Disciplines are hard! This coming Sunday we will be looking at the discipline of “Meditation.” Not the type of meditation that is practiced in Eastern religions which want you to “empty your mind”, but real, focused mediation, especially on God’s word.
Meditation is hard work. One if the biggest challenges to meditation is finding the time to do it. The phone rings. The timer goes off. Your child comes and pulls on your leg. Supper has to be cooked. The laundry needs to be folded. The floors cleaned. A meeting after school. Kids have practice. Kids have games. Homework to be done. Council meeting at church. GEMS planning meeting. Not to mention your job that you have to go to.
Even as a pastor, even though we are paid to study the scriptures, there are days when it is extremely difficult to find time to read a bible passage, much less actually dig deep into studying it. We live in a busy, busy world. We are constantly bombarded with information. We find it extremely difficult to carve out some time in each day to meditating on God’s word.
That’s why it is called a “Discipline.” It is something that you have to work at. It is something that is challenging. In Donald Whitney’s book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, (great book by the way, you can find it on amazon.ca for cheap!) he writes about a study done of born again Christians, “Only 18 percent – less than two of every ten – read the Bible every day. Worst of all, 23 percent – almost one in four professing Christians – say they never read the Word of God.” (Kindle page 27) This idea was staggering to me. This is simply reading the Bible, much less actually meditating on some key passages.
I want to challenge myself to read the Bible more. There is a plan that Whitney lays out in his book, that if you read three chapters a day from the Old Testament, and three chapters a day in the New Testament, you will have read through the entire Old Testament once and the New Testament four times in one year! This sounds like an interesting plan, I might try it.
But that is simply reading, what do I mean by meditating on scripture? Whitney says that “Christian meditation involves filling your mind with God and His truth.” (Kindle page 46.) And he defines meditation as, “deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities revealed in Scripture, or upon life from a scriptural perspective, for the purposes of understanding, application, and prayer.” (Kindle page 46.)
So what are some practical ways to do this? Whitney gives 17 ways in which we can meditate on Scripture. Why 17? Because the reality is, we won’t all find each way as helpful or beneficial. But you might find one that works for you for a while and you stick with it, until you feel it isn’t working any more. Here are the 17 ways, (Starting on Kindle page 56-67):
1. Emphasize different words in the text – focus on the word and think about what they mean, and why they are important.
2. Rewrite the text in your own words –
3. Formulate a principle from the text – What does it teach?
4. Think of an illustration of the text – What picture explains it? – Jesus used parables, or pictures to help us understand, how can a picture help understanding?
5. Look for Applications of the Text – “How am I supposed to respond to this text?”
6. Ask how the Text points to the Law or the Gospel – How can we see God’s love, or what God requires of us?
7. Ask how the Text points to something about Jesus –
8. Ask What question is answered or what problem is solved by the Text
9. Pray through the text
10. Memorize the Text
11. Create an artistic expression of the text
12. Ask the Philippians 4:8 questions of the text – “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just…”
13. Ask the Joseph Hall questions of the text: What is it? What are its parts? (see Kindle page 64 for all 10 questions)
14. Set and discover a minimum number of insights from the text: There can be an infinite number of insights into each text
15. Find a link or common thread between all the paragraphs or chapters you read
16. Ask how the text speaks to your current issue or question
17. Use meditation mapping – Google “mind mapping” as an example
These are practical ways in which we can practice meditating on Scripture. It is hard work to create a new habit. Studies have shown that it can take at least two months of doing the same thing in order to create a new habit to make it feel natural. If Godliness is our goal, meditating on his word will help us toward reaching that goal.