Chew on This: Meditation and Ministry

When we think of spiritual disciplines, meditation often comes to mind. Carefully and prayerfully think about the truths in God’s Word that can pay huge dividends in understanding and applying Scripture to everyday life.

That’s something Jim Downing (affectionately referred to as “Navigator #6”) clearly understood when writing Meditation for NavPress years ago. His thoughts on meditation helped generations of believers get a practical grasp on this important discipline.

In his book, Jim reminds readers of the biblical mandate to meditate on the Word of God, using the example of God’s commissioning of Joshua:

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).

Jim likened meditation to rumination—the process cows use to digest their food. They bring it up repeatedly, chewing on it until they have gotten all the nourishment out of it.

Why do we need to keep “chewing” on the Word of God? Jim summed it up this way: “As we meditate on the Word of God, the life of Jesus Christ flows out of Him, through the Word, and becomes a part of our spiritual bloodstream. The Bible is the primary means by which we share the life of Christ.”1

Because meditation is a solitary exercise, some assume it’s an exclusively personal and private discipline—not affecting those around us. But take another look at Jim’s words: “The Bible is the primary means by which we share the life of Christ.”

Jim is a perfect example of how the practice of spiritual disciplines actually leads to involvement with and ministry to others—sharing the life of Christ with them. And even though Jim is “officially” retired—and recently celebrated his 100th birthday— he remains very active with The Navigators Collegiate ministry.

Jim is surrounded by throngs of young college students who hang on his every word whenever he speaks at a collegiate conference, or visits a campus. These college kids are attracted to the spiritual depth and wisdom of someone who has spent years studying, and prayerfully thinking about the Word of God—and applying it to his own life and the lives of those around him.

What is it that enables this man to engage, inspire, and impact young men and women for Christ at the age of 100? Jesus said, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old” (Matthew 13:52). Years of “chewing” on God’s Word have given Jim timeless treasures—applicable to new situations as well as old ones.

Besides being a champion of the spiritual discipline of meditation, Jim is also the embodiment of what it means to be what Navigators call a “lifelong laborer”—someone who continues to impact others wherever he or she is. He’s also an example of how spiritual disciplines don’t merely benefit the one who practices them, but overflow to benefit those around them.

They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green (Psalm 92:14).

1 From Meditation, page 34, © 1976, 2001, 2011 by Jim Downing. Used by the permission of NavPress.

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