Meditate? You’ve got to be kidding! I’m an activist. I don’t have time to sit idly and think. Besides, it’s the doers, not the thinkers that make the world go around.
For many of us, we equate meditation with that great sculpture The Thinker by Auguste Rodin. It’s a man sitting on the world with his elbow on his knee and fist under his chin, contemplating the universe.
But meditation is far from just taking a seat, thinking and doing nothing. It’s not passive, nor powerless. Rather, meditation is reflecting, considering, pondering and contemplating. This is an active, deliberate effort to do something involving both mind and heart. And to follow this with action.
The Apostle Paul concludes his letter to believers in Philippi saying: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
Our minds and imaginations run constantly. They never stop. Meditation then is a learned skill to focus and concentrate on reading, studying and reflecting on Scripture. In Philippians, Paul exhorts us to force our mind to deliberately fix its attention on God—and His works, world and Word. He instructs us to meditate on certain attributes of God and aspects of His creation.
- What is true. For followers of Jesus, truth is embodied in His Person and in the Scriptures. Therefore we should spend time thinking about who Jesus is, what He said and what He did. When I read the Bible, I stop to contemplate a particular verse or passage. Daily, I am confronted with slurs and slams to my belief system. As I read the Scriptures, I focus on its truth for life and counter each untruth I face.
- What is noble and right. We are to focus our minds on honorable lives and actions. So much of the news today depicts violence and mayhem, and the media often criticize religion and people doing good. Before long, it can color my attitudes to think negatively about people and events. So I fill my mind with God’s Word and other wholesome material.
- What is pure. We must guard our thoughts from evil and lust. As technology makes pornography accessible at the click of the finger, we must protect our hearts from its poison. I try to never open sites that I do not know. If accidentally I see something appear, I get out quickly. There are effective filters to prevent porn. In addition, I attempt to guard my eyes regarding the opposite sex. Since I travel frequently, I try to always be with a friend or colleague to ensure accountability and to avoid temptation.
- What is lovely and admirable. Much of this thinking relates to other people. Look for the good in them. Don’t dwell on their bad habits and offenses. It is too easy to become cynical and critical. I try to guard my lips and aim to pray for the people and authorities that irritate and provoke me. I listen and attempt to inject positive comments. Unfortunately, I don’t always succeed. So I apologize for anything offensive that I’ve said, sensing that it was neither lovely nor admirable.
- What is excellent and praiseworthy. This is lifting your mind to reflect on the goodness of God and His creation. His beauty and majesty are overwhelming. I like to point my mind, and my friends, to it.
Think, think, think. I have discovered several practical steps that help me to meditate on God’s Word in the midst of my hectic day:
- As I read the Bible, I purposely stop to reflect rather than to rush through. For example, while studying Romans 12:1-2, I underlined all the verbs and circled the nouns. Then I thought about and prayed over each as they applied to my life./li>
- I memorize key Scriptures and review them during the day, and I pray about a particular verse that speaks to my specific situation at the time.
- I enjoy admiring God’s creation—clouds, mountains, changing colors in the autumn and falling snow in the winter. When looking at people’s faces, I think about how God made them.
- I am especially helped by Deuteronomy 8:2. “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” This reminds me to mediate on how God has led in my life … and to be thankful.
- Psalm 143:5 says, “I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.” Then I recall how this is passed on from generation to generation: “One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—and I will meditate on your wonderful works” (Psalm 145:4-5). This is thinking on the great works of God—in the world, in history and in my own life.
Meditation is not a cloistered life in a monastery or the adoption of a life of reflection and silence (as good as that may be). It is learning to think of God in the busyness of real life. This does not come naturally. Much of this is found in being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).
Without reflection and meditation, our lives become aimless and lack order. We strive for purpose and meaning. Only in reflection and meditation can we examine and correct the trajectory of our lives and thus “live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way” (Colossians 1:10).