Habits of the Heart: A Study of the Spiritual Disciplines – Meditation
By Dr. Jack R. Hodges, Jr.
The call and privilege of the believer is to worship and serve the Lord. And the pathway to following Christ Jesus in humble obedience is the pathway of discipline. I shared last month in the introduction to this series of studies that our Lord Jesus Christ came to set us free from sin and death so that we could (and would) follow Him and experience a deep, intimate, and eternal relationship of faith. Our Lord desires that we love Him, follow Him, and serve Him and in order to do that, the Christian must follow the pathway of spiritual discipline.
The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 9:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.” Many have suggested that the first step toward a deeper relationship with Christ comes through the spiritual discipline of “meditation.”
Meditation, as a spiritual discipline, was not foreign to the writers of the Scriptures—for we see this word used throughout the Old Testament to describe the ageless practice of an inward discipline of drawing near to God. We read in Genesis 24:63 that “Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening.” David, the Psalmist, wrote time-and-time again about his practice of meditating upon the Law of God and upon the presence and promises of God. “When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches” he wrote in Psalms 63:6 and again in Psalm 119:148, “My eyes anticipate the night watches, That I may meditate on Your word.” In the introduction to the Book of Psalms (1:1-2), we are introduced to the “blessed” man “… who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.”
There is so much noise, busyness, and distractions in the world that we live in today. And our adversary, the devil, has seized upon these powerful things to prevent God’s children from diving into solitude, silence, and meditation. But God invites His beloved creation into a deep, intimate relationship. He declared in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” In the NASV translation, this verse reads, “Cease [striving] and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” It is absolutely clear what God is commanding us to do in order to know Him completely—Stop! Stop what you are doing! Stop whatever you are focused upon! Cease, halt, quit—stop and be quiet before the Lord. That is what meditation is about. It is the discipline of laying everything down and becoming quiet and still for God to speak to us. What makes it hard? We can’t let go! We are too busy and too driven. The demands are too great, and the time is too short. But, the inevitable result of our failure to stop, be still, and meditate upon the Lord is that we will not nor cannot hear God!
Richard Foster points out that in Eastern forms of meditation, the goal is to become “detached” from the world. But Foster argues that Christian meditation “goes far beyond the notion of detachment…we must go on to the attachment.” In other words, the believer and follower of Jesus seeks to detach themselves from the confusion that is all around them so that they may pursue and surely experience a greater attachment to God. So, Christian meditation leads us to the inner wholeness necessary to give ourselves completely, freely, and wholly to Christ.
The spiritual discipline of meditation calls us to enter into the living presence of God for ourselves. It is the “front porch,” so to speak. God invites us into His presence. In order to prepare to be present with Almighty, eternal God, we have some preparation to do. We cleanse our thoughts, detach from the noise and demands of our surroundings, lay down our burdens, and open our hearts and minds to receive the Presence of the King (Note: how do you prepare to invite an honored guest into your home?). That is what we do!
Dr. Jack Hodges is the Senior Pastor at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Morganton, NC. He has served as a pastor, a biblical counselor and an International Mission Board missionary.