Preparing for the Meal

by Steve Hall

My wife and family of eight children waited impatiently behind me as I inserted the key into the lock of our front door. A faint aroma teased my sense of smell. As we stepped into the front hallway, we were overtaken by the savory scent of roast beef, potatoes, and carrots cooking. (Hear a choir of audible “mmms” and “ahhs” here.) Very soon we would all sit down to eat our fill of a delicious meal that had been slow cooking while we were at church.

As we sat down to eat this feast, one of the family members could have asked himself, how did all of this deliciously cooked food come about? (Which I say completely for the sake of illustration. Because obviously at this point, the only priority is food entering our mouths rather than pondering philosophical questions entering our heads.) Did it just appear? (It’s about to disappear!) The obvious answer to the philosophical question is, of course not! Someone had to prepare it all, put together the correct ingredients, add seasonings, and get things started. In a home such as ours, it takes much ahead-of-time planning, preparation, and a mom’s constant call of “I need some helpers please!” to make this happen. You must prepare a meal before you can enjoy partaking of the meal.

Was the preparation really necessary? Was the hustle and bustle worth it? No, probably not. As long as we didn’t mind eating raw beef, cold, uncooked carrots, and crunchy, hard potatoes. No preparation, no yummy food. And believe me, in our household of eight children (three of them being constantly “starving” teenagers who, contrary to the evidence, can NEVER find anything in the house to eat), one assistant pastor and a church pianist, yummy food on a Sunday afternoon is very much needed!

Annalise eating-02
Our little Annalise Marie enjoying her favorite cereal, Rice Krispies. (June, 2016)

Now for the application. When we arrive at our church each service, do we expect to partake of a “delicious meal” in a spiritual sense? The Word of God is often compared to food. If a spiritual feast is going to take place, somebody has to be doing some preparation. You may think, “Yes, you’re right, the pastor should have been preparing to serve us some spiritual food.” This is true. But, we also have a responsibility to prepare. Of course you should prepare your own ministry of sharing God’s love and His Word through whatever ministry He has called you to bear fruit in, whether singing, teaching, counselling, giving and so on. But, not only should we all be preparing in a tangible sense (choir practice, lesson study, texting encouragement to a brother or sister in Christ), we should also prepare in a spiritual sense. We should prepare our hearts.

Ezra was a man in the Scriptures who had this testimony: “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.” (Ezra 7:10)

Notice the order of what Ezra did. He prepared his heart:

  1. to seek God through His Word.
  2. to obey what he learned God wanted of him.
  3. then to teach and minister to others what he had learned.

What a testimony God gives of this man! I want this testimony for my ministry! Notice that it does not say that Ezra had complete knowledge of all spiritual things. It simply states that his heart was ready to seek the Lord and to obey, and then to reach out in ministry.

When we step into the church building on Sunday, have we prepared our hearts ahead of the service? Have we added the proper ingredients into our lives in order for the Lord to serve others through us? We can often talk of spiritual things, but do we actually do them? Here are a few daily/weekly ingredients:

  1. Bible reading and meditation— allowing the Word of God to “slow cook” in our hearts through the week is one ingredient that will help us prepare to give (as well as to receive) a spiritual feast.
  2. Seeking God’s face— asking Him to work in the service, to take away any spirit of coldness from the congregation, and that He be glorified in all aspects. Asking for souls to be saved and rebels to have their hard hearts softened by the invading Holy Spirit upon them. And then stepping into the church building with great expectation for the day!
  3. Obedience– always a key ingredient. Prepare to obey. Recognize that as you are challenged by the preaching of God’s word, it is likely that steps of obedience will be required. These steps may sometimes be on the hard road of great faith.

Putting these ingredients into our lives can allow the Holy Spirit to serve through us in ways we cannot imagine.

family table-02
Our Thanksgiving breakfast table. (November, 2015)

Are we preparing for a delicious meal? Or, are we going to sit down with a heart grown cold? Draw near to God, add the proper ingredients to your daily walk with Him, prepare your heart, and then feast on the truth of God together with those you are serving!

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