Of all the years of our life’s span, the years of our youth receive the most emphasis in regard to preparation. One hears it constantly. The teacher in the class room, the speakers for chapel, the minister in the church, the elders on family visitation, all emphasize this one main theme: prepare!
Youth is a time of preparation. In one all-inclusive statement, youth prepares for life. All education in church, home, and school has one objective: to prepare the child for his covenant place in all of life. However, we do not wish to make reference to this preparation as such, but rather to the preparation for meeting our God in divine worship on the Sabbath day.
A moment’s reflection on the beauty of the church service will enable us to see the necessity of preparation. As we gather in church, God by his Spirit communes with us, and we with Him. He fellowships with us through the means of grace. Mind you, the holy sovereign God of heaven and earth who speaks and it comes to pass, who is all infinite perfection and glory, who is eternal and unchangeable, who is all power in heaven and earth, that God also speaks with us as we assemble together on Sunday. He condescends from His throne of holiness and speaks to us through the Word. He turns His ear to us and hears our prayers, our songs of praise. He beholds us as we place our offering in the collection plate. Jehovah, our God, fellowships with us and we with Him. A fellowship though so beautiful, yet only a little glimmer of the eternal fellowship in glory.
The more we are conscious of the real significance of the church service the greater our preparation will be. We are such poor miserable sinners. Just think, God in His wisdom gives us the privilege every week to sit at His spiritual table and feeds us with the bounty of His promise. Even the sick in the homes and hospitals, though they are not able to meet in physical presence, yet they also eat the same spiritual food and thus partake of the “banquet of heaven.”
Sober reflection causes us to confess we are not worthy of such an honor. We are like the “hobo” and “bum” assembled at the wedding of the president’s daughter. All is beautifully arrayed in the most luxurious décor. The candles are lit and the organ plays. In come the guests. You look once, twice. They are beggars, crippled, filthy, perfumed with liquor and nicotine. What a sight you say? That really is the picture of church service. By nature we are so corrupt, unworthy. Everything God has ordained in the “wedding” is beautiful and lovely, yea, heavenly, but we are so earthly. Our thoughts are upon the cares of life: the date we had the past week, the new hat Mary bought, the couple that just entered, how sleepy you feel, that sleek car you are thinking of buying. How unworthy! We commune with the God of heaven and earth – what a way.
Apart from Christ we would not even come to church. In ourselves we do not see the need. We are no better than the neighbor who seems so unconcerned about church and enjoys spending his “Sabbath” to the satisfaction of his own wants. However, when Christ calls us to Himself, and we hear that call and come, following Him, then we gather in the service, and though by nature unworthy, in Christ we are shining jewels in the crown of glory. Christ’s glory is our glory, because he is Immanuel.
We are not perfect. We only have a small beginning. If we were perfect, we would not have to prepare for church, but since we are yet in sin, so earthy, we must prepare. You do not think of going to a banquet without spending hours on preparation. You need the most petite dress, most fragrant perfume, the cleanest shave, and neatest suit. Yet all that is earthy. It’s only temporal. Think what preparation we must do for our spiritual banquet. That takes deliberate effort. It is not natural to prepare for church. The most desirable thing according to our nature is to get out of bed ¾ of an hour before church, clean up a bit, eat a drop, and be off, come into church 10 minutes before the service sleepy eyed and thus expect to be blessed with spiritual food. It just does not work. To eat spiritual food demands hard work. You must be hungry, and before you realize hunger you must work up an appetite. To eat spiritual food demands spiritual labor which causes the spiritual hunger.
In speaking of preparation, there must first of all be the sincere desire to do so. There must be an attitude of consecration. We must prayerfully set our minds to the task. It is so easy to slip, but by the power of the Spirit which God will give to us we shall be victorious.
Preparation begins already Saturday night. Late dates are not conducive to spiritual meditation on the Sabbath. Not only is one “starry eyed,” but so besieged by slumber that it is virtually impossible to think on the sermon. The battle in such a case is to stay awake much less to derive benefit from the message.
There are many things a young person can do to place himself in the right spiritual “mood” for the service. Mandatory is arising at the right time. Really late sleepers can’t prepare spiritually, because their time is occupied caring for their physical needs. An ideal situation presents itself when a family has a piano or organ. A little song service in the home will pay its spiritual dividends. One can listen to the hi-fi or radio and be strengthened by spiritual singing. Reading and meditating are excellent ways to prepare, but whatever it be, a definite preparation will help you greatly in deriving spiritual strength from the service for the battle of faith.
Upon entering the church you acknowledge your own weakness and pray that God bless you and strengthen you in communing with Him. You pray that God use the minister as a means of the Spirit to edify the church. Before the service begins you have an excellent opportunity to meditate. Think upon a favorite text, or better yet the text the minister chose for the sermon. Sing in your soul the songs the organ plays. All these things help one to receive spiritual nurture. The more effort one exerts in preparing for the service, the more beneficial that service will be for that person.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 19 No. 4 May 1959