An Eternal Feast: How Contemplation Helps You Abide in God’s Word
You can enrich your time in Scripture by following these four simple steps
This is fourth in a five-part series sharing creative ways to engage with God’s Word. Using practices from The Abide Bible, these blogs will guide you in slowing down and letting Scripture refresh your heart. Today, you’ll learn how you can engage with the Bible by contemplating Scripture.
[Jesus] answered, “It is written, ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Matthew 4:4 NET
What is the most satisfying meal you have ever eaten?
Maybe it was your grandmother’s signature peach pie, enjoyed with family members at a holiday party. Maybe it was pad thai you tried at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant during a visit to Bangkok. Or maybe it was a simple McDonald’s meal you devoured after hours stuck in traffic during a longer-than-expected road trip.
The most satisfying meal in my recent memory was my last birthday dinner at a local Denver restaurant. Not only was the company wonderful (my wife), but the food was made to perfection. From the Caesar salad, steak, mashed potatoes, and vegetables, to the best cheesecake I’ve ever eaten, the entire meal still stirs my salivary glands and creates a longing for another taste.
As humans, we were created with the physical need to eat. Food nourishes our bodies. But food also delights our taste buds, gathers us around a table in fellowship with other people, and inspires our minds with new ideas for flavor combinations and artistic presentations. Food is necessary for a full and healthy life in more ways than one!
It’s no surprise, then, that the Bible compares the Word of God to food. In Scripture, we learn that God’s Word is sweeter than honey (Psalm 119:103). Jesus reminds us that, along with food, we need Scripture to live (Matthew 4:4). And our Savior calls himself the bread of life and promises to never let us go hungry again (John 6:35).
With these biblical metaphors in mind, we can use Scripture contemplation to help us slow down and savor God’s Word.
How Contemplation Helps You Abide in God’s Word
When you enjoy a good meal, you want to savor each bite. Contemplation helps us approach God’s Word with the same mindset. My friend Dr. Phil Collins explains the process this way: “The four steps of [contemplation] have been compared to ‘feasting on the Word.’ Reading is taking a bite of food. Mediating is chewing food. Praying is savoring food. Contemplating is digesting food and making it a part of your body.”
Choose a passage of Scripture and use these four steps to slow down and savor God’s Word through contemplation.
If reading Scripture is like taking a bite of food, then you can look forward to noticing all the different flavors in the passage you choose! As you read, slow down and consider each word. I find it helpful to have a journal nearby in case a certain verse strikes me in a new way (in fact, Scripture journaling is another helpful way to abide in God’s Word!). Once you finish reading, go back to the beginning and read the passage again. Pay careful attention to anything you missed the first time.
You might find yourself getting distracted as soon as you finish reading the Scripture passage. When this happens to me, I find that I’m often rushing the process and failing to truly consider what Scripture means for me and my walk with God. By meditating on God’s Word like the blessed man described in Psalm 1, we focus our minds on what the Bible is saying and how it connects our story to God’s. Think of all the times you have slowed down and enjoyed your favorite foods and try to approach the Scripture passage you chose in the same way. If you need inspiration, you can try a unique approach like picturing Scripture.
As you meditate on Scripture, you’ll find that your heart naturally responds to God’s Word. Maybe the passage you chose brings up questions you have for God. Or maybe it reminds you of a painful moment in your life. Maybe you feel convicted about a particular sin in your life. Whatever your emotions or response to Scripture, you can approach God in prayer. I like to think of this step as speaking with your heavenly Father across the dinner table after a delicious meal. Be honest. Don’t rush. Savor the conversation. God has time for you, and he is ready to listen. If you’re struggling to know how to start, you can follow Jesus’s example and pray Scripture.
Every meal comes to an end. But too often, we rush through eating and run out the door without taking a moment to be still in God’s presence. God invites us to simply stop and abide in his love for us. Imagine sitting in the presence of a good friend. You don’t need to speak; you don’t need to do anything but enjoy their presence. What better way to end your time in God’s Word?
Looking Forward to an Eternal Feast
This four-step process of Scripture contemplation might not feel natural to you at first. So, my prayer for you is that, just like good food trains our taste buds to desire the best ingredients, time spent contemplating God’s Word will increase your desire to cultivate your relationship with God.
In his Word, God promises that, someday, we will be with him forever (1 Thessalonians 4:17b). I like to think of Scripture contemplation as a small taste of that eternal feast. I hope that this practice enriches your time in God’s Word and encourages your heart as you look forward to that day!
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