The city was protected by a mountain fortress. When enemies attacked, the people of Sardis would flee to the fortress, with the steep rock face of the mountainside protecting them from all foes. With vigilant sentries guarding the walls, the fortress was impenetrable.
It was a different story, however, when those guards were asleep. After Croesus had unsuccessfully attacked the Persian army of Cyrus, he fled to his citadel to wait out the siege. Cyrus offered a reward to any of his men who could find a way to penetrate the fortress walls. One of the Persian soldiers saw a guard drop his helmet, climb down to retrieve it and climb back up. That night, the Persians used the same route to scale the mountain and attack the fortress. To their surprise, when they arrived at the top, all of the people of Sardis were asleep, including the soldiers. The conquest was swift and almost effortless.
In the New Testament, the people of Sardis were sent a message by Jesus: Wake up! "Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you" (Revelation 3:3). The Christians there had become complacent and needed to be awakened.
I need that sometimes as well. My daily routine and the rhythm of the world around me lull me into a spiritual slumber. I begin to "go with the flow," letting my circumstances dictate how I will feel and what I will do.
I need that spiritual alarm clock that cries "Wake up!", reminding me that drifting my way through life can only lead to disaster. I have to consciously think about priorities, consciously plan to resist pressures to conform and actively choose to be a person of faith. If I don't wake up, complacency will creep upon me by night, overwhelming my defenses and destroying all that I hold dear.