Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Meditation in the Word of God provides a still point in a turning world. Today, teaching from the book of Joshua on how meditation in the Word of God can give us inner resources to face whatever comes our way. How still is your heart as you run your race?
Stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, how much time should each of us set aside for meditation every day?
Dave, I'm not going to answer that because I don't want people to say to themselves, oh, I must meditate for 10 minutes, and it becomes another ritual, another rule to follow. The correct answer, I think, is that we should meditate in such a way that God has spoken to us. We have grasped something of what we have read, and we take that with us. Actually, this morning, if I might use a personal illustration, as I read the 11th chapter of the book of Matthew and John, who is sitting in prison, his own doubts, I was reminded of the words of Jesus, blessed are those who are not offended because of me.
So you read scripture until you have something in your heart. I want to thank the many of you who support the ministry of Running to Win. Would you consider becoming an endurance partner? That's someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts.
It's because of people like you, and you've heard me say this before, that the ministry of Running to Win continues to expand. Of course, you need more info. Here's what you do. Go to rtwoffer.com.
That's rtwoffer.com, or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Thanks in advance for helping us, and now let us listen to God's word. In the Old Testament, where meditation is referred to most often, there are two different Hebrew words.
One is seach, which means to go over in one's mind. For example, Psalm 77-12, I will meditate on all thy works. 119-15, I will meditate on thy precepts.
119-97, oh how I love thy law, it is my meditation. That's the word that is used. You go over the law of God in your mind, and if you go over the law of God in your mind and heart, that is meditation. But there's a second Hebrew word for meditation, and that is haga, and that's the word that is used here. It means to go over in one's mind, but to do so even with a sense of passion. It means that there is a longing in the mind, that there is a thirst in the mind, and it is also the same word that is used in Psalm 1, that the person who meditates in the law of God day and night shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth his fruit in his season.
His leaf also shall not wither in whatsoever he does prospers. Interestingly, this word for meditation is oftentimes associated with speaking. Notice that the text says, this book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth. It's the same word for meditation that is used in Psalm 19. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight. The words that come out of our mouths should be God's words. It should be the word of God in harmony with what is happening within our hearts as people as we meditate on the law of God. All that, by the way, is preliminary to what I have to say now, and that is, how do you meditate?
How do you meditate? Is it true, as some of us grew up in Sunday school, is it really true that a chapter a day keeps the devil away? Is it really true that all that you need to do is to take your Bible and read it? Now, that would be an improvement. I read this past week that some wag said that the greatest dust storm in America would take place if all Christians dusted off their Bibles simultaneously.
Because only about 9% of all Christians actually read the word of God every day. If I were the devil, which is another way of saying if I were Lucifer instead of Lutzer, what I would do is I would create such roadblocks toward meditation in the word that nobody would do it. I would cause the mind to be so filled with anxiety because of the concerns of the day. I would cause there to be such a sense of stress, a wandering of the mind, a struggle of the mind. I would try to make people bored with God's holy word. I would try to do everything that I possibly could to keep people from this book, particularly those who may be in real satanic conflict. I would do all that I possibly could to make the word of God uninviting. And that's what the devil does. And that's where discipline comes in. And that's where you begin to say, my life is going to be different because I'm going to give 15 minutes to meditation in the word of God every single day considering it as important as eating or drinking or anything else because what I want to do is to see the transformation of the word.
And look at what the text says. Then thou shalt have success, success. Then you will find that transformation of heart that is brought about so that you can endure all of the trials of life and to do so despite the hurt and the pain, to do so with a sense of confidence. Then you can look at your Jericho without wilting, without thinking that there's no way that I can overcome it because even Jericho's become smaller when they are compared with God.
How do I meditate? Three words and I want you to write them down. Don't ever forget them. If I meet you in the summer and ask what the three words are, I expect you to tell me. In fact, that could be kind of a password. We could have all the ushers next week stand and say, do you remember the three words? If not, you can't come to church today. Wouldn't that go over well? But are you ready for the three words?
Thank you for telling me. The answer is yes. Number one, analyze. Analyze. What do I mean by analyze? If all that you do is read the Bible, you get to the end of the chapter, you put it away, you come back the next day, you have no idea whether or not you read this chapter or not, you're halfway through it, something catches you that says, yeah, I guess I read this yesterday, come to think of it.
Now that's better than nothing because when water goes through a sieve, even though the water doesn't stay in the sieve, it cleans the sieve, it does something, but that's not meditation in the word. What do I mean by analyze? You come and you ask the text three questions. You ask the text three questions. The first question is, what does it teach me about God? What new insight do I glean about God? Secondly, what does it tell me to do? And thirdly, is there a promise here that I have to believe and hang on to? That's so important. You see, because unless the word of God is being absorbed in your mind, it is not going to stay with you throughout the day. Analyze. It involves those three questions. What does it teach me about God? What does it tell me to do?
Is there a promise here that I need to hang on to? What one phrase, what one insight have I gleaned from the word today that is going to carry me through the whole day? First is analyze. The second is memorize. Memorize.
Now you can do this differently. You can memorize a whole section of scripture. I'm trying to work through 1 John chapter 1. But you can do that or what you can do is to memorize even that verse that you have chosen in that chapter or at least a fragment of that verse so that it will carry with you. This week I began my devotions in the morning in 2 Corinthians so I read a chapter, I asked the text questions, but I did not leave it until God had spoken to me and unless I had something for the day. Because if you leave it before that time, of what value is it when you close the word of God and then go somewhere else and begin your responsibilities? So what you do is you memorize.
Oh, you say, it's not possible for me to memorize. You know, I wish I had enough money to do something. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we had enough money here in the church?
And we could arrange that if some of you gave us enough money to pull this off. And we told the congregation some Sunday that for every new verse that you memorize this week, from this Sunday to next Sunday, we give you 100 bucks per verse for every new verse that you memorize. Now I venture to say, I venture to say that people who have not memorized the word of God ever, they have not learned a single verse would suddenly find that God had given them the gift of memory. And they would say, just on Sunday we noticed that God gave me this ability. You know, the fact is that we can remember anything that we want to remember.
I'm even remembering yesterday's score even though I've tried to forget it. I mean, it's amazing how there are things that lurch in your mind if you want them to lurch in your mind and sometimes when you don't want them to lurch in your mind. The first is analyze, the second is memorize, and that is not enough because there are people who know the word of God. They have been schooled in the scriptures and they are harsh, they are uncaring, they are not filled with the spirit. You look into their life, there's no love, peace, joy, long suffering, gentleness. They are filled of criticism and the word of God has had no effect in their lives. The Bible says in the book of Hebrews that even to the Israelites the word of God was preached, but it did not profit them.
Not being mixed with faith, it says in them that heard it. So what is the third word? The third word is personalize, personalize. And how do you personalize the scripture?
You personalize it by submitting yourself to its authority. In the midst of that devotional time, God is always pointing out in my life things that have to come under the umbrella of God's sovereignty and if I'm going to read the word and absorb the word, I have to come under its authority. And that's when we are doing our repentance in the sight of God, our yieldedness, and so we are submitting ourselves to God and submitting ourselves also to one another. You know, God uses the Holy Spirit of God to reveal sin in our hearts, but he also uses other people too.
It's amazing. I would never know how selfish I was were I not married and have some kids. It's amazing how being a part of the family helps you to be reminded of your weaknesses. I was at a pastor's conference this summer where a pastor said, you know, he said, many people ask, how do I remain humble when I have so many people, you know, telling me how wonderful I am after I preach and everything? He says, for me, he says it's no problem at all. He says, all that I have to do is go home. And that takes care of it. And he said, you know, my family has had a very difficult time accepting my Godhood.
And I listened to that and I thought, you know, I can really identify. My wife and children have had a very difficult time accepting my divinity. And they have helped me a great deal in pointing out things in my life that need to change. Now that's what happens when you personalize the scripture. You begin to say this is for me.
This is for me. And God uses other people. And sometimes he'll use other people, give a word of encouragement, and that word of encouragement will just change everything. Martin Niemöller, who was one of the pastors who stood against Hitler in his biography, there's a very interesting story. Just imagine this now. Niemöller is being marched to his trial. It was a total kangaroo court.
It was a complete setup. And everybody knew how it was going to end. And he knew that he'd be imprisoned or maybe put to death.
Here he is. He's taken from his cell to the courtroom with a guard who marched with him step by step all the way along the line with his bright Nazi uniform. And as they were going up the final set of stairs, Niemöller says that he overheard some words and he didn't even know where the words were coming from because the expression on the guard's face was totally without emotion. But as he was going up the stairs, he discovered that the guard was the one who was speaking. And he was whispering to Niemöller, the name of the Lord is a righteous tower. The righteous run into it and they are safe. Proverbs 18 verse 10. Niemöller says that that guard whom he never saw again, except at a distance, will never know what he did for me at that moment because he said, the moment I came into the courtroom, the first thing I saw was a picture of Adolf Hitler. And he says the reminder of the fact that the name of the Lord is a strong tower and those who run into it are safe, he said, totally transformed that trial. And even though he was found guilty and imprisoned, he was victorious because of a verse of scripture given at a moment of time. You and I need to encourage one another in that way. So what do you do?
First of all, you analyze, you memorize, and you personalize. And the Word of God does the transformation. Now what was this going to do in Joshua's life? He was going to go around Jericho and as you know the rest of the story, he did. If he had not been memorizing the Word of God and meditating on the Word of God, he'd have become a wall watcher.
What he'd have done is say, now look you guys, we're up against these folks. What I want to do is to do an analysis of the weight of the walls. I want you to find out how deep the foundation is. I want you to estimate the number of tons of concrete of mortar that are in these walls. I want you to see their heights.
Let's figure out exactly what we are up against. That's what a wall watcher would do. But Joshua said to himself, I don't need really to know even the height of the wall or the depth of the foundation. If I am meditating in the law of God day and night, God will take care of the wall. What I need to do is to take care of my heart. And if I take care of my heart, God will take care of the wall.
And it was with that confidence that he was able to march. You know, because I was born and reared in a rather remote part of the world, I was quite old before I saw my first lion. You know that old joke that says that there was a zoo in our town and they had to shut it down because the chicken died.
There's some truth to that. Only when I grew up did I realize that that was supposed to be funny. But I was born, I once saw though, I went to this town and my parents took me to a zoo and I saw the lion for the first time. I won't tell you the name of the town because you won't believe the name of the town.
But on the other hand, if I was being interviewed today by a commentator, she might say to me, just whisper it just between us. So I'll tell you, just between us, the name of the town was Moose Jaw. Seriously, I'm not making it up.
Not making it up. But I remember as a child seeing the lion, seeing the lion and being scared. But my parents weren't scared. And the difference was because as a child I was seeing the lion and my parents were seeing the bars on the cage. And when it comes to seeing Satan, if we look at him directly, we can become terrified.
We can say my Jericho is too big, the walls are too high, it can't be scaled, there's nothing that can be done about it. And we become convinced about that if we look at the lion. But when we look at the lion of the tribe of Judah and when we look as it were at the bars and when we see that the lion for all of his roaring is toothless because Jesus Christ has won a victory over him, then through faith we can cast down imaginations and every high thing that exulted itself against the knowledge of God and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ because we meditate in the law of God during the day and during the night. We analyze, we memorize, and we personalize and God begins to do the transformation. If you're here today without Jesus Christ as your Savior, let me give you a verse to meditate on. He that believes on the Son has everlasting life, he that believes not the Son shall not see life, for the wrath of God abides on him. Meditate on that.
Here's another one for you. For by grace we are saved through faith and that not of yourselves it is a gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast. Meditate on those words and let the word of God do its work in your heart. May it latch like a fish hook in your soul until you say Lord Jesus I believe on you, I receive the free gift of eternal life, I trust you wholly and completely.
And I urge you to do that and if you will, let us pray. Our Father, we thank you today for your word, which your word says you have magnified it according to your name. We thank you that it is a complete meal. The scripture says that your word is meat, it is bread, it is milk, and it is honey.
Thank you that it includes all the food groups that we need spiritually speaking. And we pray today that in this congregation there shall be a mighty transformation as all of us spend at least minimally 15 minutes a day fastening our minds on your promises. Letting the word of God wash us and cleanse us and purify us and change us. Do that Father we pray that we might be a mighty congregation like Joshua where it says be courageous that we might be able to withstand the enemy, that we might be able to stare him down because we know who we are in Christ. And for those who have never savingly believed on him at this moment, we pray oh Father that you might cause them to believe. May even the word that they've heard today germinate in their hearts and lead to eternal life. We pray in Jesus' name.
Amen. Now from my heart to yours, some of you may say I'm not coming to Jesus Christ, I'm not going to receive eternal life because I have doubts. Come to Jesus with your doubts. You've probably heard me quote it before but one of those songs that I love so much, Just As I Am. Do you remember one of the stanzas? Just as I am though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt, fightings within and fears without, oh lamb of God I come, I come.
Come with your doubts. I want to thank the many of you who support the ministry of Running to Win and if you've been listening for a time you know that we are gospel centered. We want to commit ourselves to helping people run successfully all the way to the finish line so we deal with issues in the Christian life but always with a redemptive focus.
Would you consider becoming an endurance partner? That's someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts. Here's what you do to get more info.
Go to RTWOffer.com. Hope that you have had time to get a pen or a pencil or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. Your involvement not only enables us to continue this ministry but Running to Win is growing because of people just like you.
Thanks in advance for helping us. Time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. A famous prophecy in the book of Isaiah prompted today's question from a listener named Yolanda. The Bible says that by Jesus stripes we are healed. If the Bible says that why do so many people still get sick and die?
Yes, Yolanda, we will all get sick and die. That we can be certain unless we have the privilege of living until Jesus Christ returns we will all get sick and die. When the Bible says by his stripes we are healed it's very clear that he's talking about spiritual healing. Our souls are healed.
But think about this Yolanda. Even our souls are not completely healed, are they? Because we still struggle with sin. The fact is that the Bible does in the atonement the Bible does teach Jesus Christ died for us body soul and spirit. But we can't enter into those blessings until after the resurrection. When we get our resurrection bodies at last we will not die. For example the Bible says that Jesus came to demolish death and abolish it but he hasn't abolished it has he? As you walk through his cemetery you know that death is ever with us and Christians die.
We all die. Alright bottom line let me be clear yes the promises of God are there for us. Healing is in the atonement but we don't enter into it until after we've died and receive our permanent bodies. Thank you Yolanda for your question thank you Dr. Lutzer for your answer. If you'd like to hear your question answered go to our website at rtwoffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer or call us at 1-888-218-9337 that's 1-888-218-9337.
You can write to us at Running to Win 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard Chicago Illinois 60614. You can tell where a Christian's values are by examining his or her giving. One hallmark of a true believer is generosity. It's a touchy subject but we're not afraid to hit the nail on the head. Next time discipline number three generosity how giving can become a way of life. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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