I just started co-teaching a class on the spiritual disciplines using Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth as our guide. In writing about the discipline of meditation Foster suggests that “Christian meditation, very simply, is the ability to hear God’s voice and obey his word.” Of course this hearing God’s voice and obeying his word applies to all of the disciplines, and also suggests a very healthy way in which we are to follow Christ and live our lives for Him.
Living in a constant state of meditation on the life of Christ is hard to do, but is a reasonable and obtainable life I believe those who follow Christ are called to practice and live out. I am not an expert, and my experiences of listening to the still small voice of God and being obedient need to be improved upon, but I am challenged to live my life in this manner while learning as I grow.
In the past several months, including this past week, I have had a couple of different experiences, related to listening to God and being obedient that I would like to share with you.
A few months ago during Meeting for Worship we were worshipping through the singing of songs and as I sat there I was moved to close my eyes as I sang the words to a song I knew by heart. As I sang in this prayerful focused state I began meditating on the words to the song, and as I focused my attention on Christ, a picture of me kneeling with my hands unfolded in front of me with my palms to the sky came in to my mind. Before realizing that this very picture was what Christ was calling me to do in that moment, I simply thought to myself, “Wow! That’s a cool picture of me worshipping Jesus.”
Upon understanding Christ’s desire for me in that moment, I knelt down hands outstretched in front of me with my palms up, and began to pray. I remained in that kneeling position for some time. It was only when a gentleman I church with grabbed my shoulders and whispered a word of encouragement in my ear that I noticed other people kneeling and praying up front along with me. That Sunday morning experience was very powerful for me personally, and also for a number of other people, and I relearned the importance of obediently responding to the voice of God in a specific situation and time and place.
A week later I found myself again in Meeting for Worship during our time of singing, and as I sat there in my nice comfortable chair singing songs of praise to the Risen Savior another image came to my mind. This time the image was of me standing and singing with my arms and hands outstretched upward. I stood there and thought about what a cool image that was for a few moments before God whispered in my ear, “that’s what I want you to do.” So, without regard to what other people were doing, or as to what other people might think, I stood and sang songs as loud as I could with arms stretched out and palms pointing upward and had a wonderful worship experience.
You would think that I would have figured out a long time ago that God speaks to me sometimes in pictures (or dare I say, visions), because these two instances are not the first time God has chosen to communicate with me in this fashion. But I am a slow learner, and sometimes I need God to remind me of how the Holy Spirit likes to communicate with me. Knowing how God communicates with each of us is vitally important as we seek to listen to and obey Christ Jesus. If we know how God communicates with us perhaps listening to Him will become easier.
This last week I had another experience of listening to and being obedient to God as I prepared the sermon to be shared on Palm Sunday. For my text I used Luke’s version of the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry as recorded in Luke 19:28-44, and decided for some of my story time I would prayerfully consider the passage and meditate on any phrases that stood out to me. In some circles they call this method of reading scripture “Lectio Divina” or “Divine Reading.”
In my initial reading of this passage of Scripture I was struck by the phrase in Luke 19:40, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” and a significant amount of time meditating on this phrase. As I was driving to an appointment in a town thirty minutes away I turned the radio off and meditated on this phrase and was enjoying the different directions God was taking my thoughts and prayers.
During my drive God brought to mind a place I needed to visit out of obedience to Him, and so the next time out, I took a road trip to visit the destination God told me about. While at my destination I made the following video to use as a sermon illustration:
We are formed and transformed spiritually as we listen to God and follow in obedience to His word in our lives. Our responsibility as Christ followers is to discipline ourselves to be quiet so we can hear God’s voice, and then live out our responses obediently. We understand that listening and obedience are things we need to learn and grow into and so we practice these things in constant dialogue with Christ and others whose listening and obedience we respect.
Since the conversation has been started, what are your recent stories of meditating on Christ, listening, and obedience?