Charles Stanley - Guidance Through Godly Meditation
Meditation is a vital part of the Christian life. And what I mean by meditation, I mean that period of time you set aside to read the Word of God, talk with Him, listen to Him, seek His guidance and direction for your life. It's a vital part of our life for all of us no matter who we are. It's a sacred time, a holy time that you have to guard. You not only set aside that time, but you have to guard that time. Satan will do anything and everything in his power to get you busy, to distract you, to get you doing good things, not bad things, good things, anything to keep you off your knees, keep you out of the Word of God, keep you from meditating upon Scripture, keep you from absorbing the Word of God, keeping you from feeding on the Word of God because he knows how important it is.
So, when we say, "Well, what is meditation"? It's focusing your heart, your life, your soul, your spirit on God, listening to Him, responding to Him, and growing in the result of that activity. That's what it's all about. It's a simple thing on the one hand, but you have to guard it because the devil knows how powerful it is in your life. And sometime, it's easy to focus on a single verse of Scripture; let's just take, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not to your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path". A familiar passage of Scripture that most of us know by heart and so forth. But what about a whole chapter?
Somebody says, "Well, can you meditate on a whole chapter"? Yes, you can. And that's what I want to do in this message, and that is, how do we meditate on a whole passage? How would God say something to us, especially in a chapter like this, which is about a shipwreck? Now, how many of you have been on some kind of a sailing vessel of some sort? Most of you have. Well, you know the last thing you want is a wreck at sea. And so, when I read this twenty-seventh chapter of Acts, I think, "It's a perfect example of those who listen to God and those who do not".
And it's easy to focus on a verse or two, but the question becomes: what about focusing on a whole chapter? If I am having my devotions and meditating on a passage, can I meditate upon a whole chapter? Yes, you can. So, I really want to do simply this: I want to show you how in one chapter, God can speak to your heart in a very specific way, teach us what He wants to teach us, help us to learn what we need to learn, help us to get a sense of direction. So, beginning in this twenty-seventh chapter of Acts, we'll take the whole chapter here, but I'm not going to read it. In fact, it's an awesome chapter. It's full of action.
And so, we'll read just a portion of it, "When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, they proceeded to deliver Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan cohort named Julius". Now, there were two hundred and seventy-six of those people on board. And they were on their way to Rome, Paul of which was one of them. And it was said by other Romans in a previous chapter that he might have been freed if He had not desired to face Caesar, who finally had him executed.
So here he is on this boat, on this ship, and they're having to sail to Rome, a pretty size trip. And so when they started, the winds were a little contrary, and the Scripture says, if you'll follow me through this chapter, "From there we put out to sea and sailed under the shelter of Cyprus", that is close to it, "because the winds were contrary. And when we had sailed through the sea along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia", and so forth. And so then, "The centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy, and he put us aboard it". So they've had a change of ships.
You say, "What's that got to do with my meditations"? Just follow me, you'll find out. "When he had sailed slowly for a good few days, the difficulty had arrived off Cnidus, since the wind did not permit us to go farther, we sailed under the shelter of Crete, off Salmone; and with difficulty sailing past it we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea". Very detailed in this chapter.
You think, "What's that got to do with my meditation"? Just stay with me. "When considerable time had passed and voyage was now dangerous, since even the fast was all over, and Paul began to admonish them, and said to them, 'Men, I perceive that the voyage will certainly be with damage and great loss, and not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.'"
And so, this is where they are. They're in one storm after the other, and most of these men on board are prisoners, but there were enough Romans on there because watch this, this was the law. If you're a Roman in charge of ten prisoners and they escaped, you got the penalty they would have gotten. So, this is why they were so harsh and so brutal, that if they failed, they paid the penalty. And so, they had a discussion of what they were going to do. Were they going to sail into a port, let the storm get by, may have to be there for a few months. They had this decision to make.
So, in listening to the discussion, the Scripture says in verse eleven, "But the centurion was more persuaded by the pilot and the captain of the ship than by what Paul had said to them", because Paul was warning them, he'd admonished them, "Men, I perceive this voyage will certainly be with damage and great loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives". So, there was one against the rest. So, they took a vote, and the vote said that the pilot and the captain said one thing. And as a result, the centurion was persuaded and they decided to sail, knowing there was a storm brewing. So, the Scripture says, "Because the harbor was not suitable for wintering, the majority reached a decision".
Notice it said a majority. Now, watch this. When you're listening to God, watch that majority business because a majority doesn't know the will of the Father when you and God are talking to each other. "Majority reached a decision to put out to sea from there, if somehow they could reach Phoenix", if somehow they could, "a harbor of Crete, facing southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there. But when a moderate south wind came up, supposing that they had attained their purpose, they weighed anchor and began sailing along Crete, close to shore".
You say, "What's that got to do with my meditation"? It has a lot to do with it. Watch this carefully. You can't get in a hurry. You can't be rushed in meditating upon God. This is a rather long chapter, but there are lessons here that God would have us to understand and learn because this is the way most people live. Oh, how do things seem to be? If this and if that, then the wind here and that port there. And so, the Scripture says, "Before very long there was a violent wind, called Euraquilo", which means a northeasterner.
Now, a northeasterner for us would be a bad snow storm drifting our way or whatever it might be, but it meant a very, very strong storm. And so, there they were in the middle of it, and the rest of this chapter is all about this storm and what happens. And so, somebody says, "Well now, what's that got to do with me"? Well, all of us face storms in our life, different kind of storms, different times in our life. And so, reading this chapter, if you said, "Well, I think I'll read this as my devotion".
You say, "Well, read a whole chapter as your devotion"? Yes. "Well, what can I learn from a shipwreck"? Just wait and listen, because God has a lot to teach us throughout the Word of God. And what I want you to see is that wherever you're reading in the Word of God, He has something to say to us about the way we live in this twenty-first century. And so, to illustrate it, we come to what's going on here, and the situation is that they left their ports. The winds were contrary. Paul warned them and they continued. Violent storms, and the Scripture says when these things began to happen to them, naturally they thought about what the Apostle Paul had said. And he was encouraging them to listen and take food and everybody's going to be alive. Everything's going to be okay.
But the centurion and the rest of them were very concerned because this was shipwrecked weather they were in. But he said, and here's what God said to me. And so, he assured them that everything was going to be alright. And then when you read into this twenty-seventh chapter and you read on over towards, say the fourteenth verse, "But before very long there was rushed down from the land a violent wind, called Euraquilo". And then the next thing you see in verse eighteen, "The next day as we were being violently storm-tossed, they began to throw things overboard and threw out the tackle overboard", couldn't see the sun nor stars for days, and they decided to abandon the ship. And the Apostle Paul told them if you stay on board, you'll be safe, if you don't, you're going to lose your life.
So, this is all about an experience they had on the sea. You say, "Well, what's that got to do with me and my life"? Well, let me ask you this: you ever been in a storm? A physical storm? What about a spiritual storm? Come on, let's be honest. Spiritual storm? Yes! We've all had spiritual storms in our life, times when we didn't know what to do or times when we wanted to do the thing we shouldn't do, times when we were convinced and persuaded or they tried to convince and persuade us that it was the wrong thing to do.
And so, remember how they got in this position; that is, that they went by a majority vote. Listen carefully, when you're dealing with God, you don't go by a majority. You go by the voice of One. That's what meditation's all аbout: listening to God, paying attention to what He says. And He won't give you the full story oftentimes at one time, but step by step. And so as a result, if you read this passage, there was a terrible shipwreck. And they lost everything, and the soldiers who were trying to escape, they let down the lifeboats in pretense of laying anchors when they really were trying to escape, but the soldiers threatened them and they knew that they would lose their lives.
And so, to bring all that to a halt, let's think about how it applies to your life and mine. So, we want to read the Word of God and we come to this particular chapter. And so, it's all about activity and shipwreck and what Paul said and what they said. The question is what does God say? Because this is one of those chapters we think, "Well, God wouldn't say anything to me about that". Yes, He would, because there's a truth here that all of us need to be aware of. That is, whatever situation we may be in, it's always wise to meditate upon the Lord. God, what would You have me to do? How would You have me to respond? What would You have me to say?
You think about all the situations and circumstances you've been in in your life where you had to defend yourself in a situation, where you had to make a decision that was very important. Maybe it was a financial decision, a marital decision, or some relationship that you have. That is, we have all kinds of decisions and we make them on some basis. When you develop the habit as a part of your life of meditation, reading a passage of Scripture, whatever portion that may be, asking God to speak to you, asking Him to give you direction, that's like having your own private, personal counselor. That is not a waste of time.
And somebody says, "Well, I'm too busy to be getting on my knees or lying asleep, and I'm too busy to be waiting for God to say something". No, you're not. You may think you are, but listen, meditation is our safety net. Meditation is our time to listen to the right voice, to not only listen, but also to make the right choices in life. And so, why was Jesus up early, as the Bible reminds us in several places, up early before day. Because Jesus, the Son of God, knew that He needed that time to be alone with His Heavenly Father to listen to the Father.
None of us are in such a situation that we are so complete within ourselves that we don't need God's direction. How many of us have awaken on a beautiful, wonderful day, go to work, whatever it might be, and some circumstance happen and you think, "If I'd have known this was going to happen, I'd just stay at home. I wish I hadn't even awakened". God wants His children developing a habit of meditation no matter who we are, what we are, how important we think we are. All of us need to take time to listen to God.
And so, they didn't listen because the centurion who had final authority had to exercise his authority and say, "No, we're going with the"... In other words, besides, Paul, are you a sailor? No. What do you know about seamanship? Well, not much. Well, so what did they decide to do? They decided to listen to ungodly counsel and made a life-determining decision that cost them everything but their life. And the reason it didn't cost them their life is because God had promised them through the Apostle Paul, "Here's what you do, and no matter what happens, I'm getting you to Rome".
And so, whatever may happen, I'm going to get you there. But if they disobey Me, you're going to lose everything. And that's exactly what happened. Shipwrecked, lost everything on board except the prisoners. All the prisoners were safe. And you remember this, that the prisoners were prisoners. I don't know how many of them were helping to oar that boat or whatever it might be, but they were prisoners of Rome. But Paul heard from God that everybody is going to be safe. Everybody's going to make it. And in the midst of that storm, they would never have believed that. And even those who tried to escape were not able to escape. God had decreed to get the Apostle Paul to Rome to see Caesar.
And so, here's this storm at sea, and everything is breaking up. And if you'll notice toward the end here, that's what happens to the ship, it all breaks up, hits a reef; and yet, in spite of that, the Scripture says that they were all safe and all rescued. And everything that the Apostle Paul had prophesied came to pass. And so, I just want to draw out a few things as an example, because I want you to be wise enough to realize that the most important thing in your life as a follower of Jesus is your time that you spend alone with Him with nobody but Him.
And so, listen, it was a priority in the life of Jesus. It was a priority in the life of the Apostle Paul. Because it's the time when you and God personally are hearing each other. God is hearing you, you're hearing God. You're listening to God, God is listening to you. It's that private, intimate, personal time that you spend with Him. It's when there are no interruptions in your relationship with Him. Most important part of your life no matter what. No matter what, the most important thing you do is your private devotion, that time you spend reading His Word, asking God to speak to your heart, listening to what He has to say.
And when you have private time with just you and God, let me tell you something, that can save your life. It can save your finances. It can save your marriage. It can save your relationships. It can save your children. It can save every aspect of your life because it's that time when you and God, that just the two of you are dealing with something in your life that God is going to give you the right answer. You may hear lots of things, but if you'll stay with Him, He will show you exactly what to do in any and every situation. God's not going to mislead you.
Watch this carefully, if He loves you enough to give His Son to die on the cross for you, He's certainly not going to mislead you in some decision you have to make. You say, "Well, I'm a nobody". No, you're not. You're a somebody. You're a somebody whom Jesus has saved. You're a somebody that God has kept you to this point in your life. You're somebody that God has a plan for your life. You're somebody that, for whom God has a future. And for whom God loves enough to take time to listen to you, speak to you, guide you, help you, guard you. That's who He is, that's what this is all about.
And so, when I think about the whole idea of meditation, it's listening and responding in the right way. Watch this carefully, be careful who you listen to. Many people have made desperately wrong decisions in their life because of who they listened to. When you're listening to somebody else and making a decision, look at their life. Don't look at how much money they have, who they're married to, where they live, or what they drive. Listen to who they are. Listen to what they are. Watch their conduct. Listen to Almighty God. And this is what Paul was saying. Having heard what God said, we're going to lose it all and everybody on board is going to lose their life if you don't stay on board the ship.
Now, what I want us to see here is not what's true of seamanship, but what's true about life every day. That's why you have to have, watch this, you have to have your time. Husbands have to have their time. Wives have their time. Children have their time. Parents have their time. That is, time that you set alone between you and God. Now, watch this carefully. Every morning you wake up, the Lord Jesus Christ who is your Savior is with you all day long. How often during the day do you call upon Him, do you rely upon Him? Do you talk to Him? Do you confess to Him? Do you seek direction? Or you just go your way.
Time with Him. It doesn't mean you have to give up your job to have meditation. It simply means this: that a time, whatever that time is for you in your life, you spend with Him to do what? To get a sense of direction, to prepare you for what the day holds. Only God knows what any day holds for any of us. And so, we make decisions based on what's the will of God? And God, listen, watch this carefully. I don't even know how to say it strong enough. We are obligated to be obedient to God if we want God's best. He offers us His best if we're willing to be obedient to Him.
And all of us make decisions every day, some of which seem to rather casual decisions, but oftentimes those little decisions that we think are small carry great weight because God knows what's around the corner. He knows what's on this side of the island and then that side of the island. He knows what's going to happen. Therefore, our time of meditation is God's time with a caution light, the stop light and the green light. And sometimes you pray and you think, "Well, this is what I ought to do". And what's God doing? He's sending you a yellow light, a caution, be careful. Or He sends the red light, don't do that, don't do it. Or the green light, in other words, God loves us to make it crystal clear in decisions we make in life.
Watch this, rank doesn't make someone wise if they're not godly, and oftentimes people in high positions make bad decisions. It's our relationship to God, our relationship to the Lord that makes us either wise or unwise. upon the Scriptures, remember that God has something to say to you. Does it mean that He will speak as clearly every time? No, it doesn't. There are sometimes I've read passages and I've said, "Lord, now what are You saying to me? Hmmmmm". And it may be that even while I'm reading and praying, I don't get it then. But I know in my heart He wouldn't lead me to read a passage of Scripture if He didn't have something to say.
And if you are fearful, then just get into Psalms. You'll find something that'll speak to you if you'll just listen carefully. But this is just an incident, and I choose it because it's not something easy, and you wouldn't read this normally as your devotion because you say, "Well I, you know, I'm not into sailing and I've never been on a ship and I don't intend to be, so God wouldn't lead me here". Yes, He would. He would lead you here because what? To warn you about what you listen to, who you listen to, and what's the Word of God's place in your life, and here's what happens when you disobey God. In other words, He leads all of us in every single way emotionally. He leads us financially, what you should buy and not to buy, who you ought to marry; all the circumstances of your life, God is involved.
So, when I ask you: what should you pray about? What would you say? Let me ask you this. Say that, give me your answer loudly. What should you pray about? Everything is up for prayer. Lord, show me about this. Sometimes things that appear to be little decisions have awesome consequences. That's why we learn to trust Him, to give Him time, to meditate upon Him, listening to Him, reading His Word. God, what would You... And sometimes a person says to me, "But there are passages of Scripture I don't understand". Join the crowd. There are some passages that are hard to understand.
Do you listen to the majority or listen to God? Do you wait till the circumstances are just right, or do you do what God said do? Do you remember that you don't go by majority but by what God has, in other words, your life and your relationship to God is a personal thing. You've not heard me tell you how to have your devotions or what you should do, but the fact that you develop your relationship with Him in such a way that whatever is good for you, whatever works for you, whatever time works for you.
It may be if you're a mother, your devotions are not early in the morning, they're after everybody's gone and it's just you in your household. In other words, you choose the time that you best are able to get alone with God, listen to Him about you, what you think He's saying to you. It's a personal, private, but also a very essential part of your life because that's the way God wants us to live. How's that? Connected to Him. And when I think of the whole idea of meditation, that's my connection. You're busy. Every day you're busy or playing or whatever you're doing. You're busy.
What's our connection? We have a connection, watch this, that's not seen. We have an invisible connection unseen. And that connection is with Almighty, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient, loving God. It's a connection that you do not want broken. It's a connection that you want to be the anchor in your life. Keep you listening to Him, obeying Him, trusting Him, doing your best to follow His guidance and direction for your life. It's this awesome gift He's given us, this connection with Holy God that all of us have the moment we trust Jesus Christ as our Savior.
So, somebody says, "Well now, what about this meditation business"? You can say, "Well, it's my connection". And they'd say, "What"? "Yep, it's my connection". And they'd say, "What do you mean by that"? And you say, "I'm so glad you asked me". Then you can explain just what we're talking about. It's your relationship with Jesus, time you have alone with Him where you listen to Him and talk to Him. Yield to Him, surrender to Him, times that you obey Him, times you make commitment, a commitment about where you live, what you wear, what you drive, how you spend, what you buy, and what you don't. How you treat others, how you respond to how they treat you. It's all wrapped up in that relationship.
There's so much in this passage, and the reason I choose that passage is because you wouldn't normally read a whole chapter as your devotions. What has that got to do with me? Well, now you know. The Bible is full of it. The Bible is loaded with truths. And if you read some things, you may have to read twice. There are some things have to read more than once. And I think, "Well Lord, what are You saying to me about this"? He's always willing to show us the truth if we're willing to listen. Now, think about this: every single day of our life, we're absolutely subject to the power of God.
We have the privilege of having a relationship with Him. We have the power within us and the Holy Spirit to do the right thing every time if we will choose to do it. He is working in our behalf continually. But that relationship must be nurtured and fed, and you simply call it what we talked about here: meditation. Time you spend alone with Him.
So ask yourself this question: when you're in the process of making a decision, are you willing to risk a shipwreck in your life; or are you willing to be obedient to God and let Him show you what He's willing to do, what He's willing to provide? That whole chapter is, there's a lot here to think about and to focus on, to meditate on. And I choose a whole chapter because normally we wouldn't. And you might go home today and sit down and read that chapter again and think, "Okay God, here am I and here's where I am. Here's what I have, here's what I'm not sure about. What do You want me to do"? And somebody says, "Do you think God really speaks to us"? Absolutely He does.
Watch this carefully, your personal, private devotion, intimate time of meditation is the most valuable protective thing you have. Somebody says, "I'm too old for that". No, you're not. Or somebody says, "Well, I haven't been a Christian very long". You desperately need it. We all need it, every single one of us, every single day. And it matters not how many sermons I've preached, thousands, but I am just as needy before the Lord Jesus Christ today as I was the first message I ever preached.
Listen, He never fills us up that we don't need any more. He fills us up limitless. It's always flowing toward us, if we'll take advantage of it. And if you've never trusted Jesus as your Savior, I want you to think about this: you're floating out on one piece of wood in the middle of the Mediterranean, no hope in sight, in the middle of a storm, thundering and lightning and big waves taking you twenty feet high and down and up and down you go, and nothing in sight and no help in sight. You don't have any assurance.
Whereas if you have devotions in your life, if you have time for meditation, you're like a person who's anchored, so perfectly anchored that no storm can upset you no matter what. It begins with trusting Christ as your Savior. He's your anchor. And I trust that if you've never done that, trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, get anchored up with Him, connected to the Lord Jesus Christ, watch Him do the most awesome work in your life. You'll have a testimony you can't keep quiet, when God begins to work in your life.
Father, we love You and praise You and we bless Your Holy Name. Thank You for giving us this chapter. Thank You for reminding us that we're totally dependent upon You and reminding us that You are always, always available to hear us. We'll never have a too busy sign, never hear a too busy voice, love us enough to always give us clear direction in our life. I pray this message will sink deep into our hearts, the heart of every person who hears it. Apply it to their heart, make the awesome difference You intend for it to make. Thank You for loving us enough to be personally involved enough, to personally answer our petitions, personally give us guidance, personally provide for us. We thank You and praise You for it. In Jesus's name, amen.