Meditation Builds Spiritual Strength

download (2)Do you ever wonder why sometimes you feel spiritually weak?  Check your levels of meditation. I can’t even list how many times in scripture God encourages us to meditate on his words.   There’s something wonderful that happens when we read and think about the words of God.  Not only do you begin to take in the true meaning of the words but they actually begin to change your thought process.

You see, as you think and think over the words again, they become a part of your mind and your heart.  Eventually, it will come out in our actions.  David said, “thy word have I  hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11).  It is harder to ignore that voice in your head warning you against doing wrong when that voice has been allowed to drill into your mind.

I was reading a passage in Joshua, Chapter 1, verse 8 that caught my eye.

This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

You may say how can I meditate day and night?   It’s just like when you eat a good meal and you remember that meal.  You bring it back up in conversation and may encourage a friend to try the dish or the restaurant where it was served.    When something is good to you, it will come back up and you’ll think about it.

Meditation is an exercise of the mind.  You become more spiritual when you think on the Word of God, which Christ said is the bread of life. Christ is the Word and the Word gives life to our spirit.   When we take in what is right, our spirit will reject what is wrong

When we take in what is right, our spirit will reject what is wrong and sinful.  We will lose our taste for wrongdoing if we take in and meditate on His words.  Sure, the flesh will always want wrong but we will find a strength to say no.  Our desires will change toward good and our heart will be affected by the power of divinely inspired words.

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Human Emotions

In the first three chapters of Genesis, we see fear, guilt, shame, contentment, anger, and happiness. Emotions are part of our existence, and while they should not be ignored, they are also not intended to rule our lives.  Jesus showed extreme levels of emotion in his walk here on earth.  He was human in every way.

Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;  (Hebrews 5:7)

Emotions are part of our existence, and while they should not be ignored, they are also not intended to rule our lives.  Emotions come and go.  How many times have you felt depressed or sad, but the next morning you felt great?  I’ve known of some churches to teach the Christian experience at such an elevated level as to make it inhumane. Emotions do take time to process especially when something tragic happens like death, terminal illness, or a divorce.

It’s normal for us as humans to experience lingering sadness and depression over enormous hurts, such as the loss of a relationship or the death of a loved one.  If someone harms your child, it is human to feel hurt, anger, anguish, and a desire for justice.   While the Christian may certainly struggle with feelings of anger, hurt, revenge, we fight not to succumb to them and we pray for God to provide peace. Christ gives us strength beyond ourselves to endure and overcome.  I’ve been there and back and I’ve been amazed at His power to overcome evil with good.  Since God has grace for all these things, He encourages us to come boldly to the throne so that damaging emotions will not find a settled home in our hearts.

We will be hungry; that cannot be erased.  We will be angry.  We will desire the opposite sex and companionship; those hormones and attractions are part of our mortal fabric. We will get physically tired or even bored because humans crave variety.  We will not want to suffer problems, pain, death, injustices, rejection, isolation, loss of relationships, loss of health, or fear of the unknown. We will get physically tired or even bored because humans crave variety.

Though we are human, our hearts have been changed with the touch of the divine. Our focus while suffering these things should be to follow the steps of the one “who did no sin, neither was guile [craftiness or deception] found in his mouth; who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:21-23).

In other words, Jesus left an example of how we should live. We should walk in the same path as our Savior. A person who believes he or she can’t overcome even the most minor temptations because “Well, what’s the use? God looks at me as a sinner anyway and I can’t stop doing wrong,” is not living the way God intended.  The mindset of Christ is to walk in his path and do what He would do.

Christ never emphasized the weakness of man over the power of God.

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The Humanity of Jesus

 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; (Hebrews 5:8)

Knowing all of our weaknesses and human frailties, God provided a remedy—Jesus Christ.   Romans 8:3 says, “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh [the weakness of the law was not the law itself but the sinful nature of man] God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” Jesus condemned using the weakness of the flesh as an excuse to sin by wrapping Himself in the same substance we are wrapped in—not just to be compassionate to our human condition, but to show us that His power could make us victorious over our sinful condition. The very purpose of this sacrifice was to free us from the power of sin and not just its penalty. Salvation doesn’t just cancel out the sins we committed; it also gives us power not to go back to those sins again and stay free from them. John 1:12 says, “To as many as received HIM, to them gave he POWER, to become the sons of God” (emphasis mine). Although being tempted is part of life, we, who are His children, always have the power to say “no” the devil and overcome temptations.

Praise God for that strength.

God exhorts us to watch and pray, be diligent, and stay away from things that will feed our temptations. Even though living free from sin does not involve excluding ourselves from everyday contact, 1 Corinthians 5:10 says, “for then must ye needs go out of the world.” Jesus did not pray that we are taken out of the world, but that we would be kept from the evil ( John 17:15).

A holy life is a simple obedience to the Lord with all your heart and all you know to be right.

The Bible shows several examples of Christ’s humanity.

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When He was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was willing to obey God’s plan and go through the expected suffering, but his humanity said in Matthew 26:39, “Lord, if this cup may pass from me….” In other words, He essentially said, “if there is any other way to avoid this agony and death, please find it.”  As a human, He did not want to go through the suffering.  When He learned Lazarus had died, Jesus cried out of hurt and compassion. He got tired, hungry, and thirsty. He suffered rejection, isolation, and injustices. He became angry and frustrated with the disciples at times.  Yet, Hebrews 5:8 states that He learned to obey God by the things He suffered.  We also have to learn to obey God through the trials we suffer.

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Little Foxes

It’s the small things that hold up progress. In my time as a minister, I’ve seen many people appear to have achieved perfection in Christ, but it turned out to be just their own version of perfection—perfect church attendance, perfect church attire, perfect children (that you know of), perfect involvement in auxiliaries, and perfectly faithful in their chosen post of service. Only later they find, through major mishaps in their spiritual experiences, that they had missed some very important lessons in serving God and growing in Christ.  Scripture clearly defines what God considers perfection.

In Matthew 5:48. various Greek words are used for “perfect” in the New Testament, one English word remains constant in translation, the word complete.  Christ’s sermon spells out for all of us as Christians that our righteousness must go beyond the outward compliance with the laws and regulations God laid down under Moses.  The law of Christ demands an obedient heart as well as a change of heart toward His voice and the Holy Spirit. Here Christ describes the divine love that needs to be in the hearts of all believers. It is easy to be drawn into the routine of Christian living and become self-righteous like the Pharisees in measuring up to the “rules” of Christianity.  Like the Pharisees, we can become concerned only with being strict keepers of the Law and miss the “weightier matters” of “judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone,” as Matthew 23:23 says. The Pharisees were overlooking the small but important parts of serving God and the honest joy of walking in the light.

There is great joy to be found in being honest about our shortcomings. I had this personal “thing” where I didn’t like borrowing other people’s clothes. I know; go figure. I could shop at the thrift store just fine, but the idea of asking to borrow an outfit seemed different to me—couldn’t tell you why. Maybe it was because I never had to wear hand-me-downs. Vestiges of pride were obviously hanging on.

Back when I was going through the financial hardship, God allowed me to be in a situation where I had to attend a fancy birthday dinner because it would have been too rude not to go.  I didn’t have the money to buy anything, not even from a thrift store.  So the Lord told me to simply “borrow a dress” and even told me who I could call. I contemplated, considered, and toyed around with the idea for days. I even told my husband to just go to the dinner without me because it was just too embarrassing for me to put on the “rag” I had in my closet.  But even though I was truly ashamed of what I had to wear, I did not want the solution God put in front of me. Since I could not escape the obligation, however, I realized God wanted me to attend, which meant I had to borrow the dress from the person God told me to borrow it from.

The person I needed to call had the right dress, just like the Lord said; it fit perfectly, and it was just the style I would have chosen myself. She even told me to keep the dress after the party—ain’t God good? Now if I had not listened to the Holy Spirit and refused to come face to face with my pride, I would not have learned this valuable lesson in love, giving, and following the Holy Spirit. Now that might seem like a ridiculous thing, but small things can be troublesome and a hindrance to your spiritual growth.

This, Too, Shall Pass

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The Bible uses the phrase “and it came to pass” repeatedly to signify that something has transpired or an event has occurred. It is usually accompanied by some version of the following familiar story:

During a Sunday class, the question was asked, “In your time of discouragement, what is your favorite scripture?”

A young man said, “’The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,’ Psalm 23:1.” A middle-aged woman said, “‘God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,’ Psalm 46:1.” Another woman said, “‘In this world, you shall have tribulations, but be of good cheer, I have overcome this world,’ John 16:33-35.”

Then Mr. John, who was eighty years old, and had a head of white hair and dark black skin, stood up and said with as much strength as he could muster, “It says, ‘And it came to pass…’ eighty-five times in the Bible.” The class started to laugh a little, thinking that old Mr. John’s lack of memory was getting the best of him.

When the snickering stopped, he said, “At thirty, I lost my job with six hungry mouths and a wife to feed. I didn’t know how I would make it. At forty, my eldest son was killed overseas in the war. It knocked me down. At fifty, my house burned to the ground. Nothing was saved out of the house. At sixty, my wife of forty years got cancer. It slowly ate away at her. We cried together many a night on our knees in prayer. At sixty-five, she died. I still miss her today.

“The agony I went through in each of these situations was unbelievable. I wondered where God was. But each time I looked in the Bible and I saw one of those eighty-five verses that said, ‘And it came to pass,’ I felt God was telling me that my pain and my circumstances were also going to pass and that God would get me through them.”[1]

[1] Stephen Sheane, “The Table of the Shewbread,” http://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/illustrations-about-influence.asp?Keyword=Influence [accessed May 25, 2011].

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