Public Worship Preparation

In the class on the book of Psalms that I am currently teaching, my students and I spent some time discussing how we can best prepare ourselves for church services.  Here are some of our thoughts.

  1. Do what you need to do to get to church on time.
  2. Make an effort to focus on God before you go to church (e.g., through singing or Scripture reading).
  3. Pray for peace and unity among God’s people.
  4. Do not exhaust yourself on Saturday.
  5. Prepare for the service by reading the Scripture related to Sunday School and/or the sermon, if possible.
  6. Pause and meditate before worship starts.
  7. Seek to release the stress of the past week or the next week so that you can focus on the Lord.
  8. Taking notes may help you stay focused during the service.
  9. Give proper consideration to your attire.  Dress does impact your attitude (sloppy clothes = sloppy attitude).  Dress in a way that shows proper respect to the Lord and does not draw attention to yourself.
  10. Your first priority in going to church is to worship God, not have your own needs met. As you focus on him he will meet your needs.

Don’t Worry

Matthew 6:25–34 (ESV)
25“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
26Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
28And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,
29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

The expression “Don’t worry” is meant to help a person not get bent out of shape over a situation or event.  “Don’t worry.”  Depending on who says that, it is not actually very reassuring.  However, if the Son of God says “Don’t worry” then we can find comfort.

The “therefore” at the beginning of this passage points back to the preceding verse, which is a reminder that we cannot serve both God and money.  Therefore, we need to decide if God or money will get our attention and allegiance.  In this passage Jesus is not speaking against careful planning or productive work.  Rather, he is warning against anxiety, which is distracting and breeds despair.  Anxiety is a peace-robber, and Jesus gives us several reasons why we have no need to worry.

The first reason Jesus gives about the futility of worry is that we have already received more than we are currently worrying about.  Since God has given us life, do we have any reason to think he cannot also provide food?  Since God has given us bodies, do we have any reason to think he cannot also provide clothing?  God has given us so much, but we tend to only think about what we need.  Even worse, we often only think about what we think we need.

Jesus uses birds as an example to develop his second reason why we should not worry.  What earthly father would provide for birds while neglecting his children?  Yet our heavenly father is far superior to any earthly father.  God’s desire to provide for us should be evident by the way he provides for the animals, seeing how we are more valuable to the Father than they.

Jesus then moves on to his third reason, which is that is that we are helpless and that worry is worthless.  What is worry capable of accomplishing?  I cannot think of any time in my life when anxiety about something actually improved the situation.  Anxiety does not accomplish anything.  Does a fear of death make us immortal?  An interesting realization is that worry will not lengthen your life, but rather can actually shorten it.  Worry has been shown to be physically unhealthy, and as such, it seems very counter-productive.

Jesus also mentions lilies.  When was the last time you saw a flower worrying about anything?  Yet they seem to make out okay.  Flowers do not last very long, yet God takes care of them.  Since God cares for perishable flowers the way he does, will he not also care for us?

Jesus warns against excessive worry about food, drink, or clothes (verse 31), and he seems to say that those who live apart from God have their lives consumed with anxiety for those things (verse 32).  In verse 34 Jesus exhorts us to not be concerned about tomorrow.  We should not let the future ruin the present, but should rather live life one day at a time.

Adam Clarke wrote: “How much good is omitted, how many evils caused, how many duties neglected, how many innocent persons deserted, how many good works destroyed, how many truths suppressed, and how many acts of injustice authorized by those timorous forecasts of what may happen; and those faithless apprehensions concerning the future! Let us do now what God requires of us, and trust the consequences to him. The future time which God would have us foresee and provide for is that of judgment and eternity: and it is about this alone that we are careless!”

These verses are especially relevant to me because I have a propensity to worry.  However, I have never really had to worry about food or drink or clothes.  Yet I still have worried about some of the most ridiculous things.  One time, a couple of my friends and I were driving across eastern Colorado, and the gas gauge sunk below E.  Eastern Colorado is not a good place to have that happen to you, and I became greatly concerned about the situation.  Fortunately, we made it to the next gas station, but my worrying obviously accomplished absolutely nothing.  I’m sure we can all think of times that we have worried.  But according to Jesus, worry has no place in the life of a child of God.

However, we must be careful to not neglect careful planning for the future.  We are responsible to prepare ourselves for the future to the best of our ability.  For example, we need to be good stewards of our money so that we don’t experience financial hardship as a result of bad management.  We can’t just say that since God will provide for us, we have no responsibility in the matter.  We must do our part while also avoiding undue anxiety about our physical needs.

We have seen that God has already provided us with more than we are currently worrying about, that God cares for the birds and the flowers, and that our worrying is worthless.  Here are a couple of verses that I use to combat anxiety.

Philippians 4:6–7 (ESV)
6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I believe that our enemy the devil wants to do everything he can to hinder our relationship with God.  I also think that one of the most subtle ways he does that is by trying to make us anxious.  If we are experiencing anxiety, that is a sign that we are not finding peace in God.  My challenge for us is to counter anxiety by counting our blessings, committing our needs to the hands of our heavenly Father, and living each day in the tranquility of God’s peace.