Majoring in Life
Making meditating on Scripture an enjoyable and valuable part of your life.
Scripture passages in this lesson are linked to this page for easy access.
Lesson 7: Chewing on God's Word
(When you don't want the Bible to be just another textbook)
Text written and copyrighted © 2002 by Manfred Koehler. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)
Startled, Sarah turned in time to see her roommate heave a booklet across the room. It landed with a clatter in the trash.
Blowing the bangs out of her eyes, Connie scowled. "I am sick of Bible study guides. They're so much like homework, I could puke. Why do I have to ‘trace Paul's second missionary journey on the map provided?’ The stuffed shirt who wrote that obviously has mistaken me for someone who cares!"
Sarah fought the smile that begged to come. Connie needed understanding right now, not condescension. "Kind of boring sometimes, isn't it?"
"Boring? If only it were that simple. This read-the-Bible-every-day thing is killing me. I've got a course load that could choke an Einstein, and God expects me to stick my schnozzola into this book for three hours every morning like some convent nun in a wimple. I'm sorry!"
"Who ever said anything about three hours?" Sarah hid the escaping smile behind two fingers.
“Whaddaya mean? Every Sunday that preacher you drag me to bangs away on his one-string harp, singing the same lullaby: ‘Read that Book. Read it every day!’ Caaaarrrrumba! Every time he preaches, I break into a sweat. The guy is so intense."
The smile disappeared. "I'm sorry you feel like I'm dragging you there. That's the last thing I want for you. We could try someplace else."
"Oh, don't worry about it. It's not the issue. I really do want to study the Bible, but I keep tripping over the fact that so much of it is obtuse. I can't understand it. I get to the end of a chapter, and I'm, like, shaking my head, wondering what in Tasmania was that all about?"
Walking over to the trash can, Sarah reached in to retrieve the study guide.
"Leave it there, girl," Connie warned. "I'm done with that thing."
Sarah arched her eyebrows. "What if I want to look at it?"
"Be my guest. Wish you'd taken it far sooner."
"I thought you liked these things."
"Ah, they worked for a while, but I'm done with cramming my brain with more info, coming to the Bible like it's some kind of overgrown textbook." Connie squeezed her stomach. "I've got textbooks coming out of my navel." Grabbing her Bible, she continued, "I want this Book to be rich, tasty soul food, not dry, unspiced turkey stuffing. Am I making any sense?"
Sarah smiled openly this time. "I think I hear you. And I think a single word may help you."
"One single word?" Connie replied. "My, aren't you a paragon of simple solutions."
Sarah nodded, trying to be a paragon of patience.
"Well, what are you waiting for? Hurry. I hope this isn't a long word—I've got a class in two hours. Will I need a dictionary? Sorry. I'll shut up. I'm listening. Really.”
Sarah paused for five seconds to make sure.
Connie waited, eyes mockingly expectant, mouth clamped shut.
"Meditate? You're kidding!" Connie's expression turned suspicious. "That's for gurus! Are you trying to turn me into some Eastern mystic?"
Sarah took the Bible from Connie's hands, turning to Psalm 1. Pointing it out, she handed the Bible back. "I've got to go to work. You may want to check out Joshua 1:8 too. We'll talk more later."
Connie flopped herself on the couch—and opened a whole new world.
The One-Stringed Harp
There are many well-meaning people out there with rather awkward approaches to challenging youth to read God's Word. I remember being in Bible college and listening in complete astonishment as one of my classmates screamed at our Romans professor, "I hate reading my Bible. My dad forced me to read it every morning! He'd spank me black and blue if he found out I hadn't."
That is extreme.
With all the harping on the very real need to study the Scriptures, few Christians do it. Most have tried, but many soon quit. Add the stresses of life on campus, and the number of Bible-reading believers is even scarcer.
That's sad. God really wants you to like his Book. He has no desire to see you opening your Bible in grim determination to be a "good Christian." That kind of motivation doesn't last. He wants you to be enthusiastic, not grim, about his Word: "I delight in your commands because I love them" (Psalm 119:47). It's impossible, however, to really enjoy God's Word if you go into it with one of the following attitudes.
"I've gotta do this, or God won't bless me today."
Yowch! What a terrible concept of God—a self-absorbed Scrooge whose two-bit blessings only come if his subjects make him feel good by taking a long look at some ancient manuscript he wrote while in an extra-snarly mood. The real God is no miserly curmudgeon. He longs to abundantly bless you—in fact, he already has. Check out Ephesians 1:3: "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ." All you're doing when reading the Bible is discovering how to enjoy that mountain of blessing.
"Let's get this done and get on with life."
It's possible to spend ninety minutes getting zero out of God's Word, the whole time preoccupied with all the "other stuff" that needs attention. I've been there. It's also possible to crack the Bible for five minutes and come away with joyous tears, energized by God to face life's next demand. I've been there, too. It's all in the attitude. It's called hunger (Matthew 5:6). If you come to God's Word hungry, you'll leave fed. And it's amazing how nicely that "other stuff" gets done when you give the Scriptures their due priority (Matthew 6:33).
"Five chapters a day keeps the devil away."
Just passing your eyes over onion skin pages isn't the magic wand that makes Satan's knees knock. Consider John's commendation of the youth in his flock:
"I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one" (1 John 2:14).
God's Word is meant to be a living, breathing entity in your soul. If your appreciation of it stops short of that, you're dead. It'll be the evil one who does the overcoming.
Realize that reading God's Word is not a quantity thing. It's about quality. If it only touches the mind and not the heart, it's boring. You're better off reading less and feeding more.
"Time to find out what other heavy-duty commands God has for me to obey."
Choke. If your approach to Scripture is merely a growing list of dos and don'ts, you will gag on that list. I can tell you that from personal experience. My list was so long, I gagged for two years, having lost all desire to study my Bible. Instead I spent a lot of time talking with Jesus, my feet propped up on my desk, hands behind my head. For me it was a time to meaningfully sort out all the Bible truths already crammed into my brain.
When you read your Bible, make it your primary goal to discover more about Jesus: "What's he like?" "How did he handle this?" "How can I enjoy his peace?"
You want to learn about your best friend, the one the whole Bible talks about (Luke 24:27). As you grow in your appreciation of all that Jesus is, you'll be far more inclined to ask, Okay, Lord, what do you want me to do? And how are you going to enable me to do it?
One Key Word
The word "meditate" really does solve a lot of the frustrations found in people's efforts to appreciate the Scriptures.
First, let's make a distinction between biblical and Eastern meditation. Eastern meditation involves emptying the mind. Satan loves empty heads. He fills them with all kinds of evil ideas and visions. That's dangerous ground. In contrast, biblical meditation occupies your thoughts with God's Word. Satan hates that. A mind dwelling on truth sits in a safe place (Philippians 4:8).
So, what are the advantages of biblical meditation?
Meditation is leisurely (Genesis 24:63).
You can meditate in an easy chair or on your favorite tree stump. No heavy agenda. You sit there and ruminate. Think of a cow chewing its cud. It lies completely relaxed, just enjoying the food over and over: Burp, chew, swallow, burp, chew, swallow. Excuse the metaphor, but the deep truths of God's Word really do taste better with every swallow.
You can meditate any time of the day (Psalm 1:2).
You don't even need your Bible in hand. You've likely got enough stored in your mind for a hundred meditations. Pick one. Once you discover the sweet experience of meditation, you'll want to read your Bible just so you'll have more to chew on.
Meditation transforms mere knowledge into living truth (Psalm 48:9).
It's one thing to read that God loves you. It's another thing to dwell on the thought long enough that you come away feeling as if your Creator has given you a cosmic embrace.
Meditation comes with a guarantee: God-given success (Joshua 1:8).
True success is not measured or attained by the world's standards. Read Joshua's words for yourself. Then meditate on that verse for a while.
God is pleased to see you meditating on his Word (Psalm 19:14).
Why? Because as you meditate on his truth, you allow him to express his great love for you. He really wants you to understand. Once you understand his heart, you'll in turn love him more. He doesn't want you obeying out of fear; he wants you responding out of love (1 John 4:18-19).
And when you love him more, he is most pleased.
Don't Wait to Start
So kick up your feet. Crack open a Bible. Put your hands behind your head. And make like, well, a contented cow. Ruminate a while.