I’m going to tell you today about a spiritual tool with unbelievable power. Chuck Swindoll, a famous preacher once said about this tool: “I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than. . . (this practice). That’s right. No other single discipline is more useful and rewarding . . . No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your counseling will be in demand. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified.”
Any idea what Chuck’s talking about? Bible memorization, dude. I give Chuck a big “Amen!” on this one. I’ve memorized for many years now and continue to do so on a regular basis. If I could, I’d memorize the whole Bible.
Having said this, however, I must admit that I often feel like a minority within a minority. Not too many hard-core memorizers walking around today. Even lots of serious believers walk away from memorizing. This leads to our first question:
Why are many of us not memorizing Scripture?
1. We may hesitate to memorize Scripture because our culture isn’t into memorization
With the exception of memorizing school facts (many of which we quickly forget after the test) or necessary job facts, we tend to memorize as little as possible today.
2. We may hesitate to memorize Scripture because we have easy access to the Bible
In Western culture Bibles are plentiful, both in book and in digital form. So people figure: why go to all the work of memorizing when Scripture is just the flip of a page or a couple of button punches away?
3. We may hesitate to memorize Scripture because the process seems tedious and boring
I hate to admit it, but to some extent this is true. Memorization is work, and while it can be somewhat enjoyable, it’s certainly not as fun as watching a movie or indulging in a bowl of ice cream. But haven’t you experienced a certain amount of tedium when getting good at almost anything – from playing piano to gaining computer skills? Plodding is part of growth.
4. We may hesitate to memorize Scripture because we think we’re poor memorizers
I hear this one a lot: “I’m bad at memorizing!” For the most part, however, although they believe it, I don’t. I think that most folks have far more memory ability than they realize. The reason they’re not that good is simply that they’ve not put out the effort required. They think that you’re either good at memorizing or you’re not. But it’s amazing how much better we can get at memorization with some training and practice.
5. We may hesitate to memorize Scripture because we lack the needed self-discipline
While memorization doesn’t have to absorb long periods of time, it does require a regular, consistent effort. This, in turn, requires a certain level of discipline, one that we probably exercise for work or school, but may not have developed in more optional endeavors like Bible memorization.
6. We may hesitate to memorize Scripture because other things seem more urgent
In the pressure of the moment, paying the heat bill or finishing my term paper seems more urgent, since failure to do them brings immediate consequences. If I don’t memorize a Bible verse, however, what do I lose? Who notices? Who cares? Is the Bible memory committee going to knock on my door? Will my spiritual life fall apart in the next day or next week if I neglect to memorize? Probably not. So it’s easier to put off memorizing.
7. We may hesitate to memorize Scripture because it doesn’t seem all that useful
Actually, this is often true. Typically, we memorize a Bible verse, set it on some mental shelf, and watch it gather dust. It’s a lot of work to memorize if it’s not going to be used much. As you’ll see, though, memorized Scripture actually has many uses.
8. We may hesitate to memorize because we aren’t that close to God
Please note the word “may”. I’ve known many sincere believers who follow God well, but just aren’t into Bible memorization. I do believe, however, that if we’re not that close to Jesus, if we’re bored with the Lord, our incentive to memorize Scripture will be weak. On the other hand, if we’re fascinated with Jesus, we’ll have so much more motivation to memorize, since His words will really be important to us.
I’ve faced all these roadblocks myself, yet I still memorize. Why? This leads to our second question:
Why should I bother to memorize the Bible?
1. Memorizing the Bible makes it much easier for me to access it
When do you need to use the Scripture? Is it just at 7:30 in the morning when you’re having your devotions? What about at 9 a.m. when you’re at school or work or watching the kids? Or at 11 a.m.? Or at 2:37 in the afternoon? Or at midnight? We need the powerful truths of Scripture all day long. And the chances are, if we have to stop and look verses up, it won’t happen. But if that verse is instantly available, your mind can grab it almost anywhere, at any time, no matter what you’re doing.
2. Memorization makes it easier for me to meditate
Meditation is taking time to carefully examine a verse; to circle it slowly, seeing it from different angles. Meditation is what makes verses come alive. It’s what allows us to find deeper meanings. It multiplies Scripture’s impact. It’s much easier to meditate what we’ve memorized. A memorized verse can be meditated on in so many more situations – as little as ten seconds here, or a minute there, can yield fresh insight or encouragement. Plus, the very process of memorizing pulls us into meditation since we go over the verse, not just once, but many times.
3. Memorizing makes it easier for me to apply the Bible
The main purpose of knowing God’s Word is so that we can live out its truths in our lives. We use that verse about forgiveness to help us forgive, or the verse about trusting God to help us trust. When Scripture travels around in our minds, it’s easier to remember it and apply its truths all day long.
4. Memorization adds impact to my words
When Jesus was tempted by Satan, He didn’t just reply, “Well, here’s what I think! (although He could have, since He is God). What did He say? “It is written.” He quoted Scripture. When you and I quote Scripture, we’re not just speaking for ourselves, we’re speaking for God too. This gives our words an authority that our opinion, by itself, lacks. We can use this authority to fight sin and Satan. We can use it to share the gospel or to represent God’s view on a particular subject. Our speech gains greater power and authority.
Do these reasons make sense to you? If so, will you consider making a small, but regular commitment to filling your long-term memory bins with rich piles of Scripture? Next time I’ll get practical, sharing with you what I’ve learned about how to memorize the Bible and how to use what you’ve memorized in a skillful, life-changing way.