Charles Stanley - Distracted from Godly Meditation
I was talking to this lady this week and she was telling me where she worked and what she did and the people that worked around her. And here's what she said. On Friday mornings, the group of people she works around, and they were probably in their thirties, forties, fifties, somewhere there abouts. And she said, "On Friday mornings when we all get to work", they're talking about partying that night.
And she says, "In fact, that's about all they talk about, where they are going to drink beer together, where they're going to have fun together, whatever that is involved, and that's the way they begin their Fridays. Can't wait to get off of work". And she says, "What I noticed they don't do a very good job of what they're doing while they're there". And she's a trainer. And she says, "I can see them slacking off on Fridays, because their mind is on getting together and drinking on Friday night". And she says, "I've had to carry a few of them home late on Friday evening".
That's not the kind of meditation I'm talking about, because that's what they're doing. Their mind is consumed about tonight. What they're going to do, where they're going to do it, and who they're going to do it with. The meditation of the Word of God is meditation, thinking about, being consumed by your thoughts about the Lord Jesus Christ. And what He's doing in your life. What you'd like for Him to do. I'm talking about meditation that strengthens you, brings you closer to God, causes you to have an intimate relationship with Him, makes it possible for you to hear what God is saying to you about what concerns you, what troubles you, what brings you joy or whatever. This is the kind of meditation we're talking about.
So, when I think about it, I think about it in this light: it's a private conversation that you and the Lord have. And He's more than willing to speak to your heart about any subject you want to talk about, because His goal is for you to listen to Him so He can give you clear, good, righteous, accurate, wise direction for your life. So that you can become the person He created you to become. God is genuinely personally interested in everything in your life that interests you. Is He interested in your sin? Yes. And what's His goal? To convict you, to make you so miserable, you will lay it down. Is He interested in the good things you do? Yes, He is because He'll reward you for them.
So, I want you to think clearly about what we're talking about - we're talking about meditation. We're talking about setting our focus upon God to listen to Him. You'll recall that the children of Israel spent four hundred years in Egyptian bondage. And you will remember that one night the death angel came through Egypt and all of those who did not have the blood over the doorpost in their house, one of their children died. And so, you'll remember that they were released by Pharaoh. And they came down across the desert, down to the sea, Red Sea.
And just when Pharaoh thought He had them trapped, God opened the door of the sea, they walked through on dry land and the waters covered the Egyptians. Then they finally made it to the edge of the Promised Land, there's the border and there's Canaan over there. They could see it. So, Moses did a wise thing. He sent twelve spies to check it out, bring back to us the news that we need to know about what's going on. So, they came back. And Joshua and Caleb gave this awesome report about all the things that were there, but they could handle it. It would be warfare but they could handle it. But then there are those who did not meditate upon what God said. They meditated upon what they saw, what they feared, what they felt.
And so, the Scripture says in Numbers chapter fourteen: "Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, 'Would that we had died in the land of Egypt. Or would that we had died in the wilderness. Why is the Lord bringing us into the land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our children, little ones become plunder, would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?' So, they said to one another, 'Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt.'"
That's how absolutely erroneous meditation on our self-efforts and our abilities and our talents minus God. Joshua and Caleb focused their attention upon God. The rest of them focused their attention upon themselves, upon possibility of defeat, upon the possibility of losing their loved ones. So here was two attitudes. Watch this carefully. You have the privilege of having a godly, positive attitude, depending upon God for every aspect of your life. Or, you can live like the world lives, doing your best to satisfy your needs and all kinds of sinful, wicked, diabolical ways.
And if you'll look around you, most people are not focused on God, they're focused on their pleasure, their drinking, their sex, their money and where is God? Because somewhere along the way, they've been convinced that they can handle it. They can't handle it. Nobody's handling it without God, no one. And so, this whole message is about the idea of our focus, and our focus on meditation. Meditation means setting apart time where God and I are together. You say, "Well how do we do that"? We're coming to that. Setting apart a time where you and God, you and God alone, it's better that way. Talk to God about your life. Whatever concerns you is of concern to God. So, He's a God who desires the best for us.
So, when we think about that, ask yourself this question. How much time at any given day, did just you and God have a little time for yourselves and you talked to Him and listened to Him? I daresay most Christians don't do it. The opportunity, and think about this, God is not going to ever fail to show up when you set aside time to meet with Him, never. He's going to be there. And He's going to be there to answer your questions and to give you a sense of direction and encourage you, to help you, forgive you. He's there to help us to become the person that He has destined us to be.
And so, when I think about the rewards, in other words, you say, "Well, what's that going to profit me"? Here's what you can expect. When you spend time alone with God. You say, "Well, now wait a minute. What am I supposed to be doing"? Shhhh, listen. Don't try to figure out what you're going to do. Just set aside some time that you, (not you and anybody), you alone get together with God. You say, "Well, where do I go"? Get in the closet. If that's the only place you've got, get in your bedroom, lock, shut the door, whatever it might be. It's you alone with God. "And how do I know God's going to be there"? Because He promised to be. Here's what He said to every believer: "I'll never leave you nor forsake you".
I don't have to ever wonder where He is. "Well, I can't see Him". He's bigger than being able to be seen. "Well, I can't hear Him". You haven't listened to Him. God is willing to speak to you personally about you and your life and your future if you're willing to listen. Number one. Meditation before the Lord will quieten your spirit, calm your sensitivities. He will enlighten your mind to think like He thinks, so we'll do what He says do. He will increase your energy to make it possible for you to obey Him in every circumstance. He will purify your heart by exposing sin. So, you'll know exactly.
You say, "Well I don't know what to confess". He'll show you. He'll enlarge your view of Himself. That Almighty God is almighty. He has all things under His control. Likewise, He will increase your love for Him. When you spend time with Him, increase your love for Him. For example, if you have ever loved anybody, really loved anybody, you want to spend time with them. Now that may indicate something to us. If I don't want to spend time with Him, it must mean I don't love Him. If I love Him, I'll spend time with Him. You have a greater sense of faith. You can face things you normally would not face, because that's the strength and the evidence of His presence in your life.
Strengthen your faith: the more time you spend with Him, the greater your faith. Increase your awareness of the presence of God. There's nothing that increases your awareness of the presence of God like being alone with Him and just saying, "Lord, I'm here to listen". And then, infuse you with joy. There's an awesome sense of indescribable joy and completeness and peace and sense of security when you've spent time with God no matter what you're facing or who you're facing. That's why all through the Scriptures we find God's servant doing just that, and that's meditating.
So, when you think about your conversation with God and you say, "Well, you know, I don't know what to say". You don't have to worry about that. You say, "Well, I don't know how to ask". Watch this carefully. When you spend time with Him and you get alone with Him, the Holy Spirit. And most people just ignore this. The Holy Spirit who lives within you will guide you into what you're thinking, what you're asking, what you're seeking. That's one of His primary responsibilities is to give guidance. You don't have to think it up. You say, "Well, will He remind me of my sin"? Yes. "To make me feel guilty"? Yes. "Why does He want me to feel guilty"? 'Cause He wants you to feel righteous and godly and wants you to have a pure heart.
So, all meditation is not some pleasant attitude. It depends on how you and I have been living. But it's always for our good. So, when I think about being quiet, listening to Him, asking Him for direction, does He care? Yes, He cares. If you ever trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, from that moment you have the Holy Spirit in your heart. One of His primary goals is to do what? Watch this carefully. To draw you closer and closer in your attitude, your feeling, you can't get any closer than Him. He's already in you.
And so, He's changing your attitude to get you closer and closer in your relationship to God so that you and God are walking in harmony with each other every moment of your life. That's who He is. And one of the best ways to meditate upon the Lord is with an open Bible. What does He, what does He want to say to you? What is He saying to you? Because God wants to give direction for our life, and meditation is the primary way of doing it: being quiet, listening to what He says.
Somebody says, "Well, is God willing to speak to us? Many people can't hear, is He willing"? Yes, He is. God would not expect you and me to live in this world and to be righteous people, godly people without His presence and His help by the Holy Spirit because He knows we couldn't. And so, I say all of that to say this: The children of Israel came to the blessing God had provided. He sent spies to affirm, so they could affirm to the people of Israel what He was getting ready to do for them. And instead of listening to God's servants, they chose not to listen, and it cost them forty long years after they'd already spent years in Egyptian bondage.
So, think about this. If you're not used to listening to God, what have you missed? You don't know the answer to that. You don't, you don't know what you've missed if you've not been listening to God. But I can tell you one thing. You've missed His best. Can you improve on God's best? No. But if you're not listening to Him, meditating upon Him, taking time to be quiet with Him and just listening, reading a passage of Scripture, letting it sink into your heart. If you've not taken time to do that, then you've missed something.
Watch this. This is God's holy gift to every single one of His children. Holy gift, adequate gift, eternal gift to every one of His children. He doesn't want us living like the world lives. He doesn't want us thinking like the world thinks. God has a different higher, holy, wonderful, righteous, fulfilling, eternal plan for all of His children if we'll listen. So, here's some attitudes that short-circuit your faith. Just short-circuit your faith, and you miss God's blessing.
So, number one is bitterness. If you allow bitterness into your life and you focus on that, instead of love and forgiveness and all the rest, you pay a penalty. And I think about people who are living with bitterness. If you ask them, "Are you bitter"? No. And not realizing how bitter they are.
Secondly, there's anger. When you focus on anger, it gets stronger and stronger and stronger in your life. There is a penalty to pay There is a penalty to pay if you're angry.
Thirdly, there's hatred. There are people who live with hatred. You can watch the TV and listen to the news: hatred, bitterness, resentment, hostility. These are attitudes that are destructive, and you cannot have a right relationship with God if these attitudes are present in your life.
And then there's unforgiveness. Unforgiveness puts you in a desert. You can't have a right relationship with God if you're unforgiving toward anybody. You say, "But you don't know what they've done to me". Well, let me ask you this: Does what they have done to you match what we did to Jesus on the cross? No. And what was He saying? "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do". What are you focused on in life? In other words, if somebody said to you, "What do you think, what do you think about most"? Could you say God? Could you say when it comes to serious thinking I think about God? Unforgiveness. Unforgiveness has a big penalty with it.
Hostility. There are people who are very hostile. They're angry, they're hostile. They want to hurt people. They want to do people damage. They want to get even and if you ask them, "Even with who"? They can't tell you. You see, here's the issue. The issue is the war is on the inside, and it's a war that goes on and on and on. And so, hostility stirs up all kind of stuff. Think about, when you pick up the newspaper or listen to your television, look at the hostility that we hear about, that we see.
Hostile, angry, bitter, resentful, murderous. Resentment, and resentment's one of those edgy things. You resent people because of what they have. Because of who they are, because of how they look, because what they drive, where they live, how they dress. Resentfulness says there's something in me that doesn't like them. Don't make me define it, just I don't like. You see, this is an attitude that's destructive.
And then of course, there's just pure unbelief. "I don't believe God does that. I don't believe God will meet all of my needs. I don't believe God's interested in my life". Unbelief is very destructive. This is why meditation upon God, thinking about Him, reading His Word, dwelling upon His Word is so important. It increases our faith. Then, there's grudge. Who holds a grudge? There are people who hold grudges all of their life. They just can't forgive. They can't forget.
And I think about families that are broken up, divorce and all the rest. And their grudges, resentment and hostility and anger and unforgiveness, all of these things just sort of run together to make a person absolutely miserable. No wonder they run to the bars. No wonder they drink till they are unconscious. Now we know why they do. Because if I'm living in sin, I don't want to feel so sinful, so I drink something that just sort of knocks that feeling out of me and I can just relax and this, that and the other and so forth. Next thing you know, one sin leads to another. You're going to meditate on something.
If you've never trusted Jesus as your Savior, you're already meditating on something that is not going to be healthy, good or good for you or your family. And then, of course, fear. Fear absolutely grips multitudes and multitudes. If you ask them what they're fearful of, they can't tell you. "Well, I'm just afraid. Things are so bad". So, we could go on with a list. I'm simply saying that focusing your attention above anything and everything that leaves God out of your life is going to be destructive. The children of Israel were looking into the Promised Land. They'd already been through wilderness and the miracles of God. They're looking into the Promised Land. They're listening to two saints of God: Joshua and Caleb. They're listening to them say, "We can do it. We know we can do it". We've seen the rest of the ten spies they saw the same thing, but they didn't believe, we can do it. Say, "Nahhh. Uh-uh, I don't think we can".
Now if they had known what that decision was going to cost them, they wouldn't have made it. You see, we don't think about the consequences of our decisions. Before you take the next drink, think about it. Before you hop in the bed with somebody, you better think about it. Before you figure you can steal and get by with it, you better think about it. God hates sin and loves the sinner. Our focus and our attitude and our meditation, meditation's what I'm thinking about. And what's going on within my thinking. And when I'm thinking about the way the Lord wants me to think about Him and His attitude and what He wants for my life; I'm going to come out better no matter what, but if I don't, it's going to cost me.
Think about this. Looking in the Promised Land, or looking back at all their children have died, all their families who died. All the pain, hostility and anger and bitterness, resentment, murder, all the rest that was in Egypt. And you think they would look at the Promised Land, look back at that and say, "That's what we want". That's not what they wanted. They were totally deceived. Watch this. Fear will deceive you. They could look both ways.
Now watch this carefully. All of us have a choice. I can either look at the Promised Land or I can look at the wilderness, forty years, eaten, bitten by animals, snakes, and all the rest. I have a choice. You have that choice. You have a choice to dwell upon God, obey Him, surrender your life to Him and let Him demonstrate to you how awesome He can bless you. You have that choice. Or you can listen to the world, break all the commandments, do anything you want to do: drink, carouse, you name it.
You have a choice to do that. Or you have a choice of walking with the Lord Jesus Christ with real joy, a walk that brings you real completeness, real fulfillment, real love. You have a choice. It's whatever you choose to dwell upon, that's the way you'll go. And my prayer for you is that you will be wise enough to make the right choice, to spend time alone with the Lord. And when you find yourself heading in the wrong direction, don't excuse yourself, don't rationalize it, but admit, "God, I'm heading in the wrong direction. Turn me around, God, before I go too far". Meditation upon the Lord and upon His Word.
You say, "Well, what verses should I meditate upon"? Well, I go back to this one. Here's what David said. Listen carefully. "Let the words of my mouth", what I say, "the meditations of my heart", what I feel, "be acceptable in Your sight", God's viewpoint, "oh Lord, my strength and my redeemer". "Let the words of my mouth, the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, oh Lord, my strength and my redeemer". He has the best for you. It's your choice. Amen?
Father, thank You for Your precious Word that guides us, guards us, protects us, enables us, rejoices within our heart. And I pray that every person here today who has never trusted You as their Savior will be wise enough today and trust the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, surrender their life to You, watch You begin a new work in their heart. And every believer here, Father, whose time is totally filled with things that are necessary, but also things that are unnecessary and that are very destructive. Let the Holy Spirit bring a sense of pure guilt in the life of every person who's living in sin, disobeying You, knowing it, when you have provided them the very best. We love You, Father, and we praise You. Thank You for Your patience with us, but I pray Lord, let not a single person walk out of this building without having settled where they're going to spend eternity. Or laying aside all those things that hinder Your prepared, ready-to-offer blessings that you have their name on. In Jesus's name, amen.