[Dr. Mel Lawrenz is Minister at Large for Elmbrook Church and the author of the brand new Prayers for Our Lives: 95 Lifelines to God for Everyday Circumstances. ]
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).
This passage says that there are a variety of ways the word of Christ goes deep enough to dwell. Teaching is paramount, so we need to keep searching like eagles for teachers, authors, and Bible study leaders who explain and apply the word faithfully. “Admonishing with wisdom” suggests a flow of quality conversation among believers about what they are learning from God. “Singing” praise is another powerful way the word of God is carried deeply into our hearts. Singing “with gratitude in [our] hearts to God” is a way that the crusty and hardened exterior of our lives gets cracked open, and seeds drop deeply in, and they begin to live and grow.
Here is the connection between Bible study and worship. Why sing? So the word will dwell richly. Why a variety of sounds (psalms, hymns, spiritual songs)? So the word will knock on every door of our hearts that is the least bit cracked open. Why teach? So that the word will be clearly explained and powerfully applied. Worship is not the span between the start and the end of singing, but this great and varied advance of the word of God on our souls. God takes up as many fronts as he needs to so that we will stop and listen.
And then there is meditation—a way of reading Scripture in such a way that it has a chance to get planted. Meditation is a word that the Bible uses to describe a way of holding and pondering God’s truth so that it sinks in. It is wise, pensive concentration.
At the edge of the promised land, Joshua told the people they were going to need real spiritual muscle. Wars lay ahead. Three times at the Jordan River he said: “be strong and courageous,” and then: “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8).
The Psalms speak about meditating on the word of God, and continuing that meditation through every pulse of life. Psalm 119 describes a committed discipline of taking the word in:
- “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways” (vs. 15).
- “Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees” (vs. 23).
- “Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders” (vs. 27).
- “I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and I meditate on your decrees” (vs. 48).
- “May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause; but I will meditate on your precepts” (vs. 78).
- “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long” (vs. 97).
- “I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes” (vs. 99).
- “My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises” (vs. 148).
Okay, now, be honest. Did you just skim over those verses, or did you ponder them? If you’re like me, then you will find yourself occasionally reading over quotations of Scripture instead of reading through them. How hurried we can be!
That’s what Christian meditation is all about—turning hurry into rumination. Slowing from a run into a walk. Tasting and digesting instead of devouring. It’s the only way to build spiritual muscle for the good times and the tough times.