I want to propose to you this morning that Sundays are meant to be the best day of your week, and that Sunday worship is meant to be the best hour of your day.
When I was little, my favorite moment of the day came just after 6pm. That was when Dad got home from work. I would hear him pull in the drive, pull his truck around the turn-around and park, and as he opened the back door of our house, ever so excited, I would run to greet him. Happy to have him home and to have the whole family together.
That’s the experience everyone ought to have every time they come to church. Excited to be here and to have the family together. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way.
Sundays can be the best of times if you’ll let them. They can also be a waste of time, depending on how you treat them. The value of every Sunday depends on the importance you place on it.
For many people, a positive Sunday experience is a hit-and-miss kind of thing. Some Sundays are great, others not so much. Some people find Sundays boring or painful. Others use Sundays as a catch-up day. For them, Sundays can be frantic trying to get it all done before Monday when the real frenzy starts. Still other people use this first day of the week as a vacation day – away from work and from God.
But Sundays were never meant to be that way. In fact, Jesus said….
“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
Meaning the Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, not for people to meet the requirements of the world. There’s a reason why God made this day for us, and we are going to be exploring that over the next several weeks.
This morning, we are part of the largest worldwide gathering of churches for National Back to Church Sunday. This is a day to try church out for maybe the very first time, or to get back to church if you haven’t been here for a while. It’s also a day to evaluate if you are making this day that God gave us, the best day of your week.
So today, we’re starting a five-week series called I Love Sundays – Make Sundays the Best Day of the Week. I am here to tell you that it is possible to love Sundays and make it the best day of your week. In fact, Sundays can actually surprise you.
We live in a world where the pace of life is killing us. It feels like we always have too much to do. We always feel pressured. We rarely have time for the really important things.
There’s never enough time for family or the people we love or the rest we truly need. With so much going on in our world, it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters.
So I want to suggest to you today that Sundays are the solution, the cure, the antidote. You see, God designed Sundays to be the relief for all of that. Over the next five weeks, I’ll explain how, but for now let’s start by looking at a psalm that King David wrote.
A psalm is a poem, sometimes it’s a song, sometimes it’s a prayer. David wrote many of the psalms in the Bible. In fact, there are 150 psalms in the Bible, and David wrote at least half of them and very likely many more. This particular psalm that I’m going to share with you was written by King David for the people to sing praises to God as they entered the city of Jerusalem, which was in the Old Testament the epicenter of worship. This is where God’s people gathered to celebrate certain festivals and where they brought their sacrifices for God. So going to Jerusalem was like stepping into the presence of God. What Jerusalem was for the Israelites back then, the church is to the believer today.
So right off the bat in the psalm, it sounds like someone has invited King David to church, but likely he wrote it to get us excited about going to church.
1 I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
So in other words, be excited to go to the house of the Lord, to go church. David loved the idea of being in church and was more than happy to go. Couldn’t wait to get there. Why? Why was David so fired up about the thing that so many people are turned off by today? What does he know that many don’t know about church? He tells us….
2 And now here we are, standing inside your gates, O Jerusalem. 3 Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together.
He’s inside the city of Jerusalem describing what he sees. He sees the well-built city. It has seamless walls that cannot be broken. It’s got a densely packed population, and there are crowds of people gathering.
4 All the tribes of Israel—the Lord’s people—make their pilgrimage here. They come to give thanks to the name of the Lord, as the law requires of Israel.
So lots of people are making their way to Jerusalem in order to worship God. Tribes of them in fact. They’re going to give God glory, “as the law of the Lord requires.” In other words, because God told them He’d like them to come. He continues….
5 Here stand the thrones where judgment is given, the thrones of the dynasty of David.
See the king was now the judge. It used to be that God appointed judges to settle people’s disputes, but then the people requested a king. So now the king did it. Here is where judgment is given and where his sons, his dynasty, will do the same, all in order to have peace. By verse 6, he starts to pour out his heart for peace….
6 Pray for peace in Jerusalem. May all who love this city prosper. 7 O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls and prosperity in your palaces. 8 For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “May you have peace.”
This tells us a couple of things: He cares about God’s people, the people he’s worshiping with, he cares about the city of God, and most importantly, he cares about God…
9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity (what is best for you), O Jerusalem.
“God, I want peace for you and for your sake too. In fact, I’m going to do something to make this happen. I am going to seek your prosperity.” Why? “Because I love your place, I love your people, and I love you.”
In this short psalm, David gives 3 great reasons to go to church.
- First, he wanted to honor God. (v.4)
All the tribes came to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
“I want to go to church to praise the name of the Lord.”
- Second, he wanted to do what God asked him to do. (v. 4)
“I want to go to church because the law of the Lord requires it.”
- Third, he wanted to go to church because he liked being with God’s people (v. 4). God’s people were his family and friends (v. 8).
“That’s where my tribe goes.” “For the sake of my family and friends,” he says.
And he wanted peace for all of those who loved God. He wanted good things for God’s people. You can all relate to that, I’m sure. Everybody wants peace for those they love. He also wanted peace in the church and for the church to be prosperous. That makes sense. We can all relate to that too. I want that.
I want there to be people in church and prosperity in the house of God. I want Sunday to become the best day of the week for every one of you. I want every one of you to experience great Sundays every week. Why? Because I know the benefits of church for us individually and for our community.
You see, once upon a time in our country, everything stopped on Sundays, and church attendance was as American as apple pie. It wasn’t an option; it was just something you did. People went to church and worshiped God, then ate together, hung out together, rested together in the afternoon. I’m not saying everyone was a perfect Christian, but they were certainly influenced by church.
Sunday wasn’t just an extra day to get things done. Or a bonus day to put our kids in high-impact activities so they could get ahead. More and more people are choosing alternatives to church and more and more people are wondering why life isn’t working out so well.
I think people had a greater sense of peace in those days, don’t you? And of hope. I think their pace of life all week wasn’t as frantic as ours because they slowed their pace of life one day a week and rested and refueled and refocused on what really mattered. Sunday was a day of worship and rest.
Imagine a graph in your mind. The vertical line represents happiness and prosperity. The horizontal line represents years on a calendar. Plot the percentage of our nation’s church attendance year by year which we know has been going down for the last few decades. Now if you plot the percentage of social happiness and prosperity over that same length of time, what you find is two lines that run parallel, because the two are directly related. The higher the church attendance, the higher the happiness. Why is that?
It’s because there is something you can’t see, touch, taste, or smell about church attendance that makes it the most powerful investment of your whole week. Something about being in church makes us better people, makes our lives better and qualifies us for special blessings and provisions from God. Unless you understand this, you can spend a lot of time messing around with ways to make your life better when the real solution is to start with God and His Church.
Way back at the beginning of time, the Bible says that God created the heavens and the earth. After it was all done, after He made the sun and the moon and the land and the plants and animals, Genesis 2:2–3 says,
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
God rested. Do you think He rested because He was tired? No, God doesn’t get tired! The reason God rested on the seventh day was because He knew that we would need to rest every seventh day, and He wanted us to see how important that was, so He set the example for us.
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy”.
Let me give you 7 reasons why I want to invest in a Sabbath every week. These are in your bulletin as a fill-in-the-blank.
And God knows I need it. That’s why He rested and that’s why He gave the commandment. God doesn’t want to flatten your fun or lessen your life by taking away a day. He wants to increase your joy and improve your life by giving you a day to refresh, refuel, and refocus with Him because He knows you need it.
The second reason I want to invest in a weekly Sabbath is because…
The fourth commandment says to keep the Sabbath “holy.” I’ll explain what that means for you next week.
Third, I want to invest in a Sabbath because….
For reasons only He fully understands, God says that He blessed the Sabbath. It’s a special day, not an extra day. When we cooperate with what God blesses, you know what we get in return? We get blessed.
So many of us think that if we can get ahead faster, if we are productive seven days a week, life will go better. But that’s not how God made the universe. The most prosperous fast-food restaurant in the world is Chick-fil-A. No one makes as much money per location as Chick-fil-A. And Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays because the owners of Chick-fil-A know that if they honor the Sabbath, God will honor their business. Therefore, they make more money in six days a week than McDonald’s, Subway, Burger King, and Taco Bell do in seven.
Here are some statistics I think you’ll find interesting. Secular sociologists have studied the benefits of church attendance. Follow this for a minute. What they’ve found is that those who attend church regularly…
1. Live seven and a half years longer than those who don’t.1 (And yet some people say they don’t have time for church.)
2. Are 56 percent more likely to have an optimistic life outlook than those who don’t. 2 (That’s true, isn’t it?)
3. Are 27 percent less likely to be depressed.3
4. Are 35 percent less likely to get divorced.4
5. Have higher average levels of commitment to partners, higher levels of marital satisfaction, less thinking and talking about divorce, and lower levels of negative interaction.5
6. Achieve higher grades, practice better time management, and experience a better sex life.6 (Just saying, there are benefits to going to church regularly.)
Apparently, churchgoers are getting something non-churchgoers aren’t. The studies are clear: Church attendance has benefits that cascade into just about every area of your life.
The fifth reason I want to take a Sabbath every Sunday is because….
Does anyone here dread Mondays? We get out of bed saying, “Ugh, I have to go back to work today.” We’re exhausted and unmotivated because we used all our energy on Sunday instead of resting.
During this series I want to teach you two things from God’s perspective. Number one is how to have a great week, and number two is how to have a great life. Next week’s message is called “Good Sundays Make Better Mondays.” What we’re going to learn is that if your Sunday is lived the way it was intended, your Monday will go as it was intended.
The sixth reason I want to take a weekly Sabbath is because….
It really is true that the family that rests together does best together.
Let alone, a family that attends church learns skills from the Bible about how to do relationships better and how to do life better.
My family is a far better family because of church.
The seventh reason for Sabbathing is because….
God promises to bless me, if I bless Him. And I bless Him when I show up at church.
Can you imagine how it would feel to have all your children get together and sing to you? You create a planet for people and you do things for people all week long, and then they spend just one morning a week recognizing you and thanking you for what you’ve done. That would feel great, wouldn’t it?
God loves Sundays. And He wants you to love them too.
Psalm 100:4 says,
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
What can you do so that you look forward to church every week? That’s what we’re going to talk about together for these next few weeks. But here’s 3 steps to get you started on making Sundays the best day of your week.
1. Decide to let Sunday be the best day of your week.
At the end of Psalm 122, David decided to commit to the prosperity of his community. For your life to improve, you have to make a decision to let it improve. You make the decision, and God will make the difference.
Decide to start coming to church regularly. Decide to make a commitment to it.
Decide to get involved. One thing you can do is when you leave today, pick up a copy of the small group study guide and sign up for small group that starts this Wednesday. Even if you can’t attend a small group, take a book and commit to reading it along with the sermon series.
I believe that if you get into a small group this week, then attend every Sunday over the course of the next five weeks, your life and your family will become measurably better. In fact, if these five weeks don’t make your life better, I’ll give you the five weeks back.
Church is no different than anything else—to get something great out of it, you have to put something great into it. The Bible says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”(Matthew 6:21). So start investing your heart here. Being part of worship and a small group these next few weeks is a great initial investment.
Never underestimate the power of sacrifice! Do this and you’ll discover what church was meant to be. You’ll find so much more than you ever thought possible as we do life together!
Several years ago, a church demographer named Win Arn did a study of satisfied church members and discovered that they have six things in common.
(1) They attend regularly
(2) Volunteer to serve somewhere in the church
(3) They develop friendships with other members of the church
(4) They call the church “my church”
(5) They give consistently to the church
(6) They invite others to their church
If you’re new, pick number one, and start coming regularly.
If you’re already doing that, pick one of the other actions you’re not doing and start doing that. Write it down in your bulletin. Take your next step, whatever that is.
A few of years ago, country singer Craig Morgan sang a song called “That’s What I Love About Sundays.” It says,
That’s what I love about Sunday:
Sing along as the choir sways.
Every verse of Amazin’ Grace,
An’ then we shake the Preacher’s hand.
Go home, into your blue jeans;
Have some chicken an’ some baked beans.
Pick a back yard football team,
Not do much of anything:
That’s what I love about Sunday.
This song has more than 31 million hits on YouTube, which tells me Craig is onto something. There’s a lot to love about Sundays. Maybe moving backward a bit could actually help us move forward a lot.
Father, thank you for creating us. And thank you for showing us how we work best. I pray for great lives for each and every person here this morning. Refuel us, refocus us, and refresh us with the rest of this day. Bless these people all week long, and bring us back next Sunday to experience life in all its fullness. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
1 Dr. James C. Paterson II, MD, PhD, “Live Long and Prosper: Going to Church Increases Lifespan,” Reasons to Believe, August 20, 2010, http://www.reasons.org/articles/live-long-and-prosper-going-to-church-increases-lifespan.
2.Janet Washington, “New Study: Regular Church Attendance Linked to Positive Outlook, Less Depression in Women,” EEEW Magazine Buzz, November 11, 2011, http://buzz.eewmagazine.com/eew-magazine-buzz-blog/2011/11/11/new-study-regular-church-attendance-linked-to-positive-outlo.html.
4 W. Bradford Wilcox, quoted in Glenn T. Stanton, “First-Person: The Christian Divorce Rate Myth (What You’ve Heard Is Wrong),” Baptist Press, February 15, 2011, http://www.bpnews.net/34656#top.
5 Scott Stanley et al., “Marriage in Oklahoma: 2001 Baseline Statewide Survey on Marriage and Divorce,” http://www.okmarriage.org/downloads/media/survey_report.pdf.
6 Peter Haas, “The Jaw Dropping Benefits of Church Attendance,” PeterHaas, August 19, 2014, http://www.peterhaas.org/?p=1342.