The Lost Art of Quiet Contemplation

“I considered my ways, and turned my feet to Thy testimonies.” (Psalm 119:59) 

One thing that most people can agree on today, is that we Americans are busy people. Our lives seem to be continuously filled with activity, with all of us constantly on the go. If viewed from outer space, we would seem more like a nest of disturbed ants running here and there, rather than thinking creatures making well-ordered decisions. 

In spite of the plethora of time-saving devices that are now commonplace, we never seem to have enough time. We can gather our dirty clothes together, toss them into a machine which cleans them and then toss them into another machine to dry them. We have microwave ovens and that can reduce cooking times from hours now to minutes. We can pay bills with a few clicks of a mouse and we can shop from the convenience of our own homes, and yet, somehow, almost mysteriously, we are still hard pressed to find sufficient hours in the day to accomplish the things we find necessary to live our lives. 

While much could be written on this topic alone, that is not the focus of this essay. Rather, it is the tragedy of the abandonment of the practice of Biblical meditation. It is this author’s contention, that the low level of spirituality in the modern church and the shallowness that we sadly are witnessing in today’s version of Christianity can be traced directly to the disappearance of this forgotten spiritual discipline. Not only has it been lost among the saints, but it has all but disappeared among those charged with shepherding the flock of Christ as well. 

Now, whenever the word “meditation” is mentioned, it immediately conjures up images of people sitting in strange bodily positions, chanting some sort of mantra over and over again, with sticks of incense smoking in the background. Quite bluntly, those practices of Eastern religions such as Buddhism, have absolutely nothing in common with Biblical meditation. I would therefore urge the reader to not lay down this article out of fear of it promoting something along that line. 

To begin, Biblical meditation consists of focusing primarily on two targets – the first of these is the person of God in Christ, and the second is our own heart/conduct/action/words. In other words, it is the contemplation of God, His character, attributes, and His works, and of our own spiritual condition. 

It is my view, that spiritual growth cannot be accomplished without this practice. It would then follow that the reason there exists so many “stunted-growth” Christians is that they do not regularly engage in this spiritual practice with many having never even heard of it! 

Meditation is not optional; it is something that is commanded by the Scriptures and was a common practice of the saints of Scripture. 

For example – consider the man after God’s own heart, David. In one of the most wonderful Psalms extolling the Word of God ( referred to as God’s law, precepts, statutes, commandments, etc. in this psalm), David writes this: 

“I considered my ways, and turned my feet to Thy testimonies.” (Psalm 119:59) 

Here we see David taking time to reflect on his own conduct measuring it against the “testimonies” of God. This, dear reader, is why David was a man after God’s own heart. He made it his business to examine himself in the light of God’s truth to see where he fell short and where his conduct/speech were not pleasing to His Lord. After all, are we not instructed by the apostle Paul: 

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” (2 Cor 13:5) 

I ask you dear reader, how is it possible for you to follow this command of the apostle, if you never make a point of setting aside time to reflect upon your own heart’s condition and your conduct? The answer to that question is obvious – you cannot! 

Let me submit something that should be obvious to us all, but sadly does not seem to be. We seem to be afraid of silence in this generation. Everywhere we go in our lives, we have noise. Many have the TV set running constantly in their homes, or video clips from YouTube on their computers or videos on their smartphones. When in the car traveling, they are bombarded by “talk” radio or music. Those more inclined to the spiritual will at least play what are considered “Christian songs” but that is still noise! You need quiet, solitude, stillness, to reflect or examine yourself. 

I will go so far as to say this – if listening to Christian music prevents you from self-examination, get rid of it! While it may help you to at least keep your thoughts on the Lord for some time, if it prevents you from looking into your own heart, then it is actually proving to be detrimental to your spiritual health. 

One wonders what the saints of old did who did not have access to music 24 hours a day whenever they wanted it or videos or “spiritual books” or whatever. What has struck me many times over now is comparing the depth of spirituality of the writings of the men of God who came before us in the 17th, 18th and 19th century to the often shallow, insipid writings of the modern writers. It does not take long to recognize that there are sublime thoughts expressed in the writings of these saints of old that are a rarity in today’s chronicle of “Christian” books and videos. 

These men were acquainted all too well with the depth of depravity that remained in their hearts and understood completely what the prophet Jeremiah meant when he wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: 

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly perverse and corrupt, and severely mortally sick! Who can know it [perceive, understand, be acquainted with his own heart and mind]? (Jer 17:9 Amplified Bible) 

And here we have right in front of us why we need to examine our ways. Our own hearts will trick us into believing all is well with us if we just cast an occasional cursory glance its way. It is only the deep reflection that Scripture calls us to that will uncover its subterfuges. 

How easy it is to justify our conduct, our speech! We erect our barriers to conviction convincing ourselves of the rightness of our words or deeds but scriptural meditation will tear these down and lay naked our motives and our actions without any place for hiding! 

Obviously, this necessitates us calling out to the Lord for aid in this process of introspection. 

Again, we have David as an example: 

“Search me O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me…” ( Psalm 139:23-24) 

Observe how David does not trust his own judgment unaided by the Spirit of God as to his own condition and conduct. Rather he calls in the aid of the Lord, the one to whom the hearts of all men are open. 

“I the Lord search the mind, I try the heart, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” ( Jer 17:10 Amplified Bible) 

Or as the writer of the letter to the Hebrews puts it: 

“For whatever God says to us ( the Word of God) is full of living power; it is sharper than the sharpest dagger, cutting swift and deep into our innermost thoughts and desires with all their parts, exposing us for what we really are. He knows about everyone, everywhere. Everything about us is bare and wide open to the all-seeing eyes of our living God, nothing can be hidden from Him to whom we must explain all that we have done.” ( Hebrews 4:11-13 Living Bible). 

This is true biblical meditation – quieting the mind and blocking out the world, getting into the presence of God and asking Him, through His Holy Spirit, to reveal those things in our life that are not pleasing to Him, whether those be our actions, our words and even our very MOTIVES for what we do! 

An excellent practice for the Christian who desires to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” ( 2 Peter 3:18) is to make a habit of doing this examination of his or herself on a regular basis. It is also recommended that it especially be done if you have had any sort of conflict with someone else or some sort of misunderstanding. You want to ascertain that the manner in which you have conducted yourself during such an episode is forthright and pleasing in the eyes of the Lord. You might find that you have been in error and handled the matter incorrectly and actually committed sin against an individual that you need to repent of. 

Consider the following Scripture in the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount: 

“If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way, FIRST be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” ( Matt 5: 23-24) 

I have highlighted some key parts of this section to better convey the principle we are discussing. Notice the Lord’s words – “THERE YOU REMEMBER – Why will you “remember” that your brother has something against you? Because – the Lord’s Spirit will convict you as you engage in some self-examination. He will bring the episode to your mind and conscience and will softly speak to you through both revealing where you might have been the one who handled the entire situation in manner that was not Christ-like. A rash action on your part, a harsh word, a look, something that you did that caused a brother or sister in Christ, to be offended. That will enable you to go to the individual in question and sincerely repent and ask their forgiveness. 

Now, they may or may not forgive – that is between them and the Lord – but at that point, your conscience will be clean as you have obeyed your Lord and done what is pleasing to Him. How tragic it 

is, and what a horrible blight it is on the modern American church, that so few professing Christians are actually willing to do this. More often than not it is because they never do examine themselves or if they happen to do so, they are too full of pride to humble themselves and ask forgiveness of someone they have offended. 

I do want to note something here that is important and is a neglected teaching of Scripture in this regard. Failure to do the above, will ensure that none of your prayers make it past the ceiling of your house! 

The issue of unresolved offenses which can breed bitterness, resentment and anger, is one of several reasons that today’s Christians lack power in prayer. I have been stunned to see churches with wonderful worship services, beautiful sounds filling the sanctuary which also happens to be filled with unthinking and uncaring Christians who have thoughtlessly been cruel or careless in their conduct towards others and never give it even a second thought. Yet there they are, Sunday after Sunday, singing away, believing that God is pleased with their songs of thanksgiving and praise. How shocked they would be to learn that rather than delighting in such “worship” from unclean hearts, their songs are offensive to Him! 

Consider the prophet Amos in this manner: 

“I hate your show and pretense – your hypocrisy of “honoring” me with your religious feasts and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and thank offerings. I will not look at your offerings of peace. Away with your hymns of praise- they are mere noise to my ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is. I want to see a mighty flood of justice – a torrent of doing good.” ( Amos 5:21-24 Living Bible). 

The Most High God is not impressed with the musical wit of men while obedience to His ways is absent. In my early years as a Christian, I was part of a church where the praise and worship was magnificent. Little did I know until some time after attending the church, that the talented man on the keyboard was a practicing homosexual of which the pastor was fully aware of at the time! While that is something that most Bible-believing Christians would rightly not condone, what about the harsh words, rash actions, hurtful gossip, slander, conflict, disputes, etc., that pervade the church and reside there right along with the weekly singing of songs and hymns all across the churches of America any given Sunday? 

Think this only is something that applies to those under the law? 

“You husbands likewise , live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman, and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” ( 1Peter 3:7) 

By the way, husbands and wives – this is something that should be regularly taking place in your marriage if there are any quarrels or differences between you both. For some reason, husbands and wives often seem to forget that their believing spouse is also a brother or sister in the Lord. As such, offending them and leaving the offense unrepented of brings Matthew 5: 23-24 into play. After all, did not Jesus teach us that “to the extent that you did it unto the least of my brethren, you did it unto Me”? 

Do not think that by adding the magic formula of “In Jesus’ name” to the end of your prayers that somehow God is coerced into listening to and granting your request. As long as you have unrepented of 

sin in your heart and have been the cause of an offense against a brother or sister in Christ ( or for that matter anyone else), the Lord will not hear your prayers nor will He hear and accept your singing of hymns. Our God is holy and He commands those who wish to be His disciples to be holy as well. That means obedience to His commands, not making of excuses to justify oneself. 

If you have been guilty of such, come clean with your Lord, stop seeking to condone your actions or justify them but rather humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and go to your offended fellow saint and ask their forgiveness. Swallow your abominable pride which God detests and you will find the Lord gracious, merciful and ready to receive your prayers and worship. 

Moving further into this topic. Listen to the following Scriptures: 

In response to the remnant of Israel who had come out of Babylonian captivity and were in the process of rebuilding the temple/city of Jerusalem and yet were complaining about their financial hardships: 

“Consider your ways. You have sown much but harvest little….” (Haggai 1:5). 

Again, two verses down, the same command comes from the Lord through His prophet: 

“Consider your ways…” ( Haggai 1:7) 

God wanted them to think, to reflect, to ponder, to examine themselves and their actions or lack thereof to understand why He was not pleased with them. The call to do such is a frequent one in Scripture but as was stated early on in this essay, cannot be done if one is surrounded by constant noise and business. 

The prophet Ezekiel, when dealing with unrepentant sinners among those who were called by the Name of Jehovah, said the following: 

“Again, when a wicked man turns away from his wickedness which he has committed and practices justice and righteousness, he will save his life, because he considered and turned away from all his transgressions which he had committed; he shall surely live; he shall not die.” ( Ezek 18:27-28) 

Once again, we see the individual considering, or thinking or pondering about his conduct and in so doing, come to realize the enormity of his sins and then repenting of such. Imagine the outcome if the individual in question never took the time or made the effort to “consider”. 

One way to practice meditation is to also view the Scriptures as the apostle James likens them to – namely, a mirror. When reading passages that instruct in conduct, read them slowly and thoughtfully all the while asking the Lord by His Spirit to allow you to see your reflection this Divine mirror and how you measure up. Do you fall short of the standard that God is calling you to? Then ask Him for grace to enable you to reach that standard. Fear not that He is unwilling to do exactly this because it is His will for you to bear the image of His Son. What you are looking at in the Scriptural commands laid out in the New Testament for believers is the very image of Christ that so pleases our Heavenly Father. 

A simple prayer during your meditation along this line will always receive an answer in the affirmative from the Lord: 

“Lord, thank You for the light You are shining into my heart and into this Word of Yours which enables me to see my own heart and my own sinfulness in this regard. As with the blind man of John 9, I once was blind to this part of my character but now I see. Make me like Christ in this area. Give me grace to overcome the obstacles that prevent me from reaching this goal of being more like Jesus. Give me the desire to be pleasing to You in this regard. Strip away the pride and stubbornness that hinder me from accepting the truth about myself. It is only in Your light that we see light. I welcome this light. Examine me and search me my Lord so that I may be more closely conformed to your image” 

This is the kind of prayer, which if said in sincerity to God, will bring delight to Him and come before Him as a pleasing aroma. Just think for a moment of all the wickedness which now infests our nation. The perversion seems to grow in leaps and bounds with the stench of sin arising like a rancid cesspool to the nostrils of a holy God. Yet over there, in a quiet room, one of God’s dear children is examining themselves, considering their ways, and beseeching Him to make them more like Christ and help them to avoid sin and wickedness. Do you not realize how pleasing this is to the Lord? How He delights in His child who is longing for more inner holiness. Of course He is pleased. HE will move heaven and earth to answer such prayer. 

In closing this essay, I urge the reader to put what you have learned here into practice. Do not be a hearer only of the word, and not a doer. There is no blessing in merely hearing without doing. If you make this lost art of meditation a part of your spiritual disciplines, you will find yourself with a deeper acquaintance of the true nature of the old man that is within you. You will gain an understanding of what it truly means to “be dead in sin and transgression” and why you needed a Mighty Savior to redeem you and provide a perfect righteousness for you. You will learn the subtlety of your own heart and how it can easily deceive you. In so doing, you will learn that you are not as “holy” as you might have once thought you were. Rather, you will come to truly understand grace and how patient and longsuffering the Lord has been with you in spite of your many flaws and sins. You will also learn and experience firsthand how the Lord changes you and continues to perfect the work He has begun in you. 

Do not delay any longer Christian. Begin right away and take the time to think and reflect about your conduct and your words to others. Ask yourself if your life is pleasing to the Lord or if are you bringing shame and dishonor instead upon His name. Are you are light to others or are you a stumbling block to others? 

Consider your ways and in so doing, GROW IN GRACE! 

Dan Norcini SS
April 26, 2021

PART TWO - Meditating on the person and works of God in Christ coming as the Lord wills.

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