In order to rise up early, one must go to bed early. If you cannot overcome the habit of going to bed late, you cannot rise up early. If you go to bed late and rise up early, your health will be affected; you will be tired all the day, like one floating in the clouds. Therefore, all those who desire to rise up early must overcome human affairs and attachments and go to bed early at all cost. One can set the time for going to bed at nine or ten o’clock at night. But the matter of rising up early should begin tomorrow. Do not wait until next week to begin. If you wait until next week, you will never begin.
Different people need different amounts of sleep. Some have said that on the average a person needs six hours of sleep. Others say that he needs eight hours. There can be much controversy concerning this matter. Recently an article in the newspaper said that those under twenty-eight years of age should sleep nine hours, but ordinarily the need is eight hours. If one goes to bed at ten, he can rise up at six. If one goes to bed at nine, he can rise up at five. I cannot make a decision for you; you have to decide for yourself before God. May we all learn to do this before God. Those who are psychologically weak or who cannot control their sleep are exceptions. As for the rest of us, we should find the number of hours of sleep that we need and start this practice tomorrow.
Suppose you decide to rise up at half past five tomorrow morning. When you wake up, however, it is already seven o’clock. Many young believers have probably experienced this. You may become disappointed. The best thing is to instruct your servant or someone else to wake you up in the morning. You may also spend a dollar or two to buy an alarm clock and put it beside your bed. You can also pray that the Lord would wake you up at the assigned hour. Mr. Müller said, "Every day I ask God to wake me up at a certain hour, and I always find myself waking up at that very hour." This is a word of experience.
Every morning when we wake up, we have to get out of our bed immediately. We should not wait five minutes before getting out of bed. If we do, we will not be able to get out. Proverbs 6:9-11 says, "How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: so shall thy poverty come as one that traveleth, and thy want as an armed man." Is this not the condition of many people? If we sleep a little and slumber a little, we will rise up the same time as we did before. The bed is not the place to contemplate; the place to contemplate is the study room. The bed is not the place to read books; the place to read is the reading room. The bed is not the place to plan our business; the place to plan our business is the office.
Proverbs 26:14 says, "As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed." No matter how much the door turns, it cannot move away from the hinges. The same is true with a slothful person on his bed. May the Lord be gracious to us so that we will not be slothful, turning around on the bed all the time yet never being able to get out. In the beginning when we start rising up early, our head may ache, our feet may be weak, and we may be drowsy all day and walk with unsteady steps. But after four or five days, all these will pass away. But we should not think that we are strong. After a few days, we will find that we cannot make it, and we will realize that we are very vulnerable in the matter of sleep. As men of God we often do not persevere in many things. We are weak and without perseverance. Some have asked why they cannot persevere. I would ask if they persevere in everything except the matter of early rising. I am afraid that some people do not persevere in anything. No wonder they cannot persevere in early rising. Some people cannot be persistent in anything. No wonder they cannot be persistent in the matter of rising up early. Many people cannot control themselves in many things. No wonder they cannot control themselves in the matter of rising up early. Being unfaithful and loose are simply manifestations of our flesh. The first day an athlete exercises, he may feel sore. The second day he exercises, he still may feel sore. But after a week, he will not feel sore anymore. The same is true with rising up early. As long as we develop this habit, we will not find it difficult anymore.
I remember the first year after I became a Christian. I went to see a missionary, who asked if I had read through the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation. I read by skipping from one book to another, and could therefore only answer no. She then asked if I had read through the New Testament. I said no. She then asked me what time I rose up in the morning, and I answered, "Six o’clock." She said, "You are nineteen years old now, and I am over fifty years old. For the past thirty years or more until now, I have been rising up at four o’clock every morning." I asked how she could do this. She said, "If you exercise yourself enough, your body will spontaneously behave a certain way." She went on to say, "If you rise up late, the manna will all melt away."
Mr. Müller also benefited greatly during his life by rising up early. Once he traveled to another place and lived in a brother’s home. He rose at six o’clock, but the other brother rose earlier than he did. He wondered and asked why the other brother would rise so early. The brother answered, "The book of Leviticus says that one cannot offer the dung of the sacrifices on the altar. I cannot offer my dung-hour to God." From that day, Mr. Müller prayed to have the strength to do the same. He agreed that if a young Christian does not rise early in the morning, he cannot grow.
Recently, I read from a book some words written by Mr. Andrew Murray. He said that he once read that a person must first receive the Lord; second, he must be filled with the Holy Spirit; and third, he must rise up early every morning. When he first read this, he thought the three points were unrelated. But later he realized that they were not unrelated at all. If a person is to have a sustained experience of the first and second points, he must rise up early. Otherwise, he will not enjoy what he has obtained through the first and second points.
Brothers and sisters, I will stop here. Now is the time for you to test if you can control yourselves. How great is your faith? How great is your consecration? And how great is your self-denial? If you pray for the Lord’s blessing, beginning tomorrow, you will see that the Lord will readily help you. In the morning, you should spend at least half an hour to touch the Lord. You can spend as much as an hour or even two to three hours. If you do this, you may not have a whirlwind of joy every day, but you will surely experience a peaceful sky every day.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 2) Vol. 21: The Christian (1934-1940), Chapter 9, by Watchman Nee)