Note: This post is part two of a three-part series looking at the meditation of the heart and mind.
Read part one of this post here.
In a recent struggle, Psalm 15:1-2 became as a life vest to this drowning sinner in a overwhelming storm of despair. “O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart.” My desire, since being made alive in Christ (Eph 2:4-5), has been to walk blamelessly and do what was right in the sight of God and man with the ambition to make much of Christ (2 Cor 5:9). However, in the midst of various taxing life circumstances, I had allowed my times of personal communion with God to be somewhat sideswiped by both external demands and chaos as well as inward turmoil. I had inadvertently become somewhat self-reliant.
As with Peter walking on the water, my attention shifted from Christ to the storms of life, and thus I sank into despair (Matt 14:29-30). The comforting thoughts of God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and goodness in all of life were being swallowed up by the overwhelming demands, heartaches, and personal failings to faithfully and joyfully fulfill God’s calling upon me as a husband, father, and pastor. I felt like Christian in The Pilgrim’s Progress when he was locked up by Giant Despair in Doubting Castle. While seemingly trapped in the dungeon of despair, I was convicted of the core issue while reading Revitalize by Andrew Davis. He hit the nail on the head in describing the 10 faithless spies that reported to Moses and Israel concerning the Promised Land (Deut 1). “They looked at the challenges facing them, which were real indeed, but then made the spiritually fatal mistake of looking inward to meet those challenges. When they looked inward and did not see the resources needed, they melted in despair.”
Now here is a crucial question: How did they get to such a place of despair, unbelief, and self-reliance? God had just delivered the whole nation of Israel from Egypt through the 10 plagues, parting the sea, and even feeding them daily manna from Heaven. Yet despite all this, they failed to daily remember and meditate upon who God is, who they were to him as his chosen people, and his promises to them. Rather than counting their blessings one by one, they grumbled like a drunken bum. They lost sight of God and focused their thoughts on their immediate circumstances. The result? They were overwhelmed to the point of preferring slavery in Egypt to moving ahead toward God’s promise of a land flowing with milk and honey (Ex 3:8).
How should we respond when we find ourselves overwhelmed with life’s circumstances or overcome by the sin which so easily entangles? We must lift our eyes from the issues of life to the Author of life and the Perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2). We must cry out as did Peter when sinking in the midst of the storm: “Lord, save me” (Matt 14:30). Going back to Psalm 15:2, I had failed to speak truth into my heart. Rather than meditating upon God’s Word day and night that by God’s grace I might prosper (Ps 1:2-3; Josh 1:8), I had been musing upon my temporal circumstances until I was utterly miserable and unfruitful.
So what was the remedy to cleaning out my closet of chaos and despair? Again, Psalm 15:2 says, “He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart.” I was not speaking truth (God’s Word) in my heart. My identity was tied more to my inability to cope than to Christ’s immutability as the Good Shepherd. Though I was wandering off like a stupid sheep that meanders out of the green pasture (and into the vast ocean only to be pulled out to sea by the rip tide), Christ remained faithful and proved himself once again as the only way of escape (1 Cor 10:13). He brought me back, and he did so not through a quick fix but through his sufficient Word. By the Spirit of God I was enabled once again to speak truth into my heart that I might do what is right not just out of mere duty, but out of delight in my Good Shepherd.
So here it is again, we need to be mindful of our meditations, for from them we live.
On my honeymoon, my wife and I were snorkeling off the coast of Mexico. I had never been snorkeling and was amazed at the vastness and beauty of the world hidden beneath the waters. Yet I was a simpleton, altogether ignorant at the time of rip tides. During our romantic enjoyment of seeing a variety of fish while floating aimlessly about in the ocean, we happened to look up. Romance became immediate panic! We had failed to keep our whereabouts in mind and before we knew it we had been pulled several hundred yards away from the beach. The resulting struggle to get back to shore soon wore blisters on my feet from the flippers as we fought against the current. By God’s grace, we eventually found ourselves lying exhausted upon the sandy beach and extremely grateful that we had not ended our honeymoon abruptly … as shark bait. Snorkling lesson learned!
Like our mindless meandering in which we were pulled out into an untamed ocean, we are so much like sheep which meander away from Christ into a world of evil that is intent on destroying us. If we are to survive and stand firm through the storms of this life, it will only be as we stand upon the Word of God through our union with Christ. We must not merely be hearers of the Word, but doers of the Word (Matt 7:24-27).
Amongst my children, I have one who often leaves the table hungry. The reason is simple. Though the food is right before her, her thoughts about certain foods are an inhibitor to that food getting into her stomach. The result is that she does not benefit from the nutrition it supplies. How often have you heard a sermon only to fail to make application of it? How often have you given someone a passage of Scripture to consider through the week and yet they fail to look at it? We reap what we sow (Gal 6:7). If we desire a life transformed by God’s Word and thus transfixed upon Christ, the Word must not just be looked upon but devoured. Do you truly believe that it is through God’s Word alone that the Spirit of God saves souls and brings about Christlike maturity (Jn 17:17)? If we really believe this, then we must also embrace the reality that the difference between being a hearer and a doer of the Word is meditation.
*Check back soon for the final edition to this post.
Bryan Gaines is Pastor of Family Discipleship at Grace Community Church in Glen Rose, Texas. He regularly teaches classes to encourage and equip parents, works in the Student Ministry, leads an adult Care Group, and oversees Grace Preschool. Bryan also leads Grace Biblical Counseling, LLC. He is certified biblical counselor with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC, formerly NANC).
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