"So then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. " (1 Thessalonians 5:6-7).
I remember reading this verse at one time and thinking 'Wow, I'm not allowed to sleep? What's going up with that?!' Well, let's just say I was a little off on my interpretation of the passage.
This verse is in reference to the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are told to 'let us not sleep as others do', but it is not referring to a physical sleep, the rest we get at night (or day if we normally work the night shift). No, God has designed our bodies to sleep and rest each day/night so that we can rest up and be able to do our work the next day. If we did not get any sleep, we would not function very well. Ever try to do your job with only a couple hours of sleep? Studies have shown (if I remember correctly), that if a person does not get any sleep it can eventually lead to death - though I believe that this has to be a high number of nights/days without any sleep.
The version I quoted from is the NASB (New American Standard Bible), and for the word 'sober' there is a footnote that reads "or self-control". I used to think this verse backed up those who say that a Christian should not drink alcohol. However, again that is not really the context. I will just interject here long enough to state that my opinion is that one or two glasses of alcohol is ok, so long as that does not lead to intoxication. I believe that when that line is crossed to where one begins to lose self-control or becomes drunk, then that is where the sin lies. It is in drinking to excess that is wrong. So, it is meaning to make sure you are in control of yourself. When you are drunk you are not in control, even if you think you are.
What the verse is saying is that we need to have self-control so that we can be prepared for the coming of Christ, because we do not know when this will happen. Much like Jesus says, that in the last days it will be "just like the days of Noah" (Matt. 24:37), people will be "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away..." (Matt. 24:38-39) The people in Noah's day were not prepared for the judgment of the flood. Had they been prepared, there would have been more people saved that day.
So too, we must be prepared. It is ok to eat, drink, marry...but we need to make sure that our spiritual life is in order. We need to be doing what the Lord has asked us to do. We need to be obedient to Him, to "go into the world making disciples", to serve others as Jesus did; to love our neighbours as ourselves; to have no other gods before Him...and it goes on. However, I wish to say that in doing these things in obedience, we will not be saved. There is only one way to become saved, and that is through the belief in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection, and that He is who He says He is.
Because no one knows the day or hour when Jesus will return - we need to be prepared so that when He does come, we will not realize too late and not be able to do anything about it. So, be prepared and get right with God. Your future depends upon it!