Take Heed How You Hear!
Ten Practical Preparations for Hearing the Word of God on Sunday Morning
1. Pray that God would give you a good and honest heart.
The heart we need is a work of God. That’s why we pray for it. Ezekiel 36:26, “I will give you a new heart.” Jeremiah 24:7, “I will give them a heart to know me.” Let’s pray, “O Lord, give me a heart for you. Give me a good and honest heart. Give me a soft and receptive heart. Give me a humble and meek heart. Give me a fruitful heart.”
2. Meditate on the Word of God.
Psalm 34:8, “O taste and see that the LORD is good.” On Saturday night read some delicious portion of your Bible with a view to stirring up hunger for God. This is the appetizer for Sunday morning’s meal.
3. Purify your mind by turning away from worldly entertainment.
James 1:21, “Putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.” It astonishes me how many Christians watch the same banal, empty, silly, trivial, titillating, suggestive, immodest TV shows that most unbelievers watch. This makes us small and weak and worldly and inauthentic in worship. Instead, turn off the television on Saturday night and read something true and great and beautiful and pure and honorable and excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). Your heart will unshrivel and be able to feel greatness again.
4. Trust in the truth that you already have.
The hearing of the word of God that fails during trial has no root (Luke 8:13). What is the root we need? It is trust. Jeremiah 17:7–8 says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream.” Trusting in the truth you already have is the best way to prepare yourself to receive more.
5. Rest long enough Saturday night to be alert and hopeful Sunday morning.
1 Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything.” I am not laying down any law here. I am saying there are Saturday night ways that ruin Sunday morning worship. Don’t be enslaved by them. Without sufficient sleep, our minds are dull, our emotions are flat, our proneness to depression is higher, and our fuses are short.My counsel is to decide when you must get up on Sunday in order to have time to eat, get dressed, pray and meditate on the Word, prepare the family, and travel to church; and then compute backward eight hours and be sure that you are in bed 15 minutes before that. Read your Bible in bed and fall asleep with the Word of God in your mind. I especially exhort parents to teach teenagers that Saturday is NOT the night to stay out late with friends. If there is a special late night, make it Friday. It is a terrible thing to teach children that worship is so optional that it doesn’t matter if you are exhausted when you come.
6. Forbear one another Sunday morning without grumbling and criticism.
Psalm 106:25, “They grumbled in their tents; they did not listen to the voice of the LORD.” Sunday morning grumbling and controversy and quarreling can ruin a worship service for a family. When there is something you are angry about or some conflict that you genuinely think needs to be talked about, forbear. Of course if you are clearly the problem and need to apologize, do it as quickly as you can (Matthew 5:23–24). But if you are fuming because of children or spouse delinquency, forbear; that is, be slow to anger and quick to listen (James 1:19). In worship open yourself to God’s exposing the log in your own eye. It may be that all of you will be humbled and chastened so that no conflict is necessary.
7. Be meek and teachable when you come.
James 1:21, “In meekness receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.” Meekness and teachability are not gullibility. You have your Bible and you have your brain. Use them. But if we come with a chip on our shoulder and a suspicion of the preaching week after week, we will not hear the Word of God. Meekness is a humble openness to God’s truth with a longing to be changed by it.
8. Be still as you enter the room and focus your mind’s attention and heart’s affection on God.
Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” As we enter the sanctuary, let us “come on the lookout for God and leave on the lookout for people.” Come with a quiet passion to seek God and his power. We will not be an unfriendly church if we are aggressive in our pursuit of God during the prelude and aggressive in our pursuit of visitors during the postlude.
9. Think earnestly about what is sung and prayed and preached.
1 Corinthians 14:20, “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.” So Paul says to Timothy, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Timothy 2:7). Anything worth hearing is worth thinking about. If you would take heed how you hear, think about what you hear.
10. Desire the Truth of God’s Word more than you desire riches or food.
1 Peter 2:2, “Like newborn babies, desire the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” As you sit quietly and pray and meditate on the text and the songs, remind yourself of what Psalm 19:10 says about the Words of God: “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.”