“I just don’t have a good memory.”
I have said that so many times when it comes to trying to memorize Scripture. And the older I get, the harder it is to remember things.
When I first began to follow Jesus, Scripture memory was a huge part of my discipleship. Many of the verses I know today I learned all those years ago.
But I’ve noticed that Scripture memory doesn’t seem to be a big part of discipleship in churches anymore. Rather, today I hear people say things such as “I may not be able to quote it word for word, but I know what it means, and that’s more important.”
True, knowing and obeying the Word of God is the most important thing, but I would challenge anyone that Scripture memorization is not only biblical but an essential element of growing our faith.
I have found that our difficulty lies more in our motivation than our inability. When I am sufficiently motivated and disciplined to do so, I can memorize Scripture, and that has been an invaluable part of my spiritual life.
So, today I want to show you why I believe Scripture memorization is both biblical and beneficial to our spiritual growth.
It helps us avoid sin.
“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”Psalm 119:11, NIV
The Hebrew word for hidden means “to hide, conceal, store up; to be treasured or cherished” (The NIV Exhaustive Bible Concordance, 1465). To store up the Word in our hearts means that we can call on that Word when we need it. If all we have is a vague idea of what it means, we will not be sufficiently equipped to stand on it when temptation comes.
It directs our thought life.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”Philippians 4:8
I can’t think of anything but God that meets all those requirements. There are so many things vying for our daily attention–so many words that can fill our minds. Why not make the Word of truth the focus of our thoughts?
If we want to “set our minds on things above” (Colossians 3:2) then committing the Word of God to memory is one of the best ways to do that.
It prepares our speech.
“Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach, for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and have all of them ready on your lips.”Proverbs 22:17-18
You know how we can have God’s Word ready on our lips, not only to speak truth to ourselves but to share it with others? By hiding it in our hearts through memorization.
It guides our daily decisions.
“Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.”Psalm 119:24
We have the Holy Spirit as our Counselor (John 14:16-17, 26), and His role is to guide us into truth (the Word) and teach us truth (the Word), and remind us of truth (the Word).
We have to give Him some truth (the Word) in us to work with. Yes, He can enable us to recall the Scriptures. But just as you can’t recall what you haven’t read, you can’t accurately remember what you haven’t committed to memory.
Scripture memorization enables us to clearly bring the truth of God’s Word into our daily decisions.
It gives us a weapon against the enemy.
“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”Ephesians 6:18
I don’t know about you, but when the enemy attacks, I’m not usually sitting in my prayer chair with my Bible open in my lap. The opposition comes when I least expect it, when I’m in the middle of a conversation or away from home or at the least opportune time.
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He responded to every bait of Satan with the Word of God. He didn’t stumble, He didn’t hesitate, He didn’t say, “Hold on. Let me check my pocket Bible and I’ll get back to you.”
The Word was hidden is His heart, quoted from memory. And He is our example.
Stop saying it’s too hard.
I remember going through the Whole30 program a few years ago. Something that the founder said really stuck with me. She said essentially the same thing about the program.
“This is not hard. Fighting cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You have done harder things than this. It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth—the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime. Hear me now: The Whole30 is exactly as hard as you decide it’s going to be, so repeat after me: “This is not hard.”Melissa Hartwig Urban, Whole30
Thousands of people have gone through the Whole30 program. It requires discipline to eat and drink only healthy things. But many do it because they are motivated by the benefits to their health.
The benefits of hiding God’s Word in our hearts are far greater. How much more should we be willing to put in the hard work for our spiritual growth?
“We cannot effectively pursue holiness without the Word of God stored up in our minds where it can be used by the Holy Spirit to transform us.”Jerry Bridges
The goal of Scripture memorization is to grow our faith, to overcome sin, to set our minds on things above, to have the Word ready on our lips, to be counseled in our daily decisions, and to fight the enemy’s attacks.
The goal is not to make us better than anyone, more spiritual than the next person, or earn us any favor before God. It’s for the purpose of godliness, and that should be the goal of every Christian.
So, repeat after me: This is not hard. I’ve done harder things. And I have the power of the Holy Spirit to help me.
How to Memorize Scripture
For more in our series, Faith in Action, click here.