For every godly practice, there is an ungodly counterfeit. Just as there is bad doctrine and good doctrine, there is also a biblical form of meditation and an unbiblical meditation. Nearly every religion has a form of meditation, but as Christians, we must take care to not follow the practices of the world. The Bible has a lot to say on meditation; however, many meditation practices that pass themselves off as Christian are not. Many New Age practices are repackaged with Christian terms and then called by various names that sound innocent, but are still based on New Age philosophies.
I’ll point out a few misconceptions along the way, but rather than making the counterfeit practices the focus, we’ll look at what the Bible teaches on meditation. When we know the biblically sound way, the unbiblical way will be evident.
Engage your Mind
The Bible never calls us to turn our minds off. Instead of emptying our minds, we are called to fill our minds and think upon the good things God has revealed to us.
The New Age form of meditation is to empty your mind and try to think of nothing. The idea is that a good force will come in and bring enlightenment. The concept is that we must first be empty before our minds can be brought to a higher state. Some try to claim the Bible teaches this practice by quoting phrases out of context. “Be still and know I am God,” is often used. But what does it mean to be still? Does quieting our minds mean that we create a vacuum? Does it mean we must stop our minds from thinking?
Certainly not. Even the passage that says “be still,” also says, “know that I am God.” To know is to think upon something that gives knowledge. We quiet our minds from worldly distractions, but not from thinking.
Jesus told a parable of a sower who planted seeds. The ones that fell on good ground produced good fruit, but many seeds fell on bad soil. Some fell on stony ground and had no depth of faith and fell away when the hearer was offended. Some fell on the wayside, and birds took the seeds away. These are forgetful hearers of the word. Others fell among thorns. This example applies to our discussion.
The seeds among thorns were choked by the weeds and became unfruitful. Jesus explained that the thorns are riches, the cares of this life, and other things coming in. These choke our lives so we cannot grow into spiritual maturity. Other things coming in, and cares that hammer at our thoughts, prevent us from seeing the glory God is revealing in us. We must purposefully be still and know He is God.
I encourage you to find a concordance and search for the word ‘meditate’ in the Bible. I’ve selected a few passages below. Take note that in each case, meditation is to think upon something God is revealing. We’ll use the greatest example of meditation in the Bible – the Psalms written by King David. This man rose from the fields where he kept the sheep to become the greatest king of Israel. God blessed him in every area of his life, promised that his family would keep the throne in Israel, and even was promised that Jesus would come from David’s descendants. Why did God bless this man so?
The Bible says that David was a man after God’s own heart. What made David’s so special in God’s eyes? Why did this man have such a desire to pursue God? The love David had for God caused him to strive to know God more. Yet the Bible says that God does not respect one person over another. Therefore, what made David special is not special at all. I say ‘not special’, but by that I mean that he was not unique. God didn’t love David because he was special. David experienced God’s love greater because he pursued it.
I have several children. I love each of them with the same love, but not all experience the same amount of love. A child that wants to be held will naturally feel closer than a child that stands aloof. Some of my kids are affectionate, while others are less so.
This also applies to God. The Lord doesn’t love the preacher more than the layman. Those who seem strong in faith aren’t that way because they are more loved. They pursue the Lord and therefore experience more.
The Bible doesn’t say that God was after David’s heart. God reaches out to every heart. The thing that set David apart is that he saw God’s great love and it caused him to pursue God. He wanted to touch the heart of the Lord who had touched him.
What David had is available to us all. The same principles are for you and I. So the question to answer is, what inspired David to passionately pursue God? One simple word, meditation. The Psalms David wrote were penned from his times of meditation. Let’s look at the way he meditated, how it caused him to recognize the value of his relationship with God, and how it taught him to deal with the difficulties of life.
Let’s first look at what meditation means. Two passages clue us in on the meaning. Let’s start with Psalm 77:6
I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, And my spirit makes diligent search.
Earlier in this chapter, the psalmist begins by saying, “I complained and I was overwhelmed.” He is in a difficult time in his life and troubles seem to be swallowing him. Complaining didn’t resolve his troubles. It led to feelings of being overwhelmed. He recognized this and turned his focus onto the good things the Lord had done. He meditated on these things and during that time of meditation, he made a diligent search of his memories, and how they reflected the goodness of God.
Rather than emptying his mind, meditation was to diligently seek to remember the goodness of the Lord. As he remembered, he meditated on those things to find encouragement.
This is a strong lesson for us all. Like the writer of this psalm, our natural tendency is to look at our problems and complain. Does complaining to ourselves ever resolve problems? No, it adds to our heavy heart and creates feelings of being overwhelmed. Instead of focusing on what we don’t like or our troubles, we must force ourselves to focus on the works of the Lord. Remember, this is a process of walking by faith. Once I recognize the hand of the Lord, I can have confidence in Him during my troubles. Troubles shrink in the presence of the Lord; therefore, we must be looking to Him instead of to what bothers us.
Consider the apostle Peter. When Jesus walked to the disciples on the water, Peter called out, “Lord, command me to come to you.” Jesus said, “Come,” and Peter stepped out onto the water. The disciples had been rowing against the fierce wind for hours and the waves were pounding them. Peter started walking on the water, but then took his eyes off Jesus and focused on the boisterous wind and became afraid. The wind became bigger than his faith in Jesus’ call to come, and he began to sink.
It wasn’t the wind that defeated Peter. It was that he took his eyes off the Lord and focused on the trouble around him. The wind had been hammering him for hours, but for a moment they were small and insignificant. While he trusted in the Lord and focused on Christ, they had no power over his life. But once he put his faith in what troubled him, trouble became more powerful than his view of God.
Jesus’ answer said it all. “O you of little faith. Why did you doubt?”
Every day you are meditating on something. The question is, are you meditating on your problems and the things that bother you, or are you taking time out to meditate on the things God has called you to meditate upon.