I previously promised four pieces of practical advice for how to regard the Lord’s day as the best day. Here is the first.
In other words, prepare for Sunday. Think about it ahead of time. Look forward, count down, and get ready.
(For some additional anticipation advice, see John Piper’s 10 Practical Preparations for Hearing the Word of God on Sunday Morning. )
In Your Schedule
I understand that life responsibilities do not cease just because it’s Sunday. But if we are serious about honoring the Lord on His day, it will require some effort on our part to forecast what needs to get done and then to do all the things we can before Sunday so that we can participate in as many the events of the body as possible without distraction.
The fact is, for most of us, Sunday is the most negotiable day we have. “I have to go to school Monday through Friday.” “I have to work during all week.” But Sunday is flexible. The corporate meeting of the church is like sand that moves around the boulders of all our other appointments and responsibilities.
We plan around other things and through Sunday. We all do it. Our vacations are (often) longer because Sunday is another day off; after all, we’ve got to be back in the office on Monday. We plan on doing homework on Sunday instead of working a little longer on another day so that we can go out on Friday/Saturday. That’s because Friday is the best day for us.
I’m not saying we can’t worship God over a weekend getaway. I’m not saying Sunday homework is an unequivocal no-no. But many times Lord’s day neglect can be preempted by a little planning.
Now what about those who have to work on Sunday? Let me answer that two ways. It is possible that it may be the case that someone must work on Sunday to support their family. I don’t desire to place unnecessary conscience cargo on persons in that position. I recommend they do what they can to change their schedule, but in the meantime, and hopefully only for a short season, they should look for as many opportunities as they can to make the Lord’s day special.
However, I believe most people do not have to work on Sunday in the first place. Many make zero effort to ask for Sundays off or switch shifts with someone. True, sometimes those things don’t work out. And they will probably argue that they need the hours. But why? My experience finds that most (maybe not all) people who need to work on Sundays “for the hours” demonstrate that their life priorities are out of line. The rest of their week is full, but not because they are slaves to some master who is squeezing every second. Instead it is because they are pursuing their own priorities. “But I’ve got school and work and family all week long. Sunday is the only day I’ve got.” My point is that what we pursue on Tuesday plays out on the Lord’s day.
We always do what we most want to do, and our schedule is a window into our wants. We have so many options. There are lots of jobs. When I described the pre-pastor time in my life when Sundays were so sweet to me, I was going to school full-time and working 30-40 hours a week. In order to steward my spiritual giftedness, serve the body, and not neglect Sunday meetings, I chose the graveyard shift. More times than I care to count I worked Saturday at 11 pm until 7 am Sunday morning, went home and went running so I wouldn’t fall asleep, attended morning worship, napped before evening worship, and returned to work at 11 pm Sunday night. Was I tired? Yes. Was that schedule optimal? No. But Sunday was the best day and I anticipated it.
Most of us don’t have to worry about that anyway. We just need to turn off the TV and go to bed at a reasonable hour so our heads will be clear and our bodies rested.
In Your Heart
The Lord’s day is a workout, not mainly because it’s a long day or there’s a lot to do, but it’s a workout because our hearts are out of spiritual shape. It is unnatural to take a whole day and focus, with full and hot affections, on someone else. Everything in our flesh pulls our attention and our affections back to ourselves. It is a trustworthy statement, if we spend the rest of our week, and especially our Saturdays and Saturday night centered on ourselves, we will resist centering on the Lord on Sunday.
We will blame the music or the preacher for not engaging us and facilitating our worship. But there is no way to please the self-centered with services that are Lord-centered. The center of those two targets are not complimentary, they are contradictory. There is no switch to flip that will instantly redirect self-affection to Him-affection.
That would be like a person laying on their couch, sucking down milkshakes and pizza all day all week long and then wondering why they were sucking wind after two minutes on the treadmill. Following that illustration, some parents make their students come to the gym once a week and it’s brutal. That’s no surprise. But if there was some anticipation and preparation in their heart they might really enjoy Sunday.
So we should anticipate in our schedule and in our heart. The following pieces will probably fall into place if the first one is laid correctly.