There is one thing every pastor knows on a Friday afternoon right after lunch. Sunday morning at 11:00 am is closing fast. Whether we feel prepared or not – prayed up, studied up, or worded up, the Sunday morning worship service is coming just the same. On Monday mornings the next week’s sermons can feel like Dylan’s Slow Train Coming, but by Friday afternoon that locomotive is speeding down the rails to the sanctuary station. Pastors feel the weight of their most solemn of charges – feeding the flock through the preaching of God’s Word, and the time for our biggest feeding is during our Sunday services. The gravity of that responsibility is illustrated well by the stories of Charles Spurgeon sleeplessly struggling through his Fridays and Saturdays with the sermon(s) that he was preparing to preach.
Most in our society view Friday afternoons as the promised reprieve from a busy week, a much needed forty-eight hour leave of absence. Yet on Fridays for Christians, the biggest day of the week is still looming just over the horizon. As a believer, and as someone who constantly identifies with everyone’s favorite fat-cat, Garfield, I would like to just let weekends rule my life. But God does. That means that however much I want to blare the George Jones song, “Finally Friday,” over my loudspeakers on Friday afternoons, I am called to see weekends differently from the world. But what exactly does that mean?
Well certainly it means living with Sunday in view. It’s not just pastors who should be looking ahead toward Sunday mornings as they clock-out on Friday afternoons. For every believer the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, the day after our Saturdays of hopeful Sabbath-rest is the day we should all be looking forward to. Not all of us will be faced with the calling and solemn charge of preaching. After all, not many of us should be teachers, for those who teach are held to a stricter judgment (James 3:1). But that doesn’t excuse us from the great hopeful expectation we should feel toward Sunday worship services with our brothers and sisters in Christ – when we fellowship together, pray together, worship together, and receive God’s Word together.
The writer of Hebrews tells us we should never neglect “to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25). The “day” mentioned in this verse could be referring to one of two things. Either it refers to the final Day, the Day of Judgment, the day of Christ’s glorious return, or it is referring to the weekly day of worship, the day when the local church meets together each week. Either way the instruction is clear. We are to take the meeting of ourselves together seriously, and we should take our responsibility of encouraging one another and holding one another accountable in this practice seriously too.
That’s what I want to do. I want to encourage you to use your weekends (from Friday afternoon to Sunday night) to be intentional about not “neglecting to meet together,” and that means more than just agreeing to show up for the Sunday worship service. Implied in that one command is the call to live our weekends for the glory of God – to not just worship God during our weekends, but to worship God with our weekends. Earlier in the week I wrote an article suggesting some ways you can prepare yourselves and your families to be better sermon listeners. Those six suggestions are solid ways for ongoing improvement as a sermon-listener, but today I want to encourage you in another specific way: How to live your weekends in the light of the glory of God.
Too often, as a believer and a pastor, I can still be tricked into believing a lie. It’s far too easy for me to think that the weekends are mine. Yes, I’ll give God Sunday (at least a few hours of Sunday anyway), but in the back of my mind I will still think that its my property, a time that is owed to me for hard work during the week. Like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings I (and maybe you) view our weekends as “our precious.” This lie is subtle. There’s some truth to it. But it is deadly because it begins to make me believe that there is time that I am owed that is beyond the parameters of my life as a believer, as a follower of Christ. If Jesus owns me, then he owns every day of my week – Friday nights, Saturdays, and Sundays too, and I am called to heed the teaching that tells me that whether I eat or drink, or whatever I do, I am to do it all “for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). That “whatever” in the verse includes my weekends. So how do we enjoy weekends to God’s glory? Here are some basic thoughts. I want to offer you eight suggestions for living worshipful weekends:
1. Celebrate grace. Refuse to believe the lie that you deserve your weekends. Many of us have to work on these days. Many don’t get the schooldays schedule of two days off! That’s okay. and the idea of a weekend is a very modern idea anyway. The first thing we should remember is that as creatures and believers everything we are given (that is not judgment) is a gift of God’s grace. Paul asks a good question to the Corinthians: “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it” (1 Corinthians 4:7)? If we receive a few days off, a long weekend, or a Saturday night out with friends or family, then it is never something that we have earned. It is a gift.
2. Have fun. Enjoy your rest, recreation, and relatives. Living a worshipful weekend doesn’t mean sitting alone in your house with the blinds closed but your Bible open. Going to dinner is a gift. Spending time with your families at ballparks or hunting camps (or yes the mall) is a gift. Yes they can become sinful traps if we begin to see these things as the point of a weekend, but neither should we legalistically refuse to enjoy our weekends with these activities included either. Remember what Jesus said to the Pharisees about the Sabbath (Saturday for Jews). They were going ballistic about Jesus’ disciples “working” on the Sabbath. So Jesus has to explain to them that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). These days of rest and enjoyment are a gift from God and we should enjoy the genuine gifts that God has given us.
3. Enjoy the source of everything good. Enjoy the true fountain of everything that weekends can only faintly provide. Remember that the enjoyment, pleasure, rest, and recharging that weekends often provide are intended to only be a faint reflection and signpost pointing us to the true source of everything we look forward to having in our best of weekends. Only in the person of God are these things found to their fullest and never-ending extent. The Psalmist remarks about God that “in your presence there is fullness of joy, at your right hand there are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). The rest and pleasure that we truly long for are only found in the person and presence of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:6-11). May we never enjoy the gift without craving the greater reality of what we long for in the presence of the giver.
4. Take Sunday seriously. Now, I’m not about to give you a list of do’s and don’ts for your Sundays, except one. Do make an intentional and serious discipline to worship with believers in a local church on the Lord’s Day. Sunday is not the last day of the week. It’s the first, and how you begin your week sets the stage for everything that will follow within that week. Enjoy your weekends, but “don’t forsake the assembling of yourselves together.” On Sundays, gathering to worship and to hear the Word of God proclaimed must take precedence over everything else. Now, grace is glorious. If there is absolutely no way for you to be with believers on Sundays that’s one thing. Many elderly shut-ins aren’t able to drive as much as they once did. Some jobs absolutely require employees to work some Sundays or to at least be on-call. Nor do I think you are sinning if you go out to eat with your family or enjoy a Sunday afternoon of recreation. All of that is one thing, but to intentionally neglect to meet with other believers in a local church when you are able is quite another thing entirely. God knows our hearts. God knows our schedules. God knows what we allow time for in every other area of our lives. God knows what is most important to us, and for many of us that is exactly what should frighten us.
5. Share the gospel. Begin to think of weekends as an opportunity to share the gospel with friends and family members. As believers we should already be developing a passion to proclaim the gospel and reach our friends and family members with it. That should be a daily desire. Weekends, however, provide unique opportunities for us to enjoy time with unbelievers and to be a living and speaking witness for the gospel. The book of Galatians tells us to “do good to all people as we have opportunity” (Galatians 6:10). Certainly doing good includes doing what is infinitely best, being a light and instrument to share the gospel with those around us. Weekends – time at ballparks, cookouts, get-togethers, and in many other ways – provide a great opportunity to put this into action.
6. Preach priorities. Be intentional about letting your friends and family members know that the ultimate purpose of life is to “glorify God and enjoy him forever” as the Westminster Catechism says or “to glorify God by enjoying him forever” as John Piper says! There are a thousand little ways that we can do that. Be involved with your local church. Don’t sleep in on Sundays but tell your children through your words and actions that Sunday worship is the priority of the week because the gospel is the priority of your life. Priorities are proclaimed in what we spend our time enjoying, preparing for, and talking about. If we asked our families if they know we place a high priority on the gospel, would they be seeing it by those three evidences in our lives?
7. Prepare for spiritual warfare. If believers are to be encouraging one another to meet together as the church, and if God would have us use the weekends for his glory and his gospel, then how surprised should we be that Satan and his demons want the exact opposite? Do not be surprised when roadblocks, traps, temptations, and snares seize your Saturdays and Sunday mornings. It’s not a question of if that will happen. It’s gonna happen. C.S. Lewis, quoting the fictional demonic tutor Screwtape, noted that in Satan’s mind, “nowhere [does he] tempt so successfully as on the very steps of the altar.” We shouldn’t take weekends lightly because for many of us they are ground zero for sin’s Satanic attacks as believers. Satan wants you to celebrate yourself. He wants your worship with other believers to be either avoided all together or miserable if you even make it to the church on time. You are hunted. As Leif Enger might say, “We and the world [sin and Satan] my children, will always be at war. Retreat is impossible. Arm yourselves.” Pick up the armor of God. Read Ephesians 6. Take the full armor of God. Resist the devil. Fight him. He is coming for you. Be ready.
8. Prepare yourself spiritually. Finally, we come back to the preacher in his study on Friday afternoons. He is diligently preparing for sermons. He must be diligently preparing his heart and his mind. He must be steadfastly praying for those who will hear the message on Sunday. If this under-shepherd of the flock is to take such great care spiritually to feed those who are under his care, how much should we who are the recipients of this labor prepare our own hearts to receive it? Study your Bible (or Sunday School Lesson) as a family or as a couple on Saturdays. Read the passages which will be preached. Read the earlier article about being better sermon listeners (Tolle Lege). Pray for your family and with your family for the preacher, the sermon, and the working of God’s Spirit. Examine your life in the week that has just past. Confess sins. Build (or rebuild) relationships that have gone askew. Get a good night’s sleep (if possible) so you’re rested and ready to worship on Sunday morning. Life is lived in the little things. Spiritual lives are grown and disciplined in the little things and the hundreds of little choices we make each day and week, especially in the few hours that we call the weekend.
The Day is approaching, and in this case I am definitely referring to our last day before the throne of God. May we never have to confess to wasting our weekends. May we never have to whisper that we didn’t think those hours mattered. May we never have to fall down and admit that we thought Jesus was Lord every day of the week, but we thought we could live like he wasn’t on certain days more than others. The weekend is here. Worship in it, and through it, and with it.
I hope to see you Sunday.
In love with you, with God, and with his gospel,