Mrs. Bosveld is a wife and mother in Hope Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Work. Busyness. Stress. These three words often define our life in this world. Whether we are parents or children, married or single, our lives are busy and stressful. Often we complain that there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish all that we must do. As the hours pass quickly, so do the days of the week, and before long it is Sunday once again. What a temptation it can be to use Sunday as a convenient day to catch up on all of those things that we missed during the week. Or to use Sunday as a day to regroup, simply to relax and rest—something that our bodies crave after the stress and work of the week. Are we honoring God if we use the Sabbath in this way? How must we, as children of God, use the Sabbath profitably?
There are definite guidelines set forth in Scripture as to how the Sabbath must be used by God’s people. When the Lord gave the Ten Commandments to Moses in order that He might teach the Israelites how to live as befitting children of God, He gave clear instruction as to how the Sabbath must be kept. InDeuteronomy 5:12-15 we read this: “Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee. Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou.” Clearly, we are commanded here to set aside our daily work and to keep the Sabbath as a holy day—a day sanctified unto the Lord. It must be a day in which we cease from all the regular activity of the week—a day in which we devote ourselves to things of a spiritual nature. And finally, a day in which we seek the eternal rest of which the earthly Sabbath is a picture.
It is obvious that, left to our own sinful devices, we would have no hope of being able to keep the fourth commandment. It is only as regenerated, saved children of God that we have the desire to keep the Sabbath holy. This desire arises out of our deep love for God and for His Word.
Having the command and the desire, how then must we put the Sabbath to profitable use? There are several key things to keep in mind as we seek to keep the Sabbath holy. First of all, we must look at how we keep the previous six days of the week. If we use this time wisely, it will be all the easier to use our Sunday profitably. God, in His wisdom, gave us six days of the week in which we must do all of our work. It is during this time that we must also prepare for Sunday. Often, this work or preparation is of a practical nature. Consider the following examples: a father must see to it that he has the necessary money for the church collections, that the car has enough gas for the drive to church, that his children have completed their schoolwork and are not tempted to finish it on Sunday, and that he and his family are well rested and fit to go to the Lord’s house the next day.
The responsibility for a mother to be prepared for the Sabbath is equally great. Sundays are busy days. Children still need to be cared for and dressed, meals must be made and the family fed, dishes must be cleaned and the house tidied at the end of the day. If work is not done and preparations are not made earlier in the week, Sunday soon becomes a day of work, a day no different than Tuesday or Friday . . . rather than a day of rest.
There are many ways in which a mother can prepare for Sunday during the week and especially on Saturday: bathe the children and lay out their clothing for the next day, make certain that the ironing is finished well before Sunday morning, prepare as much of the Sunday meals as possible on Saturday— if not prepare, then certainly have them carefully planned. By seeing to it that these things are done prior to Sunday, a mother reduces the stress and busyness of her day.
Adults are not the only ones with a calling to be prepared for the Lord’s Day; our children also share in this responsibility. As parents, we must help them in this calling. One way in which we can do this is to see to it that they are well rested for Sunday. This means making sure that our little children are in bed early on Saturday night and that our older children are home at a reasonable time, so that they too are able to unwind and prepare their minds for Sunday worship. Along these lines, there is an excellent article in volume 42 of the Standard Bearer by Rev. J. Heys entitled “Holiday or Holy Day?” In this article Rev. Heys makes the point that even though Saturday is a part of the work week, if its activities carry over into Sunday and make it difficult for us to concentrate and to stay alert during the sermon, then we have already desecrated the Sabbath.
In addition to being well rested, our children must also be well prepared for any activities in which they engage on Sunday. If our young children have Sunday School on Sunday, it is our job to be certain that each child knows his lesson and assigned verse. A good way to do this is to set a goal to read the Sunday School paper during the week, perhaps at lunch time, when it can be given the time and attention that it deserves. That way we insure that it is not left for Saturday evening, as can so easily happen in our busy families.
Like our little children, our teenagers also need our guidance in using the Lord’s Day profitably. We must not think that because they are young adults they no longer need our close supervision. Most of our teenagers attend Young People’s Society on Sunday. In order to participate actively, they must be prepared. As parents, we need to be aware of what our child is studying. When we are aware, we can encourage. By encouraging them to read the assigned Bible passage and by suggesting they read another resource, such as Matthew Henry‘s Commentary, we help them to be better prepared for their Bible study.
Having established that there are practical ways in which we can prepare ourselves and our families for the Lord’s Day, we must also be conscious of our spiritual preparation. Being prepared spiritually is even more important than physical preparation. As has been said earlier, in order to be spiritually fit and ready for worship, we must be well rested. We must also have set aside all of our cares and worries of the week so that we can fill our hearts and minds with praise and thanksgiving to God. What a difficult task this is! How far short we often fall in keeping the Sabbath day holy.
In addition to being prepared for the Sabbath, we must also be orderly in our use of the Lord’s Day. Our God is a God of order. We see the evidence of that order all around us in His creation. We, as His creatures, must strive to be orderly in all that we do, especially in our use of the Sabbath. One of the blessings of our Reformed heritage is a Sabbath Day that begins and ends with a worship service. These worship services lend order to our Sunday, but there is still a large amount of time that is not scheduled. What a temptation it is to view the time in between and after the church service as our own time—a time in which we are free to relax, spend time with our family, or seek our own pleasures and interest. In the above-mentioned Standard Bearer article, Rev. Heys speaks of how our conduct on Sunday reveals the measure of our love for God. He points out that if we do indeed love our Lord, then Sunday will not be nearly long enough to fill with deeds of praise and service to Him. When our goal is to praise and glorify God through the use of the Sabbath, then we will use it profitably.
With the goal of glorifying God firmly in our mind, we can structure and plan for the wise use of our Sunday. It is simply a fact that, even with our careful preparation during the preceding week, there is still work that cannot be done except on Sunday. Readying a family for church is work. Organizing and serving lunch is work. Seeing to it that the little children do indeed sleep at naptime is work. Having a set routine is a great help in these areas of the day.
Start your routine early in the day. Rising at the same time each Sunday and gathering at the table for devotions is an excellent way to prepare ourselves mentally for entering the Lord’s house and hearing His Word. This also serves as a good time to remind our children, not only as to how they must behave in church, but also as to their responsibility to listencarefully to the minister.
Prepare simple meals. Not every Sunday dinner need be the traditional Dutch dinner of meat and potatoes. By eating simple meals we save time in preparation and also in cleaning up after the meal.
Keep naptime short. There is nothing wrong with making a nap a part of our Sunday routine. Adults as well as children need to be well rested so that they can be alert and ready to worship our God. It is wise, however, to set definite limits for naptime. By going down at a specific time and getting up a short time later, we can keep our day structured and put it to better use.
Plan for the time between church services. Again, care must be taken that we do not use this time for those things that we should have done earlier in the week, such as schoolwork, reading the newspaper, or corresponding with friends via e-mail. Rather, we must occupy ourselves with activities that praise and glorify God. Some may use this time as an occasion to sing together as a family. Others may find time to visit members of the church who may be shut-ins or elderly.
An excellent use of this time is reading—not the books that we would read during the week, but books that we have specially chosen for Sunday reading. Sound, biblical reading material for adults seems obvious, but there are also many books available for children—young and older. Series such as When the Morning Came, The Escape books, and the books written by Louise A. Vernon are some good choices for younger children. As for our older children, this is a nice opportunity to introduce them to our RFPA literature. A place to begin might be with the following books: A Watered Garden, Therefore Have I Spoken, or Portraits of Faithful Saints.
Bring the Lord’s Day to a close. With the activities of the day behind us, Sunday evening is a time of relaxation and a time to enjoy fellowship with our family. However, we must be careful to remember that the Sabbath is not over when we have attended both worship services. We must still seek to spend this time profitably in God’s service. This is a perfect time to reflect with our children on the sermons that we have heard. By taking the time to ask our children deliberate and pointed questions regarding the sermon, we can determine how well they are listening and help them to listen even better.
It is obvious that, as imperfect creatures, we are incapable of keeping the Lord’s Dayperfectly. But, by striving to be prepared and orderly in our use of the Sabbath, we will by the grace of God use it profitably. There is untold benefit for us in having spent the day as we should—not busy with things of the week but, rather, focused on praising and glorifying God. One benefit that is not immediately seen, but that will have lasting impact, is that children who are taught proper observance of the Sabbath will instruct their own children in the same manner. And we, having been spiritually fed and given a respite from the cares of the week, will be better prepared to fight the battle of faith in the days ahead. Certainly, with the conclusion of the Lord’s Day, we will find ourselves eagerly longing for that eternal Sabbath of which our earthly Sunday is but a picture.