"Wrong!", Westley's voice rang across the room. "Your ears you keep and I'll tell you why. So that every shriek of every child at seeing your hideousness will be yours to cherish. Every babe that weeps at your approach, every woman who cries out, "Dear God! What is that thing," will echo in your perfect ears. That is what to the pain means. It means I leave you in anguish, wallowing in freakish misery forever." [Kudos to anyone who read that in their best British accent]
Wow. The Princess Bride is certainly not short on (perfectly delivered) memorable lines, and that "to the pain" dialogue between Westley and Humperdink has to be among the best of them.
Of course the genius of Westley's threat is that it indicates something much worse than mere physical harm. Sticks and stones will indeed break our bones, but words really do hurt us too. You can set a broken bone. You can suture a laceration. But I'm willing to bet that you yourself still carry the scars of words spoken to (or by) you from months, years, or even decades ago. "Anyone who says differently", to again quote the man in black, "is selling something." Or is in denial.
Once words get into your head, they can become overwhelmingly powerful.
But there's good news - That door swings both ways! The one who spoke the universe into existence stands ready to speak the very words of life into us (Jn. 6:68). The one who perfectly exegetes the unexplainable God; the logos offers us his own words (Jn. 1:18). So if we are willing to listen, if we are willing to pause from our distractions and sit at his feet, we can be filled up with words of literally divine power.
With that in mind, as 2017 quickly approaches, and many of us start thinking about resolutions, it seems to me that one of the most important and powerful goals we can pursue in the new year is:
Resolve to Meditate in 2017
Meditate on Christ and the Gospel in his Word!
Mull it over / Chew on it - That's what the word translated "meditate" in the Bible literally means. It's the same word used for a cow chewing the cud. Don't just sit down to a meal of God's word and scarf it down without swallowing. Take each bite and enjoy it. Savor it. Absorb all the flavor out of it that you can.
And speaking of flavor...
Marinate in it - You know when you get a good marinade full of all kinds of spices and nuanced flavors, and you get some chicken or some steak and you just drench it and cover it and massage it and baptize it into that marinade? And then you put it in the fridge over night? Something magical happens. All of those flavors penetrate the meat. The meat starts to take on the properties and flavors of the marinade. That's what Scripture meditation can do to you.
So as you consider any New Year's Resolutions to make this year, I deeply hope you'll consider making Meditation one of them. Here are three reasons / benefits of the process...
You’ll be Firmly Planted
Who knows what 2017 will throw at you? When I plunged into 2016, I had no idea I would ride the rollercoaster of joyously officiating the wedding of a dear friend in July, only to turn around and officiate his funeral three months later. While I certainly considered the latter to be a tremendous honor and privilege, it left in me an indelible wound.
Over the course of a given year, there will come times where you need an anchor. Circumstances, trials, and just plain-ole’ life will sap your energy and dry you out. The strength and depth of your roots will be tested. Psalm 1 tells us that those who delight in the instruction of the Lord, who meditate on it day and night will be like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither (Psa. 1:2-3).
Life will bring dry seasons that threaten to starve us – We can still flourish if we prepare by drinking deeply of the Lord in his word. Life will bring terrible storms that threaten to uproot us – We can stand firm if we prepare by digging our roots deeply into our Savior.
You’ll Pray Better
Does Jesus care about your father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate’s ankle injury? Yes. Yes, he does. In ways you and I can’t even fathom. That having been said, could it be that the vast majority of our prayers tend toward non-eternal issues? Jobs, health concerns, relationship struggles… prayers for all of these issues are important, and are precious in the sight of God. But have you ever noticed that those aren’t the kinds of things people tend to pray about in the Bible?
As you pour over the Scriptures, you’ll find prayers of all kinds, and in all the beautiful literary genres that fill God’s word: prayers in the narratives; prayers in the Psalms; prayers in the prophets; prayers in the letters. You’ll notice them more readily, and if you spend enough time in them, you’ll find yourself gradually praying the same kinds of prayers; the kinds of prayers that our Lord may be more inclined to answer with a resounding, “YES”.
You’ll Smell Like Jesus
If you’ve ever had a meeting over coffee at Starbucks, you’ve experienced a perfect illustration of an otherwise strange teaching of Paul in 2 Cor. 2:14-16. There’s something about Starbucks (Subway also, if you prefer) that if you sit in the restaurant long enough, the aroma (or stench) of the place follows you around for the rest of the day. People can tell you’ve been there, just by smelling you. It does to your clothes what a Costco hotdog does to your breath.
Paul says a similar thing happens to us as we spend time with Jesus. We become, “the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” (2 Cor. 2:15). When we meditate on the words of Christ, his words get in our head, and before long they start to come out of our mouth. We begin to say Jesus’ words, and with all the grace, compassion, and certainty with which he says them. The result of all this being that just by watching how we treat others, or by listening to the things we say, people will be able to “recognize that we’ve been with Jesus” (Acts. 4:13).
But Where to Start?
One of the biggest roadblocks for many Christians when it comes to Scripture meditation is the simple lack of a plan. Here's a good list from Ligonier Ministries of more Bible reading plans than you can shake a stick at. You should also check out Tim Challies, who of course has not only a list but some great thoughts here as well about reading for intimacy vs. familiarity. Whatever you choose though, I hope you'll resolve to MEDITATE.
Happy New Year!