(Continuation of a series on Biblical meditation from our friends at Reformation Heritage Books)
Meditation Is a Necessity for Every Growing, Healthy Believer
While American Christians have access to more Bible study material and biblical preaching than ever before, they struggle to know what to do with all this knowledge. Thankfully, the Lord designed the practice of meditation to unite biblical knowledge to actual living. Unless a believer spends regular time thinking personally and deeply about the things of God, he will not be growing in the grace that the Lord desires in his life. Watson beautifully explained this necessity: “Without meditation the truth of God will not stay with us; the heart is hard, and the memory slippery, and without meditation all is lost; meditation imprints and fastens a truth in the mind…. As a hammer drives a nail to the head, so meditation drives a truth to the heart. Without meditation the word preached may increase notion, not affection.” Baxter considered a Christian without meditation as a house that had no light because its windows remained shut:
Now you read over whole chapters, and hear sermon after sermon, either they never stir you, or at least, it is but a little for fit, like a man that hath warmed himself at the fire in the winter, and when he goes from it, is colder than before; but if you would but set yourselves to consider of what you hear or read, one line of a chapter, or one sentence of a sermon, would lay you in tears, or make you groan, or at least do more than now is done. Satan hath garrisoned the heart of every carnal man; and consideration is the principal means to cast him out.
But must Christians really practice meditation? Are there not some who have “arrived” at a point of growth where this isn’t really important for them anymore? When John Ball considered who should apply himself to meditation, he answered that no one can “exempt himself from this duty, unless he purpose to live unprofitably to others, uncomfortably in himself, and disobedient against God.” The Puritans set forth Joshua, Moses’ successor, to demonstrate the necessity of meditation. The Lord appeared to Joshua to encourage him for the task of conquering the Promised Land. They did not discuss military strategies or battle plans at this rare meeting. Rather, the Lord told Joshua that his greatest need was to live by meditating upon God’s word (Josh. 1:6–8). Henry Scudder argued that if a person did not meditate on truth in his free time, he would inevitably be tempted and fall into sin. Satan goes after idle minds. Scudder counseled: “When you are alone, be sure that you are well and fully exercised about something that is good…in holy meditation or prayer. For whensoever Satan does find you idle…he will take that as an opportunity to use you for himself, and to employ you in some of his works (Matt. 12:44).”
When some implied that meditation was not essential for every believer, Thomas Manton countered that meditation was “a necessary duty, with out which all graces would languish and wither. Faith is lean and ready to starve unless it be fed with continual meditation on the promises (Ps. 119:92).” Manton continued to show the necessity of biblical meditation by urging: “Those Christians that are backwards to the duty of meditation, find none of those impulses and meltings of love that are in others…. Affections always follow the rate of our thoughts, if they are ponderous and serious…. Thus, you see, it is a necessary duty.” Without meditation, our faith and understanding will remain simple and underdeveloped—like unripened fruit. But meditating deeply on God can inspire rich, loving fellowship with Him. Watson agreed: “Grace breeds delight in God, and delight breeds meditation. Meditation is a duty wherein consists the essentials of religion, and that nourishes the very lifeblood of it…. A godly Christian is a meditating Christian.” Later, Watson specified the necessity of meditation in four principles:
The end why God has given us His Word written and preached is not only to know it, but that we should meditate on it. The Scripture is a love letter…. We must not run over it in haste, but meditate upon [it]…. 2. The necessity of meditation appears because without it we can never be godly Christians. A Christian without meditation is like a soldier without weapons or a workman without tools…. 3. With out meditation the truths we know will never affect our hearts…. 4. Without meditation we make ourselves guilty of slighting God and His Word.
Meditation Stresses What Is Practical, Not the Contemplative or Speculative
When many people picture meditating, they see an oddly dressed monk who contemplates useless and unsolvable mysteries. This, however, is not true biblical meditation, which always results in changed actions, resolves, and practices. Far from using meditation as an excuse for laziness, William Bridge warned his people to “not so spend your whole time in the work of meditation, that this work of meditation should eat up other duties.” Sadly, many believers may not connect their everyday life with spending time thinking deeply about divine truth. Yet, Paul connects right thinking and right practice in one of the key New Testament passages on meditation, Philippians 4:8–9:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
This passage pronounces a blessing not on those who merely know God’s will, but rather on those who have put His will into everyday practice by dwelling on God’s truth.