Polishing Sunday Shoes on Saturday
Like every human being, I grew up in a less-than-perfect family. But one positive thing my family did marked me forever.
Every Saturday night, my siblings and I, one after the other, would take a bath and then deliver our shoes to my dad to be polished, all in preparation for the Sunday morning worship service at the Toledo Gospel Tabernacle.
There was never a debate about whether we would be going. There was no need to fit church into the family schedule. The weekend schedule of the Tripp family was planned around the one thing we would never think of missing: Sunday worship.
For that, I will be forever grateful.
It seemed like we were always the first family to arrive. My dad hated being late for church. And because he had lost much of his hearing in World War II, we always sat right up front so he could hear.
For my family, there was no exception to this Sunday rule. Even on vacation, my mom and dad would locate a church for us. I am so thankful that this important spiritual habit was nailed into my understanding of life.
But as I look back, I don’t think my mom and dad ever talked about preparing our hearts for worship.
As Christians, we’ve been taught that attending church is important. Most of us probably understand why Sunday services are necessary for our spiritual health too. But no matter how long you’ve been walking with the Lord, you won’t be able to avoid distractions that pull your attention away from worship.
Maybe you’re preoccupied thinking about your finances, either struggling to figure out how to pay all your bills or impatiently dreaming about how you’re going to spend that extra cash. Work might be dominating your heart, with either the stress of deadlines or excitement of new ventures.
Perhaps your family life has been far from perfect recently; your marriage is cold and distant, or your children have been rebellious and messy. Maybe you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, suffering physically, or overwhelmed with anxiety, fear, or depression.
Perhaps you enter the doors questioning or in complete disagreement with the leadership and direction of your church. Or could it be that self-righteousness and self-sufficiency have diminished your hunger for what gathered worship offers? Perhaps the gospel and all it promises to spiritually needy people doesn’t captivate and excite you as it once did.
The conscious and intentional worship of God is the highest calling and most wonderful thing you could ever do. Because it is, it is a prime location for spiritual war. The enemy of your soul will do anything he can to keep you from participating fully, from hearing clearly, and from committing to God more intentionally through gathered worship.
This is why I wrote my newest book, Sunday Matters: 52 Devotionals to Prepare Your Heart for Church. My prayer is that these weekly readings will remind you of the gift that is gathered worship and refocus your attention before you step through the doors of church.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t always approach Sunday with a joyful, grateful, and expectant heart. It is so easy to enter church unready.
In the same way that my dad polished our shoes every Saturday evening, I humbly offer Sunday Matters to you. May these devotionals prepare you to offer the Lord the worship he is due and to open your heart to instruction from his word.
By grace, our churches can be filled on Sunday with joyful, engaged, and passionate worshipers. But that requires preparation on Saturday evening!
Paul David Tripp
1. As a child, what was your family’s perspective on Sunday morning worship service (never attend, casually attend, regularly attend, always attend)? How has that past perspective on Sunday worship shaped your present day convictions on attendance? Is it important to you and your family? Would you call it a priority in your life? If not, why not? Be honest.
2. What are a few of the typical distractions you experience that pull your attention away from worship (finances, stress of your job, family relationship problems, marital issues, suffering, anxiousness over something specific, apathy toward God, etc.)? If you are aware of those potential distractions before going into a worship service, how can you pray specifically for the Lord to remove those distractions as you arrive on Sunday morning? If the the enemy of your soul will do anything he can to keep you from participating fully, hearing clearly, and from committing to God more intentionally through gathered worship, what kind of perspective shift can you facilitate in your heart in order to fully engage each week?
3. What might be a few Saturday evening preparations you could make that would help you better focus on worship Sunday morning? What kinds of age-specific family devotions might be helpful to arrange and go through on Saturday in order to prepare everyone in your home for what’s to come on Sunday morning? How can those Saturday preparations be focused more on the heart of each person in your family instead of just the activity?
4. As you aim to be a joyful, engaged, and passionate worshipper, take some time to jot down a few specific ideas of what to pray for as you think about the dynamics of your family and how you and they normally respond to worship each Sunday morning. Pray intentionally for each of your family members (including yourself!) and ask the Lord to bless each of you with a heart to learn, grow, engage, and change as you encounter the Word of God during the service. Pray for God’s grace to meet you each week, and ask him to help you be intentional about preparing for Sunday morning on Saturday evening.