If we do not rise up early, what harm will it do to us? We are purchased by the Lord. Therefore, our body, energy, ability, wisdom, and everything belong to the Lord. Even our time is the Lord’s. If we spend our time in bed, we offend the Lord. Many people will not waste their money but will waste their time. Why should we waste our time, which is more precious than money? Is not time more precious than money? Let us realize that our time is for the Lord. Would it not be better if we rose up early and used the time to pray for others, to testify, to draw near to the Lord in fellowship, and to study the Bible?
This is not all. Common medical knowledge tells us that it is not beneficial for the body to sleep too long. Not only is overeating harmful to the body; oversleeping is also harmful to the body. If we sleep too long, our mind will not be that sharp. This is not only a neglect of the body, but also a neglect of the Lord.
The morning is the gateway to the day. If the morning gate is not properly opened, we will have a bad start, and it will be difficult to continue the day properly. If the beginning is bad, it is difficult to have a good ending. If we cannot control ourselves and bridle our lust in the matter of rising up, how can we bridle our lusts in other matters? If we cannot master our dreary eyes in the morning, how can we master other things? If we break our promise to God of rising early in the morning, what other promise can we keep that we have made to God?
Everything natural has laws. When the body is tired, it needs to rest in order to be refreshed again. The same is true spiritually. When we rise up early in the morning, we receive a fresh supply in our spiritual life. Late rising is not only harmful to our body; it is a great loss to our spiritual life. If a guest comes to visit you in the morning, and you are not properly dressed and have not washed yourself, will you not be embarrassed to meet your guest in such a sleepy state? If we do not spend time before the Lord in the morning to be properly taught by Him, but rush to our work—office workers rushing to the office, students rushing to school, doctors rushing to the hospital, and shopkeepers rushing to the shops—we will not have any spiritual strength. If we are in this condition, we are not qualified to engage in the business of the day.
Many worldly people can rise up early. Vegetable hawkers can rise up at two or three in the morning. Should we, who have been taught of God, not rise up early also? Those who sell vegetables, fritters, bean curd, and newspapers rise up at midnight or at four or five o’clock in the morning. They only do this for a little money. Unfortunately, we are not willing to rise up early even though we have more important messages to receive from God. Both sleep and food are important, but sleep as well as food can become our god.
I am not just exhorting you to rise up early at four, five, or six o’clock in the morning. There is a purpose for early rising. The reason we rise up early is to meet the Lord. This is my intention in reading Psalm 5:3 and Isaiah 50:4.
A Western missionary said once that the first thing he does in the morning is to let God hear his voice. He has done this for over forty years without skipping a single day. Every morning, his first sound is uttered to God. We often speak many things to men before we get up from our bed. We often consider this and that matter on our bed, wasting much time before we rise up. We often spend only ten minutes to contact the Lord, and a half hour to wash up and dress ourselves. Are these other things more important than contacting the Lord? The Lord can do nothing with a man who does not wait on the Lord afresh every morning, even if he understands God’s will and was once filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will not be power to him. This does not mean that the Lord cannot do anything in Himself, or that the Holy Spirit is powerless. But it means that such a person has not afforded the Lord and the Holy Spirit the opportunity. Our physical life needs to be maintained properly. In the same way, our spiritual life needs to be maintained properly. If we do not do this, the truths we receive will become merely theories to us, and will not be proven in us.
The missionary that I mentioned above said that he offers his first prayer in the morning this way: "Lord, let me rise up again, so that I can see the sun once more." Early rising is not the goal; it is for the purpose of attaining a goal. Let us communicate with God and draw near to Him before we see any person, talk to any person, or conduct any business.
Some say that early rising is for reading the Bible. Others say that it is for praying. I do not mean that we do not need to read the Bible or pray when we rise up early. I simply mean that the purpose of early rising is not for these matters, but for drawing near to God. Some have likened early rising in the Christian life to pumping gas into a car; once the tank is filled, the car can run for a few days. But the Christian life is not the life of a car, but the life of an electric tram. In order for a tram to run, the wire on the tram must be connected to the cable above the tram, or else the tram will stop and not move. The Christian life must be one that is joined to God moment by moment. Otherwise, it will stop like a tram that has been disconnected and will not move. Many people think that as long as they can have some extraordinary experience, it will carry them through for a few days. They do not realize that we have to trust in God and draw near to Him daily and moment by moment. We should rise up early every day and be revived again and again by drawing near to God through prayer and the reading of the Word.
Titus 3:5 speaks of two things: "the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit." The washing of regeneration happens only once, but the renewing of the Holy Spirit happens again and again. The washing of regeneration occurs at the time of our regeneration, but the renewing of the Holy Spirit is an anointing that enlightens us every day. Many people care about spiritual breakthroughs, but we need to touch the Lord in a continuous way more than we need breakthroughs. We should pay attention to the study of the Bible in our morning watch, but we should pay more attention to contacting the Lord. At such times, we should ask if there is any sin that has not been removed, if there is any problem that we need the Lord to solve. We should bring the things that we will face that day to Him, or any similar matters. During the day, we may have to work busily beside noisy machines in a factory, and we may not have the time to pray to God right there. Or we may be so busy during the day that we do not have the time to contact Him. But if we will spend the time in the morning to contact Him, the time in the morning will carry us through our day.
One brother said that he usually does well in the morning and not so well in the afternoon. If that is the case, can a person do well in the afternoon if he does not do well even in the morning? If he does not do well in the morning, he will surely do worse in the afternoon. But if he does well in the morning, he may have a chance of doing well in the afternoon. There is a difference between going to work after one has broken through in his prayer in the morning, and going to work without having broken through in prayer in the morning. All those who are experienced in this matter can testify to this, but this is not a matter of feeling. I am not telling you to try to feel the Lord or bring Him into your memory. Some have said, "It is true that I remember the Lord many times, but there are also times when I forget about the Lord. What should I do?" I can illustrate the point by considering our eyelids. Our eyelids alternately open and close many times during the day. Why do they do this? They do this in order to protect the eyes. If dust or sand is blown in our face, we do not have to say, "Eyelids, hurry up and close!" The eyelids will close automatically. Sometimes, someone inadvertently touches my eyes. I do not have to tell myself to protect my eyes; the eyelids spontaneously close. God said that He will protect those He loves like protecting the apple of His eye (Psa. 17:8). He will protect us. If we have a proper relationship with the Lord in the morning, we have put ourselves in a well protected position under God, and there is no need for any feeling on our part. As long as our intention is to put ourselves in a trusting and obeying position, and as long as we remove all that does not please God, He will protect us. If we do not do this, we will not grow.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 2) Vol. 21: The Christian (1934-1940), Chapter 9, by Watchman Nee)