30 Oct Suggestions for a Soul-Satisfying Sunday
by Andy Dunkerton
– Have you ever caught yourself thinking or saying something like this…
“I just can’t worship when…”
“I just can’t worship today because…”
“I’m just not getting much from the preaching because…”
“I’m just not going to church today because…”
Do you recognize the condition I’m describing? You might call it being in a “worship-funk” or a “church-funk.” It’s Christians acting toward church the way Eeyore acts towards life in the Hundred Acre Wood or a twelve year old boy acts towards getting dressed up for a wedding. It’s hard to see or feel anything good. Everything’s sour. There’s little joy, little delight in worship, the Word or the fellowship of brothers and sisters in Christ.
It’s troubling to hear real Christians speak or act this way about the worship of God and the gatherings of His people on the Lord’s Day. It’s not a good place to be for any length of time. So it’s especially troubling when Christians remain in this state for weeks, months, even years and appear insensitive both to the wrongness of it and the danger of it.
Honestly, it’s astonishing how negative we can become, how childish, how distracted, how blind, how far-removed from the place of healthy, positive enjoyment of God, His Word, His people and His holy day. We need our perspectives refreshed, our attitudes adjusted.
With that aim in view, I want to offer just three suggestions for the enjoyment of soul satisfying Sundays (starting with this coming Sunday!). Whether you’ve been in the “worship-funk” or not, I hope these thoughts will encourage us all in a God-honoring approach to the delights of His Day.
1) Come to worship in obedience to God
Perhaps the greatest problem with the “worship-funk” is that it’s simply not allowed! Worship, the intake of the Word and meaningful fellowship with the people of God- these things are commanded by God! They’re not optional add-ons that we can take or leave depending on how we feel or how many of our personal preferences are represented in the circumstances of worship.
God commands us to worship Him. Therefore, it is no more legitimate to say, “I just can’t worship because…” as it is to say, “I just can’t be honest because…” or “I just can’t stop fornicating because…” We tend to be clear on things like honesty and adultery. But for some reason we get very fuzzy headed when it comes to worship, the Word and the church. We justify checking out of these things, forgetting that we really have no right to do so.
I believe many serious minded Christians today are making a huge mistake with respect to worship and the church. In the name of being “biblical”, they allow much lesser scruples of conscience or preference to nudge them out of obeying far more clear and explicit commands from God! It’s a rather remarkable irony- using the Bible to justify disobeying the Bible! It’s not unlike the Pharisees of Jesus’ day who developed a system of giving that excused them from honoring their parents.
How deceitful is the human heart! It’s far better to obey God than to find all kinds of “principled” reasons why we can’t or don’t have to obey Him. Remember, God commands us to worship Him, to love His church and to receive His Word. Are there distractions? Are there some things you wish were different? Be determined to engage in God’s worship and the church’s fellowship with all your heart NO MATTER WHAT, just as you would any other clear command of God! Do it for Him.
2) Come to worship hungry and humble
In Psalm 63:1-2, David says,
“O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. So I have looked for you in the sanctuary, to see your power and glory.”
How did David go to look for God in the sanctuary? He went hungering and thirsting after God! He had a strong sense of need and an even stronger sense that only God could satisfy (see verse 3). He came to worship from the wilderness!
This could be the single most important factor of all in determining the benefit we receive from our Sundays. It’s possible the primary reason we get so little from church is because we’re like overweight people who’ve just eaten a huge meal and are sitting down to eat again with little appetite. We come not as hungry, needy people. Rather, we come as well-fed food critics pointing out the undercooked meat or the missing ingredient in our meal. We’re just not hungry enough.
Hungry people don’t complain about presentation. Hungry people don’t pick and choose and leave a lot on their plate. Hungry people don’t pine for something different. They just eat. And they’re thankful. We could focus on everything we wish were different. Or, like spiritually hungry people, we could choose to believe that there’s enough truth about God, Christ, the gospel and ourselves in our songs, our prayers, our reading, our preaching and our fellowship that the soul of a true Christian can be satisfied!
We would do well, as part of our preparation for worship, to humble ourselves, recognize our spiritual poverty (c.f. Rev.3:17-18), and remember how much we need the means of grace contained in the gatherings of the church. What a difference it would make in our attitude and approach to worship if we came hungry! What a difference it would make if we came saying, “I can’t live without worship, I must get something from the Word, I need the fellowship of the brethren.”
I don’t remember where I heard this, but one of the most profound and helpful statements I’ve ever heard about worship is this: “Mature worshipers are easily edified.” That is, mature worshipers are not easily distracted. Mature worshipers are not easily offended. Mature worshipers are not easily put off. Mature worshipers are not easily discouraged. Rather, mature worshipers are easily edified! They are easily fed in worship. Do you know why? Because mature worshipers are in touch with their need. They’re hungry! They’re thirsty! They’re focused on the meal and barely notice the trimmings!
Food critics and full bellies probably won’t be happy. But blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled!
3) Come prepared to fight distraction
Another great problem with the “worship-funk” is the apparent underlying belief that things outside of us determine the spiritual quality of our Sundays. I think that’s a huge mistake we make as we come to church on Sunday. To hear some people talk of their experience at church you get the impression that church would be wonderful except for the “human-ness” of it all. If you could just take the humanity out of it, then they could worship- no noise, no coughs, no babies crying, no disinterested daydreamers, no undesirable tunes or tempos or misplayed notes, no irritating or long-winded preachers! The problem is, if you take all those things away, you’ve probably died and are now a disembodied spirit in heaven! And we’re not there yet!
We really need to develop a stronger spiritual constitution that can bear and forbear the inevitable humanness of our efforts to worship this side of heaven. Perhaps with God’s help, we can even begin to delight in some of the ways that His glory is reflected in the diversity represented in our Lord’s Day gatherings. Perhaps with God’s help, we might allow the imperfections of our humanity in worship to remind us of the perfection and beauty and glory of the God we worship! At the very least, we should reject the notion that it’s up to somebody else or some set of circumstances to make worship happen for us. Embrace the human, earthly elements that remain part of our worship and determine to concentrate on God and His Word.
In conclusion, I realize these words could appear defensive or self-serving. The Lord knows that’s not my motive. I write these encouragements out of love for the Lord who is worthy of the best of our hearts in worship and out of love for the souls of God’s people, for their joy and enjoyment of God in worship.
May our gracious Lord make these words from Psalm 95 our experience as we draw near to Him together this Lord’s Day:
Psalm 95:1 Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. 3 For the LORD is the great God, And the great King above all gods…6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. 7 For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand.