The Victorious Christian Life

A Lesson Series for the Earnest Christian

© 2002 by Thomas W. Finley, 2013 Revised Edition

Lesson Seventeen: Practices of the Overcomer - Handling the Word of God

It is my observation and experience that victorious Christians are disciplined in certain key practices. These key practices will not be new to the reader, but some of the details that I suggest may be new.

The practices we will cover are: handling the word of God, prayer, and keeping a good conscience. The common thread of all of these practices is our fellowship with God. These godly habits are vital to strengthening and maintaining the flow of spiritual life within us. They help us to be supplied with the Spirit (Gal. 3:5), walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), and abide in our spiritual union with Christ (as discussed in earlier lessons).

Feeding upon the word of God

The Bible is absolutely critical to our spiritual life. Here are but a few of many passages that support this fact:

“But He [Jesus] answered and said, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”’” (Matt. 4:4)

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (Jn. 6:63)

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).

Victorious believers actually use the Bible in different ways. There is no single way, or set of ways, that is absolutely best for every believer. Each believer needs to find which methods of using the Bible seem to satisfy his spiritual needs best. I use the term “spiritual” need purposely. Although all of us need some mental understanding of God’s word, we should certainly not limit our use of the Bible to the intellectual realm. Our human spirit, which is distinct from our mind (part of our soul), must be fed by God’s word. This is vital for true spiritual life. The first suggestion I have for handling the Bible I will term as “feeding on the word of God.” Feeding on the word may also be called meditating. The concept of feeding upon God’s word is definitely in the Bible. I will quote just one passage below. You can look up other references (such as Ps. 119:103). There are also a number of verses that specifically mention meditation.

“Thy words were found and I ate them, and Thy words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Thy name, O Lord God of hosts.” (Jer. 15:16)

Indeed, if you read John 6:48-63 you will see that Christ is identifying Himself as the real manna, the bread which is necessary for spiritual life. Yet, Jesus pointed out that it was His words which give spirit and life, not His flesh. By this statement, He was implying that His words must be “eaten” to experience Himself as the life-giving manna.

Feeding, or meditating, on God’s word is different than just reading it. With feeding there is a chewing. Instead of reading right through a passage, one takes his time to chew the phrases, often going over them more than once, so that the nourishment in them is absorbed into our hearts. It seems natural that meditation on the Scripture includes spontaneous prayer mingled with the word. Joshua was told to meditate on God’s word in order to have success in entering the good land (Jos. 1:8). The psalmist speaks of the man who meditates in God’s word day and night (Ps. 1:2). George Müller, the great saint of the 1800s, spoke of the blessing of meditating upon the word of God each morning. In Appendix A there is an article he has written describing his way of mediation.

The Hebrew verb for meditate in these verses (Jos. 1:8; Ps. 1:2) is haga (Strong’s #1897), which means to moan or mutter. A respected reference work indicates that the fundamental meaning of haga is a low sound and that the use of this word for “meditating” may mean that the Scriptures were read half out loud during such meditation. [Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament] Thus, this idea of feeding on the word seems to involve reading the Bible aloud in God’s presence in a prayerful way.

Let me get more specific as to this practice of meditating, or feeding, on the word. I do this especially early in the morning, usually not long after rising. The biographies of great Christians often point to the practice of a “quiet time” early in the morning. David the psalmist wrote, “In the morning, O Lord, Thou wilt hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to Thee and eagerly watch” (Ps. 5:3).

A morning quiet time may include prayer and singing, but a significant portion of time should probably be devoted to the Scriptures, with mediation as a suggested way. I have found that it helps to pray over the word sequentially through a book of the Bible, particularly the New Testament books, or a psalm. In this way, the idea of the writing becomes clearer because one is going over God’s word in context. This matter of “praying over,” or with, the word of God is seen in the following passage in Ephesians:

“And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” (Eph. 6:17-18)

with prayer, in the Spirit. Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest, in his expanded translation, renders the verses this way:

“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God; through the instrumentality of every prayer and supplication for need, praying at every season by means of the Spirit, and maintaining a constant alertness in the same with every kind of unremitting care and supplication for all the saints.” (Eph. 6:17-18, Wuest)

Here are some helpful hints. Find a quiet place and begin by opening in prayer to God. Remember, the whole reason you are there is to come into God’s presence, to seek His face and draw spiritual sustenance from Him. You are seeking to be fed by the Spirit of God; meditation is different than Bible reading or Bible study. Start praying over the verses in the selected passage slowly.

For example, if you are feeding upon the book of Philippians, you may start by just praying out loud the first phrase of the book in God’s presence: “Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:1a). To gain the spiritual nourishment of this phrase, you may repeat this phrase more than once until you feel you are ready to move on. As you do this, you may be impressed with some thought or inspiration within. For example, the term “bond-servants” may impress you with a desire to be a bond-servant. That may lead you to pray to the Lord, “Oh, Lord, I want to be Your bond-servant. Work in my life to make me a bond-servant like Paul was.” Or, perhaps, the Spirit will impress you to pray for someone you know, concerning the matter of that person being a bond-servant. Or, you may be led to praise God for all that He accomplished through Paul and Timothy.

It may be that you do not feel to pray anything concerning this phrase. You may simply enjoy it for a few moments before passing on to the next phrase. I suspect as you do this you will find that your reading and praying over the word are in low tones, since you are just alone there with God.

Thus, the moaning or muttering indicated by the Hebrew word for meditation often proves to be true. I have also found that praying and reading out loud helps keep away distracting thoughts. In addition, it seems that the word makes more of an impression upon me when I not only see it, but also hear it.

Another helpful hint in meditating is to personalize your prayer over Scripture. For example, I was praying over 1 Jn. 3:2 this morning. It reads as follows: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him just as He is” (1 Jn. 3:2). In my prayer I prayed, “Now I am a child of God, and it has not appeared as yet what I shall be. I know that when You appear, Lord, I shall be like You, because I shall see You just as You are.” One can also try emphasizing different words to get the richness out of the phrase. For example, one might pray, “I shall be like You.” This emphasis will give faith to our spirit of the certainty of this truth.

What should one expect when one feeds upon the word? Usually there will be some degree of inner satisfaction within our spirit. This will vary from day to day. Sometimes we may become joyful by something we have “eaten.” Sometimes we will get a fresh understanding of Scripture, or an application to our lives. At other times we may be very sobered by our quiet time and be full of desire for holiness.

Quite often, though, we may not have strong feelings like this. The time may seem very “normal” or routine, even though we have tried to seek God earnestly. We should not gauge our quiet time by feelings. Rather, we should put our trust in what God tells us that the Scripture will do for us and in us. As we spend time in feeding upon the Scripture, we will receive some measure of spiritual life (Jn. 6:57-58, 63). The Bible also promises us that we are sanctified by the word of God. Jesus prayed for us: “’Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth’” (Jn. 17:17).

I want stress the importance of being in the Scriptures at the start of every day, if at all possible. Of course, we are not under any legal requirement, so if for some reason you miss a day do not condemn yourself. The point is to aim at making it a priority in your life so that you can be the Christian you want to be. Also, once you start to have such a daily time, you will establish a habit that will stick, especially when you realize the help it renders you. Jesus told us plainly that we need God’s word to live spiritually, just as we need our daily bread to live physically (Matt. 4:4). Also, I must frankly admit that I am against the use of devotional books during a morning quiet time. These books usually quote a verse or two and then have a page of commentary for reading. I personally believe that these devotionals cheat the believer from hearing directly from God about the verse, and they circumvent feeding upon the Scripture itself for sustenance. If you really like a particular devotional book, may I suggest you read it later in the day.

The process of meditating can continue from time to time throughout the day. One thing I do during the work week is to write down a key verse from my morning passage on a small card. Then, I place that card in front of me at my desk and continue to feed on it inwardly from time to time. Also, verses that are memorized can be meditated upon throughout the day, although this must often be done silently if you are around others. Sometimes you may want to feed upon Scripture again in the evening, or that time may be a time you reserve for reading or studying Scripture. The consistent testimony of saints throughout the ages indicates that a morning time spent with God, before the busyness of the day begins, is important. If there is no consistency to having such a quiet time, the victorious life may well be elusive.

* Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament.

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And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)