society reveals the simple fact
that most people are not happily living their dreams. If they seem
to be, some simple probing reveals otherwise. A recent study of
lottery winners well makes the case. Within a mere six months of
winning large sums of money, nearly all lottery winners surveyed
characterized their lives as no more fulfilled than six months
prior to their winning.
Our magazine racks are littered with covers promising more
happiness. More satisfaction in sex, more satisfaction in relationships,
a better diet to make you feel better about yourself.
Why? Because we all want the kind of happiness we don't
have. Yet, like the ever-failing diet, the dissatisfaction always
returns, and at some point we begin to settle for less happiness
than we once dreamed of.
And what about the pleasures of this life? The pleasures that
held out great promise when you were an adolescent lose their
luster after you've had your fill of them. If we don't see the
world clearly, our lives may well become a long string of disappointments
punctuated by dwindling pleasures.
This is the human condition. This is the ultimate conclusion
of so many philosophies. This is the state of most people,
whether Christian or Muslim or Hindu. This is the honest observation
of the bumper sticker we all know so well: Life sucks,
and then you die.
But why? Why is true satisfaction so hard to grasp? And
above all, why is genuine happiness so elusive for the Christian,
who is supposed to live a fully satisfied life in Christ, brimming
with happiness and joy unspeakable?
The general failure of life to produce the happiness of achieving
dreams is especially interesting for Christians because,
judging by their actions rather than their claims, Christians on
the whole are no more happy than people of other faiths.
It's the open secret of the church-we make all kinds of
incredible claims based on the holy Scriptures, but our lives
are pretty much the same as the lives of the unchurched. We
live with the same problems and suffer the same challenges.
Look at the divorce rate as of September 2004 for an unequivocal
benchmark of the lack of satisfaction found among married
couples. According to The Barna Group, 35 percent of all
non-born-again couples end their
relationship in divorce. And what
about born-again couples? The
Talk to other Christians about
the stark similarity between the
lives of those who go to church
every Sunday and the lives of those
who do not. You may get defiance
from those who haven't been presented
with the statistics, but
you'll find the secret isn't as secretive
as it used to be. You'll get more and more sighs and nods
at suggestions that Christians aren't really so different from
non-Christians, certainly not on the scale you would expect
considering the promises of love, joy, and peace boldly pronounced
from thousands of pulpits across the land. We spend
our money on the same kinds of entertainment, we buy the
same kinds of foods and clothes, and we spend as much time
searching for purpose.
Don't misunderstand me, there are exceptions. There are
communities of thriving disciples all over the world who are
burning with passion for Christ and filled with joy at their lot
in life, pleased to be given yet one more day to sing of their
Redeemer's mercy. These are the people who groan inwardly
for the day they will meet their Creator face-to-face.
But on the whole, Christianity has failed to satisfactorily
respond to the glaring observation that Christians, despite a
tendency to describe themselves as happy, are in practice no
more happy than non-Christians. Our religion's answer has
been predictable: Seek more, sin less, and have faith. Then you
will find happiness in your marriage and on earth.
Most Christians have followed this mantra in spurts, yet
they invariably end up dissatisfied with the results. Their
marriages still fail. Their jobs are still downsized. Their cars
still break down. Their health still wanes. And they still can't
seem to find enough faith to ignore their general predicament
in life or embrace the great happiness they once had as naive
As a result, Christians settle for less and call it being content
in much the same way the world settles for less and calls it
Christianity, it turns out, looks less and less like a child's
blissful Christmas, and more and more like a long slide down
the hill of hard realities shared by humans in general.
The answer is quite simple. It begins with a wonderful, revolutionary
truth highly esteemed by the early church, but forgotten
in our day. That truth is: This life is powerless to satisfy
our dreams of great happiness and pleasure. These dreams can
be satisfied only in a mind-bending reality that awaits us in the
next life. As long as Christians are asleep to this reality, they
will search in vain for any lasting fulfillment.
Unfortunately, most Christians have fallen asleep to the
mind-bending reality that awaits us.
Christianity is in a slumber.
I'm not saying that the religion of Christianity has slipped into
slumber. I'm not saying that our faith has fallen asleep, necessarily.
I'm not speaking about any failure to live good Christian lives.
I'm not saying we all are going to hell with FedEx labels plastered
on our foreheads.
I'm simply saying that the prevailing
teaching of Christianity has
become preoccupied with finding
true pleasure and happiness and
purpose on earth rather than in the
age to come. As a result, Christians,
who are saved into a faith preoccupied
with salvation in the next
life, quickly fall asleep to the bliss
that awaits them-and their slumber makes the very happiness
they seek on earth impossible.
Most Christians are either asleep to the bliss of the afterlife
and awake to the pleasures of this life, or asleep to both. We
must awaken passion for both, because, as we will see, they
are critically dependent on each other.
The pleasures of this life and the happiness they bring have
been dealt a death blow by a systemic lack of passion for the
The gravest concern we now face is the fact that our hope
for the afterlife has slipped into slumber. Our hope for heaven
has fallen asleep. And when I say heaven, I mean Christ in
heaven, for he is the Light of heaven, of the afterlife, of all the
glory that awaits us.
In reading the New Testament,
we see the writers repeatedly expressed
their insatiable longing for
their own inheritance, the hope of
glory. For the bliss that awaited
them. But the groaning for the
afterlife so often expressed by these
early writers has become a moan of
boredom in the church today. We
are more interested in the pleasures
of this life than the bliss of the next.
Let me put it plainly: We have
here in this life many foretastes of
the bliss that awaits us, but unless
we know what those foretastes are of, they will never satisfy
us. Unless we become desperate for the bliss of the next life,
we will never enjoy this life.
The fact is, nothing in this life can satisfy unless it is fully
bathed in an obsession for eternity. Nothing. Not a purpose-driven
life, not a grand adventure, not the love of a dashing
prince or the hand of a beautiful maiden.
Not a thousand hours of leisure time or a hundred exotic
Not a great marriage or wonderful children or pets that seem
to love us dearly.
Not a large boat or an expansive celebrity mansion or a
vacation to an island in the Caribbean.
Not success or fame or the popularity we ascribe to those who
Not a large church filled with a thousand worshippers or an
expanding ministry to the poor or the healing of a thousand
Not our religion, our faith, or any version of Christianity
less focused on the prize that awaits.
These all will fail our need for unencumbered happiness. We
will always be torn and frustrated, no matter how much rejoicing
we do this side of death, unless we awaken a new passion
for heaven on earth.
The Pleasures of Life
Think of your life as a story. Without the climax of that story,
the entire experience is a disappointment.
What happens when the film breaks ten minutes before the
end of a movie you've waited
months to see? You moan with
disappointment! You demand a
refund. All that has preceded the
missing climax feels empty.
So it is with the stories of our
lives. They exist for the climax!
We, my friends, were created for
Excerpted from "The Slumber of Christianity: Awakening a Passion for Heaven on Earth" by Ted Dekker. Copyright © 2005 by Ted Dekker. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.