Juma Ikangaa is a marathon runner from Tanzania, who is arguably best known for coming second three times in the Boston Marathon, from 1988-1990. Over his career he won various marathons around the world, from Tokyo, to Beijing and Melbourne. In 1989 he won the 1989 New York City Marathon in a course- record time.
Apart from his achievements, he was also known for his extraordinary training ethic, which is encapsulated in this quote from Ikangaa.
“The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare.”
Juma understood that to be who he wanted to be wouldn’t just happen, but required effort and intention.
The same is true for any of us who aspire to live a life marked by a closeness to God. Such a life is marked by the culmination of thousands of choices we make day in day out. Not just those moments when we are seen by others, but those moments when we invest time, effort and energy into our relationship with God.
One of the most obvious ways in which we can invest in our relationship with God is in our engagement with His Word, in particular our choice to mediate on the Word.
One of the meanings for the Hebrew word to meditate is rumination, it’s the same word used for a cow chewing the cud. If you have even watched a cow in a field, it seems like they are eating all the time, yet what they are doing is “chewing the cud.” To chew the cud, is when a cow eats something, chews it, digests it, regurgitates it, chews it again and again, until the food is moistened and broken down to a degree that it can be fully digested.
It’s a great picture (albeit a little gross) of what we should do with the Word of God. We can easily skip the Word in our busy schedules, or rush through our reading of Scripture without taking the time to chew it over in our minds, again and again, so that it becomes part of us.
To meditate on Scripture is more than reading, and even more than reflecting on it (although these are both good things). It can be described as reading in such a way that we chew it over and respond to it. Recognising that we are not reading for information, but so that through an encounter with God in His Word, He can change us.
This simple approach to Scripture can change us. This was the experience of George Muller, who in his book Soul Nourishment First, wrote:
“For I could attempt to set the truth before the unconverted, to benefit believers, to relieve the distressed, or to behave myself in other ways as a child of God in this world should; yet I might do all this in a wrong spirit if not happy in the Lord, and not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day.
For at least ten years before this, my habit was to pray after dressing in the morning. Now, I saw that the most important thing for me to do was to read the Word of God and to meditate on it, so that my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, and instructed; and that, while meditating on the Word of God, my heart might commune with the Lord.”
As noted by Muller, it is in this communing with God that we are changed. In fact, that is the goal of meditation, to let the Word of God transform us, so that we might not just act differently, nor just so that we become more religious, but so that we might experience of depth of relationship with God which shapes every aspect of our lives.