Synopsis: This sermon describes the power of the word of God, which is also the Holy Spirit, and how it can help individuals achieve their goals, such as developing better habits.
Selected Scripture: Matthew 13:23
Pastor John Kim, Lakeridge Lutheran Church
The living water is the word of God. Also, the word of God is the Holy Spirit. The living water flows from this church to you. The living water will help you bear fruit such as hope, kindness, love, peace, and justice.
The word of God has power. It will make you to bear fruit. In other words, it will help you to achieve your goal. What is your main goal for this year? Do you want to have better habits? Well, some of you could even haven’t tried to set up a goal as you know very well to achieve a goal is not easy. I totally understand you. To accomplish a goal is demanding work. As you move toward your goal, you may find yourselves in a difficult situation. Then, you may get frustrated. You may want to give up the goal. When you are stuck, when you are lost, above all, root your soul into the living water: meditating on the Word of God.
Pop quiz! What verb is shown in Psalm 1:2 and Joshua 1:8 in common? Yes, the answer is to meditate. הגה, the ancient Hebrew word has a variety of meanings such as “to meditate (or muse ), utter a sound, read in an undertone, and proclaim.” As you can see the meanings of הגה, the Hebrew way of meditation involves not only thinking about a subject or the word of God silently in the mind, but also, reciting, or reading it in an undertone, or reading it aloud.
I would like to share with you my experience with a different way of meditation. When I was twenty, I attended a retreat that had a special program. The program was extremely simple such as meditating on God’s words. It was just to read the bible day and night for three days. The retreat set a goal which was to read the whole bible (66 books) within three days.
There was a unique rule. It was that you can’t read it only with your eyes. We had to read it loudly. About 15 people, including me, gathered there. We took turns reading the Bible one by one. For example, if one person read the Bible aloud, the others listened to what he was reading and following the same passage with their eyes. The Bible audiobook wasn’t allowed. At least one of them had to read the Bible aloud. What a strange rule, right? This was a very inefficient way to read 66 books of the Bible within three days.
Then, you could ask me, “Why did you attend that kind of retreat?” Well, I heard that many people had experienced the presence of God, the power of God, and miracles while reading the Bible at that retreat with this strange rule. So, I followed that rule and started reading from Genesis to the next following books with them. We read the Bible from 8:00 am until 10:00 pm. It was boring, except for a few minutes of break-time and three times of meals-breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, and so on, we kept reading. And my turn came back to me again. I started to read from Judges 6:1. I read verse by verse. Suddenly, in verse 12, bang! Some incredible power captured my heart. When I read verse 12 aloud “God is with you, you mighty warrior,” God spoke to me through the verse. I couldn’t control my emotions. I couldn’t stop the tears of joy. I still remember that thrill, but it is unfortunate that I can’t explain the excitement fully in human language. Let me put it this way. It was something mysterious.
It was a feeling of joy, and it was also a surprise. The story of Gideon overlapped my timid character and my family’s powerless and hopeless situation. Yet, God said to me and proclaimed, “I am with you, you mighty warrior.” The story of Gideon gave me the confidence that “God knew all the deepest secrets of my heart.” Yes, I became naked (spiritually) in front of God, but I didn’t feel shame. Rather, the emotion was closer to certainty like this: “God is the only one who understand me completely.” “God had listened to my petitions as I cried out.” This conviction gave me hope like this: “God will never forsake me.” “God is always with me.” Through that experience, Judges 6:12 engraved that confidence in my heart.
This experience gave me a new life. Matthew 13:23, that Bible verse actually happened in my life. “The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” (NLT) The voice of God engraved in my heart (Judges 6:12: “God, Yahweh, is with you, you mighty warrior.”) continued to well up from my soul with new strength after the retreat was over. Even when I failed at something, these words gave me new courage so I could start again. And this Word is still working in me to fulfill the mission of God (Yahweh).
Do you have hope in God? Have you received any promises from God this year? Do you have any goals you want to achieve in God this year? What does God expect you to achieve this year? If you are not sure, come to me. Let’s work together. Do you want to know God’s will for you? Do you want to explore to figure out what God expects you to do for this year? I can help you. I’m here for that. I want to pray with you and find the voice of God. Let us work for that and discuss together to set a goal for you and for this church. You can pray quietly by yourselves and hear God’s voice, but if it’s not easy to do by yourselves, as we are one body of Christ, we can help each other. Those meanings of the Hebrew word, “to meditate” (Haga), teach us the way of meditation. It can be a one-on-one conversation with God quietly in our hearts, but it can be also like this: to read in an undertone, to share God’s thoughts with others in the community of faith, or to declare God’s promise.
The souls of those who meditate on the Word of God will not wither. Psalm 1:3 says, “The one who is close to the Word of God is like a tree planted by streams of water that gives its fruit in its season; its leaf also does not wither. Therefore, all that he does prospers.” This is the promise of God for you here and for those who have ears listening to this message with their sincere hearts. Even if we face difficulties while trying to achieve our goals and our dream, the hope will never be broken. Rather, God will fulfill our wishes as we root into the message of God.
Here’s a good example. The first thing Joshua had to do was to meditate on the word of God. And he became joyful and hopeful by God’s grace and love. Then, he shared the visions and hope with his people in the community of faith. As a result, they were able to enter and live in the Promised Land. God made their dreams come true according to God’s promises.
We could apply Joshua’s story to us like this. God promises that God’s good plan will be done. We pray that God’s will be done on this earth. It is our prayer and also at the same time, it is God’s promise. Unfortunately, Paradise has not yet been achieved. That’s right, God’s Will is not being fully done in our community, and in our relationships. Even today, we hear endless issues through the media: brutal violence, extreme wealth gap, racism, sexism, and environmental pollution. We are in a position to fight the good fight. Under these conditions, the first thing our church should strive for is to root our souls into the presence of God.
We could apply Joshua’s story to us like this way, too. God promises that God will grant us sublime character. Imitating Jesus’ character is God’s promise and our goal. It means it hasn’t been accomplished yet. Just as we tend our garden, our minds need to be taken care of by God’s grace and through the power of the Holy Spirit. When we look at the inside of us, we will know that we have a lot of work to do. There is a thorn bush called “worry” growing in our hearts. In our mind, there is an endless depth of sinkhole called “greed.” There is a swamp called “lust for power” in our minds. There is a fire in our hearts that burns every relationship called “anger.” Once again, first thing that we want to do is also to meditate on God’s words.
I am not telling you that we just need to read the Bible and think about the message only. We want to do our work the best. We want to do a good work together. I am not telling you that you just need to sit down and read the Bible, think about the message only, without any actions. Joshua meditated on Moses’ law and applied it and shared with his people. And he worked hard to achieve the goal God gave him and his community.
I also don’t intend to give you the false hope like this, “If read the Bible and meditate on it, you will immediately solve all conflicts and problems. Students must study hard if they want their grades to improve. Entrepreneurs need effort to grow their businesses.
Yet, I want to emphasize this to you today through this sermon: Let us remember what makes us bear fruit. What is the true source of power that makes us bear fruit? Yes, we believe this way: God is our true source of living water. God is the one with whom we want to connect. God is the only one who makes our good dreams come true. Let us attach to God now and forever.
May God make you bear fruit: thirty times, sixty times, or even more one hundred times!