Charles Stanley — Meditating On The Word of God
I remember before I preached the first sermon in my life, my mother came in the bedroom and she said, "I have a verse of scripture I want you to read". I said, "Okay". And so, she pointed out this verse in Joshua. "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you to be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go".
What an awesome promise that was to me because it was in my home church and that's the worst place in the world that a young fellow can start out his ministry, because everybody knows you. They know all the good things you've done, they all know the things, mischievous things you've done. Let's put it that-a-way. But anyway, somehow, I remember when I got to, I know exactly where I was standing, at the light pole on the corner of the street and the church is right across the street. And I opened my Bible and I read that verse one more time. "Have I not commanded you to be strong and of a good courage! Fear not, neither be thou dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go".
And you know, when I walked up there and just let go and just preached my heart out. And I'd never preached before in my life. Naturally, that verse became precious to me. But it wasn't very long after that. And I came across a word in this eighth verse that says, "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night". And I thought, "What's meditation"? I didn't have any idea what meditation was. And so, I thought, "I'll look that up and see what it is".
Well, over a period of time when I began to understand what it meant to meditate on the Word of God, I can honestly say this. That my most favorite thing in life is to open the Word of God and to meditate upon a passage that He lays upon my heart, because He becomes so real. And the Word of God just unfolds right before you. And I think a lot of people read the Bible and pray and talk to God, but they never think about meditating upon the passage. And so, what I'd like to do in a particular passage is I'd like to give you an idea of how to meditate upon the Word of God.
And I think once you start, you'll agree that just reading the Bible is not enough. And many people read the Word, and many people pray, but most people, I'm afraid, do not put them all together. It's talking to God, listening to God, but, listening to Him through His Word. If I want clear direction, it isn't that I think it up. If I want clear direction, I'm going to His Word and say, "Lord, show me what are you trying to say". And what you're going to find out is this: You begin to hear God speak to you in ways you're not going to hear any other way. Because you see, quickly reading the scripture on your way somewhere else, that's not meditating. To meditate upon it means more than just reading it.
So, let me just say first of all, it involves several things. If you're going to meditate upon the Word of God and you're going to get the most out of reading the Bible, you've got to shut the world out. In other words, you can't, watch this, you can't listen to television and meditate upon the Word of God. That doesn't work that way. Or talk to your friends on a phone. Or talk to anybody else. You shut the world out and what do you naturally do? That is, you shut yourself up to God. It's just you and Him alone. And then, what you do is you focus your attention on a passage of scripture, asking God to speak to your heart, show you what He's trying to say to you. But, meditation isn't something you all do together. My private meditation is something that you do between you and God. That's your conversation, you're listening to Him, you're talking to Him.
You're reading His Word. You're seeing what He's saying. And you see, there's a difference in praying and reading the scripture and just praying. Praying, reading the scripture, then God has, He has the privilege of saying something to you that you need to hear. And so, when I look at that passage that God spoke to Joshua, "Meditate upon this Word day and night," because He knew that Joshua needed to get this deep down inside of him, "Meditate upon this Word day and night".
And what He had told him was that He would be with him, he could trust Him, He would take him through, He would give him guidance and direction for the whole nation of Israel. He wanted it driven into his heart so that he could not forget it. And haven't you read some scriptures that you wanted driven into your heart? That you'd not forget, because you knew in your heart God was trying to say something to you, just casually reading the scriptures is not meditating, it is reading the scripture, talking to God, listening to Him. It's all three things together.
So that requires four things. And one of them is simply this. It's got to be a priority in your life. If you don't make it a priority, you're not going to do it. The devil hates to see God's children meditating upon the Word of God because he knows when they're meditating upon the Word of God, they are absorbing into their spirit, their soul. And the meditation that you and I receive from God's Word becomes a light to us. It becomes a guiding vision for us. God shows us oftentimes, He in meditation will give you a warning about something's going to happen that very day or something that's coming in your life. And sometime it's a word of comfort, sometime it's a word of warning. Sometime it's just a blessing to listen to God say what He happens to be saying in that particular passage. So, it's got to be a priority. Then you've got to have a place. If I'm going to meditate upon the Word of God, I have a place that, that's where God and I meet.
Now some place in your home, you and the Lord can set aside for meditation. It doesn't have to be a big place, it's just you and God. You can't say, "Well, the family and I," no. That may be a family Bible study. We're not talking about Bible study. We're talking about a personal, intimate relationship that you have with God. And I can tell you, if there's no meditation, there's not going to be any personal relationship that's intimate. That you and the Father become friends in a level that it's not normal and natural for somebody to say, "Well I'm just going to read the Bible and pray and I'll, I think that'll do it". No, it's a priority. You need a place and you need you need to settle on the purpose.
In other words, many people read the Bible so they say they can. But my purpose for meditation is I want to hear from Him. I want Him to speak to my heart. I want to be able to talk to Him in a way that I know that what I heard is not something I made up. It's something that God has said to me. And so, if you'll think about this, when you go through difficult times in your life, who do you need to hear from most of all, not your friends, you need to hear from God. "Lord, You know what a mess I'm in. You know what they're doing to me. You know why I'm where I am. I don't know how all this happened. I don't know why it happened, but Lord, I need for You to speak to my heart".
And I can tell you, I can take, not necessarily this Bible, but the Bible I read out for my own self. I can go through and show you dates I've set by things that, that things that I faced in life and asked God to give me direction for them and how often He's given me a passage of scripture exactly for, I'll give you an example. I was facing a situation that was very touchy and very difficult. And I was asking the Lord to give me direction. Lord, speak to my heart. In reading a passage of scripture, it's just like I knew, in fact the passage simply said, "It is time for God to act".
Well I'd read that many times, but I was asking Him specifically, "God, You need to do something about this". It is time for God to act. And probably a couple of weeks or so later, I was just reading another passage and reminding God that He said it was time for Him to act because one of my concerns was, "Well how are You going to do this? It was very sticky, very sticky". I said, "How are You going to do this"? And I was reading along and the Bible says, "The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this". I said, "Hallelujah"! I knew at that moment I was not going to have to be able to do something I didn't feel capable of doing. And I thought, "Lord, how sweet and precious You are. You say it's time for me to act and not only that, you don't have to worry about it. I'm going to handle it". And He did so in the most perfect fashion. He will do the same for you, if you sense the need to listen to Him, and if you read His Word, and you ask Him to speak to your heart.
You ask the Lord to show you what He's, for example, if you've got some question going on in your life, what do you do at this point in your life or how do you carry out this. He is more than willing to give you clear direction, but it takes time alone with Him to concentrate upon His Word. And so, that's why I would say the next thing, not only a purpose is a plan. You've got to have a plan. As I say we need a place and a time you set aside that you're going to spend time with Him, listening to Him and asking for direction in your life. And sometime while you ask Him for direction in one area of your life, He's going to give you direction in some other area as well. And I can say to you, to me personally, it's the most precious time in my life, reading His Word and knowing that Almighty God, the Sovereign of the universe who's created it all, is willing to speak to me personally through His Word. And I can tell you in all the years that I've been listening to Him, He's never led me wrong. He's never failed to keep His Word.
So, what I'd like to do is I'll take a short passage, if you'll turn to the book of James. Take a short passage and I just want to read it with you. Through this passage and say this is the way I would meditate upon a word, on a part of Word of God; a particular passage. And I won't tell you everything I might say, but we have enough time for me to give you an example. So, look in James chapter one, verse one, "James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing".
I read those first four verses and I know that first of all, I need to observe what is it saying. What are these four verses saying to me that the Lord has led me to read? What is it saying to me? Well, first of all, it identifies me the author, James, probably the brother of Jesus. A bond-servant, considering himself a servant here, of the Lord. "James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ". And then to whom is it written? Now listen carefully at what I'm going to tell you. You listening? Say, "Amen". The Bible was not written to you and me. It was written to the people of that day, but it was written to them, but also written for us. God knew exactly how many generations of people would be living before Jesus Christ came back.
So, he wrote it to them, but he wrote it for us. And if you'll think about it, how awesome God is that this Book written to people thousands of years ago is still just as applicable if it were written yesterday. So, he says, now, "to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad". So, I could say, "Well that has nothing to do with me because that was written to those folks". No, it was written to them, but it was written for us. And these twelve tribes are, you remember when Stephen was stoned to death and the church began to scatter from Jerusalem and so this is who he's talking to. So, interpretation. So, how do I deal with this? He says, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials". I'd think, "Okay, Lord, You know what kind of trials that I may face. I don't know what's out there. You do". And all of us have faced those sudden things we did not expect.
And so how do you respond when you face them? He says, "Count it all joy". That means of what I'm not to do is I'm not to be resentful, hostile. "God, why have You let this happen in my life"? But, "Lord, since You're in charge of my life and I'm your son; and You promised to meet my needs and You promised to answer my prayer. I just want to thank You that for whatever You've got coming, I want to thank You because I know it's going to be for my good, because that's who You are. You're a good God. You've promised to meet our needs, rejoice our heart, bless us. You did not promise it would always be easy". So he says, "Count it all joy". Then he uses a word, if you'll notice, he says. "Knowing".
Now, what in the world has that got to do with it? "Knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance". Knowing says you can be confident. You can know this. You can be confident and assured of this. "I'm going to walk with you through this. I'm going to help you. I'm going to answer your need. I'm going to answer your prayer. I know what's on your heart. I know what your need is. I know better than you do what you think your need is". So, knowing, he says, "Knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance". So, "Testing of your faith," does what? It produces endurance. It strengthens us. It makes it possible for us to stand strong in a storm. So, he says, now, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter these things, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance". What else produces endurance? When everything is going our way, that doesn't, that doesn't strengthen us at all.
God wants us to be strong. He wants us to be able to face difficulty, trial, temptations, all the things that we face. He wants us to be able to face those and be strong in the process, and not weak, not yielding, not surrendering, not giving up. And not walking away from the will of God, because he says, "Look, you can expect it". "Consider it all joy". Not if they come, but when they come. "When you encounter them, these various trials," you can know in your heart that you have the promise of His presence. That no matter what you and I go through, we have this promise. He is with us. "Knowing," he says, "that the testing of your faith," God's got a purpose in mind. This isn't just some incident. "The testing of your faith produces," he says, "endurance".
Now, the test here is not a test in order to defeat us. Because the word he uses here and just reading it, for example, and meditating upon it, you wouldn't necessarily know all the meanings of the words unless you chose to look them up. But this is a test that means to test, to test for approval. Not to test to see if, because God already knows how you and I are going to respond to every single circumstance. So, he says when these tests comes, God allows us to be tested to do what? Strengthen us, encourage us, help us to be able to endure. Not ever to defeat us. God would never send a test to defeat us, but always to enable us to grow in our Christian life. And if you'll notice, he says, "Testing of your faith will produce endurance". And then he says, watch this word, "let," when he says, "let," here, what he's saying is give it permission.
When he says, "Let endurance have its perfect result". That is, let God accomplish His real goal at this point. And what is His goal? "Let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing". And he does not mean perfect, as far as sinless. But he says God's got something in mind. He says, watch this now, don't try to short-circuit God. I'm going to get out of this situation no matter what. But he said, "Give God time and let," as he says, "let it have its perfect result". That is, God's result. If God allows you to go through something that's difficult and trying and you say, "Okay, God, I want You to accomplish whatever You've got in mind".
Here's what he says, "Let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect". Doesn't mean perfect, sinless, but it means complete, strong, mature. That's the best word. Mature and complete, lacking in nothing. That is, your faith is strong. Your endurance is strong. Your sense of direction is right. Your faith is getting stronger and stronger. Now when most people read that, they say, "Oh my goodness! Trials and difficulties, mm-mm, I'm going to the Psalms and reading something sweet.
That's where I'm going". But you know what? To do that, here's what it's like. It's like coming to a stop sign in an intersection, you say, "I don't like stop signs. I like go signs". So, you just run right through it. And more than likely, you'll have a problem. So, it's not just reading the Word of God, it is doing just what we're doing, and that is we're focusing on it and we're meditating upon it. And it means that I would read it more than once. In fact, I'd probably read it two or three times before I tried to figure out anything. And just say, "God, what are You saying". That's observation. What we've just done is interpretation, here's what it says. And then the third step is application. If there's no application, then I'm missing something. So, instead of complaining and moaning and groaning about it, I'm going to ask God, "Lord, what are You trying to say to me and what opportunities are coming? What do You see coming in my life that You're equipping me for by giving me the truth of this passage"?
So, I want to keep my focus on Him, rather than on the trial itself. So, when he says, "Count it all joy brethren, when you encounter various trials". My focus isn't the trial, but on God. And I think if we just remember that whatever comes into our life, our focus is not to be just absolutely consumed by what's going on, but it's to be consumed by God. "Lord, in this trial, thank You that I'm in Your hands. Thank You that I'm surrounded by Your love. Thank You that Your power and Your grace and goodness and love is going to bring me through this. I'm going to be stronger through it".
And I can think of some trials I had, have had that I didn't like any of them. I tell you I didn't. I didn't like them, but you know what? I wouldn't take anything in the world for them, because I can look back and see each one did something to me that couldn't come in anything easy. And so, if you want to grow in your Christian life, you do it God's way. And that is, you keep persevering and watch Him perfect your life. And remember this: whatever He allows you to go through is for your benefit. It's for your benefit. Now it may be a very difficult trial and test, but if you'll remember that everything He allows you to go through, as one of His children, it may be something somebody does to you or some situation and circumstance you had nothing that you could put your finger on, but He allows it in your life, why? Because He loves you. And that love includes testing and trials and disappointments and heartaches and all the kind of things that we like to avoid. If you're going to grow and be godly, you can't avoid it.
Now, you can just read the Bible and keep going or you can meditate. You can choose the passage. You could, you could go, for example, to First John, and the whole passage in the very beginning here, that talks about sin. You can turn to First Peter and about suffering and turn to James, you can turn to John, you can turn to the Psalms. You can turn to most any place. But the same, if you use the same pattern, the same pattern each time, here's what'll happen. Reading the Bible will become a fantastic fascination. Because I want you to think about this. Can you tell me anything any more gratifying, any more rewarding that you open the Word of God and God speaks to you crystal clear about something that you're facing in life? You know you've heard, not from a friend, you've heard from the sovereign of the universe who controls all things and who had that written before you were ever a thought. But He had us in mind. That's the kind of awesome God He is.
If you've never been saved, you don't have this privilege. It's just you and the world. But if you trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, and receive Him into your life, into your life comes the Holy Spirit who is the One who will help you interpret rightly the Word of God, to give you guidance and direction and empower you and equip you and strengthen you for the task. Then life changes and all of a sudden you have a relationship with a Holy God who will guide you through the last moment of your life. The question is: Do you want God to do His best in your life, which you and I have to allow that to happen or not? Do you want to grow and be the person God wants you to be? This Word is the key. The Word of God does to your spirit what God knows it's all of us need every day. We need to be alone with Him, listening to Him, reading His Word, asking Him to speak to our heart, and then in response we obey it.
That's the way you grow in your Christian life. That's what prayer and meditation's all about. That's why God said to Joshua, "Meditate upon this Word day and night," because He knew he had a job that looked impossible to take over that whole bunch of Hebrews that Moses had a terrible time with them. And He says, "Meditate on it day and night," because sometime we have to go back to a passage and sometimes I've gone back to some over and over and over again and had to say, "Lord, here's what You said. Here's what You promised. I see what's happening, but here's what You promised. I don't like it, but here's what You promise. And you know what? God will always bring you through it, if you will allow Him and if you'll take the time.
Think about this: when you take the time to meditate upon His Word, you honor God. You're honoring His Word. You're expressing faith and you are growing in your Christian life, whether you realize it or not. So, don't just read it. Don't just pray. But read the Word of God, meditate upon the Word of God, whatever passage He leads you to read and look at and ponder in your heart. Watch Him work. God works in the heart of the person who's meditating upon His Word.
Father, how grateful we are that You make it so simple. That if we'll just listen carefully, You answer our prayers, You answer our questions. You take us through difficulty, pain, hardships, and trials. You never fail to keep Your Word. And we just want to say thank You, thank You, thank You that You're a trustworthy God. In Jesus' name. Amen.